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Keeping Cool In San Jose A Challenge For Seniors, Homeless During COVID-19 Heat Wave

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A heat wave sweeping across the Bay Area in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis has created an even more dangerous situation for homeless people and seniors in the South Bay.

The places they would normally go to beat the heat such as community centers, libraries and shopping malls have been closed because of the pandemic.

"Normally we would even say go to a mall, but that's not available during this time period," said Dr. Clifford Wang, an internist at the Santa Clara Valley Medical center. "So people just need to find a cool shaded area would be important for people to find."

78-year-old Javier Victoria came to the King library in downtown San Jose, one of the places he would normally go during a heat wave to cool off.

But instead of going inside, he sat in the building's shade outside and sipped from a water bottle.

"All the libraries are closed. The senior centers are closed," Valencia said.

He came outside because the room he rents downtown doesn't have air conditioning.

"I have a fan that keeps me cooler. So I drink a lot of water. I can survive," said Valencia.

But Dr. Wang said many others will be struggling.

"We expect to see an increase in hospitalizations and emergency room visits with the temperatures getting to this level," he said.

Advocates are calling on the city and county to open up unused hotel rooms to shelter vulnerable people such as the elderly and homeless during this time.

"We need to do something now.  We have tens of thousands of empty hotel rooms in this city and something needs to be done to move our people into those rooms," said Sandy Perry, the President of the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County.

The San Jose Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department is opening five cooling centers starting Monday to provide residents with a cool place during the current heat wave projected to continue until Thursday.

Due to current COVID-19 County Health Orders, capacity at the centers will be limited. Residents who visit a cooling center must follow all county guidelines, including maintaining a physical distance of six feet from others, wearing a face mask and staying home if they are sick. For the safety of staff and other cooling center visitors, a simple health screen will be performed. The screening consists of taking a visitor temperature with an infrared thermometer and answering several questions.

The cooling centers will be at the following community center locations in San Jose:

  • Mayfair Community Center at 2039 Kammerer Avenue
  • Camden Community Center at 3369 Union Avenue
  • Seven Trees Community Center at 3590 Cas Drive
  • Roosevelt Community Center at 901 E. Santa Clara Street
  • Cypress Community Center at 403 Cypress Avenue
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