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Paso Robles cooling center expecting more people seeking services as hot and smokey conditions continue

Posted at 4:36 AM, Aug 20, 2020

More people used the Paso Robles cooling center Wednesday than ever before, and even more people are expected Thursday, as the heatwave continues and new concerns over smoke inhalation arise.

Being homeless during the heatwave has been miserable for people like Sharon Schultz.

"It's been torture- I've had two heat strokes," Schultz said.

Even those with homes say they too are struggling to stay cool.

Templeton resident Kitty Larson says she had to be hospitalized due to overheating.

"Every time I would get home this past week, the temperature inside my trailer was 110 degrees. My little air conditioning unit does just fine as long as it doesn't get over 100, but after that, it just blows hot air," Larson said.

These women were just some of the people who used the city of Paso Robles' cooling center Wednesday afternoon.

"It's really primarily designed to provide respite from the heat. We make sure to screen everyone so that everyone is healthy inside, we ask that everyone wears masks, we provide cold water and an isolated table and chairs to spend your time at," explained Lynda Plescia, Recreation Services Manager of the City of Paso Robles.

The cooling center was set to close Wednesday, but it's now extended for the rest of the week as the heatwave continues.

"Today the forecast has not only extreme heat but also poor air quality and those two conditions combine exacerbate each other, so we felt it was really important to continue keeping the cooling center open," Plescia said.

The extension is great news for those in the community who are most vulnerable.

"It's a heck of a lot nicer than being pretend shopping - going to Walmart and Food 4 Less and not being able to buy anything," Schultz said.

For those looking to purchase fans and cooling equipment to beat the heat at home, Garrett Perney of Blake's True Value Hardware says it's best to call ahead as COVID-19 has impacted their supply chain.

"We have an advantage over some of the big box stores because we can purchase weekly. We don't have to go through a lot of paperwork and hoops to do that, but our suppliers just don't have the product to purchase, Perney said.

The cooling center in Paso Robles is currently the only in the county, but the county's health department suggested Wednesday libraries and grocery stores could be used to cool down as well.

People hoping for some relief from the heat can head to Centennial Park gym at 600 Nickerson Drive from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday, Aug. 21.

We reached out to the Santa Barbara County Health Department to see if any cooling centers would be opening for people in the Santa Ynez Valley.

They tell us in a statement:

No cooling centers have been designated at this time in Santa Barbara County. The use of cooling centers can potentially provide a route for the transmission of COVID-19.
Nevertheless, the public health department is actively monitoring the situation and advises residents to take necessary safety measures to avoid heat-related illnesses including limiting outdoor activity, wearing lightweight clothing, and staying hydrated.