June heat death toll rises to four, all in Prince George’s County
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June heat death toll rises to four, all in Prince George’s County

Four people have died from heat-related illnesses through the end of June, with all deaths reported in Prince George’s County, according to the latest state data.

That same month also saw a rise in hospital visits due to heat-related illnesses statewide during the latter half of the month, as a heat wave continued to grip the state. The National Weather Service issued a “heat warning” for most of Maryland for Monday afternoon and again for Tuesday afternoon.

Maryland health officials have urged Maryland residents to protect their health during the summer months and have issued recommendations to help residents stay cool.

“We continue to strongly encourage everyone to stay safe during the heatwave. Tuesday and Wednesday are also looking bad,” Chase Cook, director of communications for the Maryland Department of Health, said in an emailed statement Monday.

June heat death toll rises to four, all in Prince George’s County
Number of weekly emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses. Courtesy of Maryland Department of Health.

The department said June 5 that the first heat-related death of 2024 was a 59-year-old Hispanic man living in Prince George’s County. Since then, three other deaths have been reported in the county, all men. Two were over 65, and one was between 45 and 64; two victims were Black and the third was listed as “other.”

A Prince George’s County spokesman declined to comment on the deaths, referring questions to the state health department. Cook said Monday he was not immediately able to comment on the death trend.

The numbers are included in the state health department’s weekly Heat-Related Illness Surveillance Report. The surveillance period runs from May to September each year.

The latest available data shows that as of June 29, there have been a total of 443 emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses since the start of the observation period. About half of those occurred in the last two weeks of June, according to weekly reports.

The report shows emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses were down about 30% in the first two weeks of June, then rose to 161 in the week of June 16-22, and then fell to 116 in the week of June 23-29.

Exposure to heat for long periods of time can lead to serious or fatal conditions, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. During the week of June 16, Gov. Wes Moore (D) issued a “state of alert” ahead of a hot weekend that caused parts of Maryland to be placed under an “excessive heat warning” by the National Weather Service.

Reports from previous years indicate that heat-related deaths and illnesses typically peak in July.

Last year, the health department recorded a total of nine heat-related deaths during Maryland’s hot season, while in 2022, the number was five, one of the lowest death tolls in the past decade.