Wilmington giving away fans to older residents to help beat the heat

Free fans offered to Wilmington residents

Residents ages 65 and up can stop by Redding Government Building to pick up a free fan, but they must wear a face mask and practice social distancing. (City of Wilmington)

As Wilmington enters the final stretch of summer, city officials are working to help older residents beat the heat.

The city plans to give away fans to residents ages 65 and up each Monday and Thursday, Mayor Mike Purzycki and Constituent Services Director Jennifer Prado said in a press release. Fans will be distributed from 10 a.m. to noon in the lobby of the Redding Government Building on North French Street.

As with other local government services, this year’s fan giveaway is more limited due to the coronavirus pandemic. John Rago, the mayor’s chief of staff for policy and communications, told WHYY there are fewer time slots for people to pick up fans since daily office hours were axed. The public also is not allowed in city offices due to the pandemic.

Residents must show proof of age and residency upon arrival. They also cannot have received a free fan from the city in 2019.

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Older adults are among those at highest risk of heat-related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared to young people, the CDC says, older adults do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature.

And while an electric fan may be tempting when temperatures exceed 95 degrees, city officials advise against using one.

“This can increase the risk of heat-related illness,” officials said. “While fans create airflow, they can also provide a false sense of comfort which does not actually reduce body temperature.”

Where possible, the city recommends staying in air-conditioned environments.

In non-coronavirus times, libraries are typically a reliable air-conditioned space in which residents can cool off. The pandemic, however, has forced New Castle County libraries into temporary closure until further notice.

Spraygrounds, which also are often touted as an effective way to seek relief from the heat, are similarly closed in Wilmington. Rago said the spraygrounds are not in operation this summer due to concerns about how to maintain social distancing.

Dr. Thomas Fekete, an infectious disease physician, spoke to the relative safety of spraygrounds in early June. Fekete, who is Chair of Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, told WHYY’s PlanPhilly that the risk of viral transmission from spray grounds remains low compared to other activities.

“It’s an outdoor area, the kids are presumably not going to be in fairly close proximity to each other, and because the winds are going to blow and so on, it’s relatively safe,” he said. “Having said that, there’s a possibility kids will be bumping into each other, and spitting and coughing on each other, so there is some potential risk.”

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A chart from the National Safety Council indicates how quickly temperatures can rise inside a car during hot weather.
A chart from the National Safety Council indicates how quickly temperatures can rise inside a car during hot weather. (NSC)

Wilmington officials are also reminding residents never to leave the elderly, children or adults unattended in a parked car. Even in cooler temperatures, a vehicle’s interior can rise to dangerous temperatures within minutes. An outside temperature in the mid-60s, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110 degrees — rising almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes.

Residents can learn more about the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses here.


PlanPhilly contributor Meir Rinde contributed to this report.

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