Heat-related deaths in Washington state climb after heat wave; local death included

As a result of the recent extreme heat wave across the state last week, the Department of Health has identified a total of 78 likely heat-related deaths in Washington. 

While the majority of these deaths were in King and Pierce counties, one death in Pacific County is being attributed to the higher temperatures.

The highest number of deaths this year occurred on June 29, with 33 reported deaths. 

“This huge jump in mortality due to heat is tragic and something many people thought they’d never see in the Pacific Northwest with its mostly moderate climate,” says Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH. “But climates are changing, and we see the evidence of that with dramatic weather events, major flooding, historic forest fires, and more.”

Nineteen counties in total have reported heat-related deaths. 

More than 2,000 heat-related emergency department (ED) visits have been reported by hospitals that transmit data to the state between June 25-July 1. Ninety-five percent of EDs transmit data to DOH. This data does not include Washington residents who sought care in Oregon or Idaho, or those who received care through the Veterans Administration or military.

These numbers are preliminary and are subject to change. Deaths are reported to the state by health care providers, medical examiners/coroners, local health departments, and others. For this reason, the statewide count of deaths often lags behind the counts of local health departments.

DOH is also waiting on a number of “pending” deaths to be given a cause of death. A near-final count for heat-related deaths will not be available for at least a month as the agency waits for the pending deaths to be reviewed and completed by local medical examiners and coroners.

Preliminary* heat-related death count by county of occurrence, June 26 – July 6 (2021)

Data will be updated every Monday.

Last updated July 8, 2021

County Deaths
Asotin 1
Benton 3
Clallam 1
Clark 1
Cowlitz 1
Douglas 1
Jefferson 2
King 24
Kitsap 2
Okanogan 3
Pacific 1
Pierce 13
Skagit 5
Snohomish 8
Spokane 2
Thurston 3
Walla Walla 1
Whatcom 1
Yakima 5
Total 78
* Data are very preliminary and subject to change.

In comparison to prior years, in 2020, there were only seven heat-related deaths in Washington state from mid-June to the end of August. 

From 2015 to 2020, there were a total of 39 deaths during warmer months (May through September).

DOH will report heat-related deaths by county here throughout the warm weather season.