RIDOH: Stay cool, but don’t forget about COVID-19

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Rhode Island is in the midst of its first heat wave of the summer, and the Department of Health is reminding everyone to not only stay cool, but continue to protect themselves against COVID-19.

Temperatures at T.F. Green International Airport topped out in the low 90s over the weekend and on Monday, the state saw a high of 93 degrees. With the addition of high humidity, the National Weather Service issued a Heat Advisory for most of the state, as well as an Air Quality Alert for coastal communities.

With the potential for another day of oppressive heat on Tuesday, spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Health Joseph Wendelken tells Eyewitness News that it’s important to stay cool and hydrated.

“That means to continually drink a lot of water,” Wendelken said. “You want to stay away from caffeinated beverages that tend to dehydrate you.”

Wendelken said the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency is providing 37 cooling centers across the state, which he encourages everyone to take advantage of.

List of designated cooling centers in R.I. »

“Traditional community spaces, like a library for example, where someone can go that is air conditioned if they don’t have air conditioning at home, just to pass a little bit of time to cool down,” he explained.

Wendelken said the state’s health department has both the extreme heat and the global pandemic in mind, and he hopes those looking to beat the heat do the same.

“If someone is going to a public space, or a friends house, or somewhere to be in an air-conditioned environment, it’s really important that you bring your mask,” Wendelken said. “It’s one of the most powerful tools that we have to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The combination of the oppressive heat and Gov. Gina Raimondo’s mask-wearing mandate may also make it harder for some Rhode Islanders to breathe.

Dr. Albert Rizzo with the American Lung Association tells Eyewitness News that while breathing is always tougher during an Air Quality Alert, wearing masks is intensifying the issue, especially for those who already suffer from respiratory conditions.

Related: Heat wave may make mask-wearing a little tougher for some, doctor says »

Rizzo said it’s best for those who know they have a hard time breathing when it’s hot out to be “more cautious about even thinking about going out, and if you have to … go early in the day for a limited amount of time.”

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