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Cooling centers closed during pandemic, despite hot weather

Multnomah County said it has a number of alternatives to help people cope with the heat.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Much of Oregon and Washington are under a heat advisory through 9 p.m. Monday. However, many local cooling centers are not open because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The CDC issued guidance in April, discouraging cooling centers from opening unless they could provide ample physical distancing, ventilation and sanitation.

Multnomah County said although cooling centers are staying closed, other resources are available.

Denis Theriault with Multnomah County's and Portland's Joint Office of Homeless Services said many supplies were stocked up ahead of time because of the CARES Act and pandemic response.

"For us, COVID has made some things easier, in that we have a storage supply site downtown," Theriault said. "It's something we've been using all throughout the pandemic."

He said outreach teams that often work with homeless communities in the metro area are working to deliver water and relief supplies during the heatwave.

On Monday, the supply site downtown is also open to nonprofits and relief organizations.

RELATED: Hottest temperatures of the year set to hit Portland

"Emergency is a good way to talk about what we're doing," said Scott Kerman, executive director of Blanchet House in Old Town.

Blanchet House provides food and shelter to people in need, no questions asked. During this period of hot weather, it's collecting clean, reusable water bottles to distribute on Monday.

RELATED: Portland's Blanchet House, cycling community donate reusable water bottles to homeless

"They don't have anywhere to go," Kerman said. "Everything is locked down, they can't go indoors anywhere."

People living on the streets are not the only ones at risk during hot weather. 

Theriault said Multnomah County is working to distribute fans and supplies to vulnerable communities of color and seniors. 

He said the best thing neighbors can do is reach out.

"Give them a call, do a socially distanced knock on the door," Theriault said. "Find a way to reach them."

Multnomah County also put out a reminder for those cooling off on rivers and waterways to bring life jackets, be mindful of fast-moving currents and keep an eye on children.

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