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Buffalo and Erie County public libraries open as cooling centers

High temperatures and humidity can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With the high temperatures and heat advisories anticipated for most of this week, people will be looking for places to cool off.

However, that's not an easy task when you're in the middle of a pandemic. Malls, movie theaters and community centers are closed in New York State due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

High temperatures and humidity can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The folks at high risk are the elderly and children under the age of four. 

Because of this, the Erie County Department of Health has announced that the Buffalo and Erie County public libraries are open and available as cooling centers.

Normally some people without air conditioning might turn to malls or movie theaters or even community and senior centers. But many of those facilities are still shut down with COVID concerns. Commissioner Daniel Neaverth Jr. of the Erie County Homeland Security and Emergency Services Department says "Unfortunately malls are not open , movie theaters are not open so we've had to adjust - we've had to adapt on a couple of things and work with our partners and come up with additional solutions. So what we're gonna do is we're working with our partners at the Buffalo and Erie County county library system and we'll be opening up all of the libraries for cooling stations over the course of the next five days. So what we would advise is people take a look at not only the county website but the library website  They'll be a direct link there with open now so it will tell you what the hours of the library are."

 Dr. Thomas Russo, an infectious disease expert with UB, also has this constant reminder.

 "If you need to go into a cooling center where there are gonna be other individuals it would be optimal if everyone within the cooling center was wearing masks at all times. And the cooling centers were not overcrowded so that individuals can physically distance themselves."

Dr. Russo also points out that COVID and heat - related health issues may share some symptoms. For example you may feel warmer with a fever from COVID-19.

"Well certainly if you get dehydrated - a headache is a fairly common symptom. However when in doubt I think it's best to let a health care professional or your health care provider sort that out and determine if the symptoms you're experiencing may be due to the heat or an infection from the new coronavirus. Sometimes it can be very difficult to differentiate between those."

You should call ahead to see what the library hours are first or go online at:  www.buffalolib.org

Anyone entering the library will have to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. 

The health department also released information about heat-related illnesses and prevention tips:

Heat-related Illnesses

Anyone can be affected by a heat-related illness, which can happen when the body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself through sweating. Symptoms include:

- Feeling faint, dizzy or nauseous

- Excessive sweating and cool, clammy skin

- Muscle cramps

- Fast and weak pulse

If heat exhaustion is suspected, move the person to a cooler place, apply cold compresses, have the person sip water, and call for medical attention if symptoms get worse or last more than one hour.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical condition and requires immediate professional attention. Symptoms include:

- Throbbing headache

- No sweating, and dry skin that is hot to the touch

- Fast and strong pulse

- Possible loss of consciousness

If a heat stroke is suspected, call 9-1-1 and attempt to cool the person by moving to a cooler place and applying cold compresses; do not give the person anything to drink.

Stay Safe in Extreme Heat

• Drink water. Stay hydrated with water and avoid pop, sugary juices and alcohol. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink.

• Find places with air conditioning. The Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries are open and available. Social distancing guidelines are in place and individuals over the age of two are required to wear a cloth face covering or mask. 

• Limit time outside. Heat and UV rays are strongest from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Plan any outdoor activities in the early morning or later in the evening.

• Protect your skin. Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and reapply at least every two hours. Wear hats and sunglasses when in direct sunlight.

• Wear loose and lightweight clothing. Sweating helps to cool your body.

• Do not leave children or pets in closed cars. That puts them at risk for heat stroke and death. Look before you lock your car.

• Do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees. This can increase the risk of heat-related illness. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort but do not reduce body temperature.

• Watch for signs of heat-related illness in family members, friends and neighbors.

• Limit your time outside during the hottest part of the day, and watch for signs of heat-related illnesses in yourself and those around you.  

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