Kenosha opens hospital to public as “cooling center”

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KENOSHA -- Even if they're not experiencing any sort of heat-related illness symptoms, Kenosha residents were encouraged to visit the hospital during this week's extreme heat, as hospitals are doubling as "cooling centers."

Kenosha city horticulturist Duane Vanduyn tried to keep moving Tuesday, despite the triple-digit heat index, humidity and heat advisory.

"We've got about 30,000 plants that we plant, with approximately 250 gardens that we plant so trying to keep up with the water situation and the lack of rain has really put us behind," Vanduyn said.

Vanduyn said his strategy was to start early, and mix in some breaks to stay ahead of the heat as much as he could.

"By 9, 9:30, it was in the middle-90s, so it didn't take long this morning. By 8:00 this morning it was becoming pretty exhausting and my workers were definitely feeling it," Vanduyn said.

While Vanduyn cared for plants, Dr. Gary Zaid cared for patients at Kenosha's United Hospital System.

Officials even opened the hospital's kitchen area to the public, as a place to go to escape the heat.

Zaid said it's important for those vulnerable to ill-effects due to the heat to monitor any symptoms and contact their doctor with any concerns, especially the young and elderly, and those on certain medications that can make it difficult to cool down.

"We just haven't had the degree of heat that we've seen, and the last time I remember, I was a young child, so it's been quite awhile since we've had a string of days in the 100°," Zaid said.

Zaid said it's a relief the mini heat wave hitting southeastern Wisconsin happened during the week, rather than on the weekend or a holiday. Zaid said during the last heat wave that hit during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, nearly 30 people were hospitalized.

"Keep in mind, the Fourth of July, people were doing activities outdoors and were more likely to get dehydrated," Zaid said.

For Vanduyn and others who work outside, escaping the heat is not necessarily an option, but he said he was just happy he gets to work with water.

"I was thinking about spraying the workers down," Vanduyn said.

Vanduyn said the Kenosha Park District just finished planting the city's gardens on Tuesday.

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