What We’re Reading: Hundreds of Heat Wave Deaths; Spike in Arkansas COVID-19 Cases; FEMA Modifies Funeral Aid Rules

A heat wave affecting the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and parts of Canada is linked with hundreds of deaths; Arkansas sees a rise in COVID-19 cases; updates to federal funeral assistance program.

Extreme Heat Associated With US, Canada Deaths

Record-breaking heat in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and in Canada has been linked with hundreds of deaths, USA Today reports. Since Friday, at least 63 individuals have died in Oregon, and Washington state authorities have linked at least 6 deaths to the heat, although that number is expected to rise. Experts expect climate change and droughts will lead to more intense heat waves and similar scenarios in the future. Hospitals in Washington state have been overwhelmed by a wave of patients, similar to the influx seen in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delta Variant Leads to COVID-19 Spike in Arkansas

Arkansas has witnessed its biggest one-day spike in COVID-19 cases in 4 months, according to the Associated Press—an increase that is due largely to the highly transmissible delta variant, the state’s governor said. A total of 686 new virus cases were reported, and the state’s active cases, or those who have not recovered or died from COVID-19, increased to 3763. Although the state has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, Arkansas also reported more than 10,000 new vaccinations in recent days. According to CDC data, about 34% of residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

FEMA Updates Funeral Assistance Aid Guidelines

In response to backlash, the Federal Emergency Management Program (FEMA) has modified its funeral aid rules, potentially allowing thousands of individuals whose relatives died in the pandemic prior to widespread testing availability to access the program, POLITICO reports. Family members will be able to submit for funeral reimbursement even if their loved one’s death certificate does not identify COVID-19 as the cause of death. The measure applies for those who passed away between January 20 and May 16, 2020. Family members must provide a signed letter from a coroner, medical examiner, or official who can certify the death was linked to COVID-19.