Experts Warn OC is Walking Unprepared into Next Public Health Crisis

Experts Warn OC is Walking Unprepared into Next Public Health Crisis


Despite lingering unease, some sense of normalcy has taken hold in Orange County as residents vaccinate, masks come off, and the economy peeks its head out from more than a year of the Coronavirus public health crisis. 

Yet local officials, activists, and public health experts warn the next looming threat — potentially as deadly — lies in wait. 

In central and north Orange County, the concern is that residents living in highly-developed and built-out cities like Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Anaheim are already in the midst of a brewing climate crisis, one where resulting climbing temperatures and increasingly intolerable heat make their homes uninhabitable.

Consider that the area faces steep open green space and tree shade shortages, and is increasingly dominated by concrete heat islands that raise temperatures even throughout the night. 

Add to that, poor air quality along with large numbers of homeless, elderly and poor residents with insufficient air conditioning, and experts say you have the county’s next public health crisis.

Have you, or has someone you know, suffered health-wise from intolerable heat or other climate change-related factors? We want to hear from you. Get in touch by emailing bpho@voiceofoc.org.

That was the warning that climate change activist Jose Trinidad Castaneda gave to City Council members in Santa Ana — one of central county’s most densely-populated areas — at a meeting in early May. 

“It’s an existential threat,” Castaneda, a Fullerton resident, told council members during public comment. “The summer has begun, temperatures will continue to rise … so what will you do?”

Given that kind of rise in heat, Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s Public Health Officer, also looks to the possibility of heightened threats by mosquitos and vector organisms that spread infectious diseases: 

“As science has demonstrated, there is a strong correlation between climate change and infectious diseases where viral vectors (like mosquitos) mostly jump hosts, causing diseases in humans, (such as) H1N1, Zika and most recently Coronavirus.”

Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s Public Health Officer, in a written response to questions on July 1

Dr. Kathleen Treseder, a biology professor at the University of California, Irvine, warns that the effects of the climate crisis won’t be the same across the county.

Treseder sees a situation where coastal residents experience impacts quite differently than inland residents. 



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