PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As much of the state remains under an emergency declaration due to this week’s high temperatures, potential heat-related deaths continue to rise in Oregon.

On Wednesday, the state medical examiner announced they now believe at least four people have died due to the deadly heat since the start of the week.

“As of July 28, 2022, 2:22 p.m., the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office has received report of four suspected heat-related deaths since the beginning of the current heat advisory,” the office stated. “This designation as a heat-related death is preliminary and further investigation may reveal a cause of death that’s unrelated to hyperthermia.”

According to the update, three of the four potential heat-related deaths took place in Multnomah County, with one person reported to have died on Monday, another on the Wednesday, and a third dead Thursday

All three of the deaths in Multnomah County were reported in Portland.

State medical examiners also suspect a person died due to heat-related causes in Umatilla County on July 26th — which equates to one death for each day of the heat wave.

“Don’t consider yourself invincible. If you are not in a place where you can’t get your house below 80 degrees, get to a cooling shelter, call a friend, you don’t have to be stoic,” said Dr. Ann Loeffler, the County’s Acting Health Officer. “This is very serious. And we’re very concerned about the fact that this happens so early in the event.”

As suspected heat deaths climb in Multnomah County, Dr. Loeffler warns the ongoing heat could be particularly dangerous – and even deadly – for those with pre-existing conditions and those without access to air conditioning.

“Our teams did a deep dive analysis after the scores of deaths last year and it was very illustrative about what happened with those folks,” she said.

The spike in potential heat deaths comes roughly one month after Multnomah County Officials held a memorial for the 72 people who died during last year’s heat dome and shared findings from an updated report on the heat deaths.

In the final report Multnomah County said that two-thirds of those who died in the heat wave were men, 79% were seniors 60-and-older, and most people lived alone.

The report also found that 68% of those who died had no air conditioning or just a fan.

“If services had been a little different, we might have been able to get them to a cooling shelter,” Dr. Loeffler said. “Those are the kind of things that we took from that, and tried to learn from, to do a better job for our community and our neighbors.”

While Dr. Loeffler said those lessons were unfortunately learned the hard way, she told KOIN 6 News the county has put forth immense planning, effort and resources to try and ensure the community does not experience a repeat of last year’s deadly summer.

“We have been informed that there have been three potential heat-related deaths and are awaiting for additional information from the Multnomah County medical examiner,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement. “We are continuing to work closely with our partners at Multnomah County to provide support to Portlanders during this emergency.”

He continued, “I urge those who are impacted by the high temperatures to seek refuge in one of the available cooling shelters and community spaces.”

According to state medical examiners, it could take months for the death investigations to be completed, during which time examiners must rule out all other potential causes of death.

“This designation as a heat-related death is preliminary and further investigation may reveal a cause of death that’s unrelated to hyperthermia,” their office stated. “The final determination of the cause of death may not be known for several months after the death.”

With the heat expected to stretch into the weekend, Dr. Loeffler recommends those without access to air conditioning seek reprieve at one of the county’s local cooling centers.

She also urges people to stay hydrated and out of direct sunlight, while continuing to check on neighbors, loved ones and those most vulnerable.

“If every single person … just thinks about who might be vulnerable, ‘who might be vulnerable in my world? And make that extra step, that would go a long way,” she said.