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Weather statement issued for Montreal prompts concerns for vulnerable populations

Click to play video: 'Unseasonably warm weather forecast for Montreal raises concerns for vulnerable populations' Unseasonably warm weather forecast for Montreal raises concerns for vulnerable populations
The last week of May is expected to be a scorcher in Montreal, with temperatures reaching in to the mid-thirties by Wednesday. While this does not qualify as a heat wave, many questions abound about how the city and the province will manage early, above-normal temperatures and vulnerable populations – May 25, 2020

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for the Montreal area.

Starting Tuesday, the city could see temperatures between 30 and 33 C.

“Corresponding humidex values will range from 35 to 38,” the agency warns. The evenings won’t bring much relief with forecast temperatures between 18 and 22 C.

With malls, libraries and pools still closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the onset of warm weather means there are few places for residents to get relief from the heat.

The unseasonably warm weather could last until Thursday and it’s a cause for concern, especially for vulnerable populations.

“We want to make sure that everybody stays hydrated, that everybody stays safe and that if the temperature is in the mid-30s, that they stay out of the sun to whatever extent possible,” said Sam Watts of the Welcome Hall Mission.

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Outdoor facilities have been set up to help the homeless population during the current health crisis, to allow them to continue accessing services while observing physical distancing.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Cabot Square day shelter opens, employees still waiting for masks, gloves

But some workers stress with the warm weather coming, more needs to be done.

Sheila Woodhouse is co-manager of Reslience Montreal, an organization that helps close to 200 homeless people every day. They are currently operating out of Cabot Square in the downtown area.

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Coronavirus: More testing, fewer cases as Quebec enters new phase of deconfinement – May 25, 2020

She’s hoping for cooling stations to be installed.

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“We desperately need running water here so people can clean themselves or have a cooling station to clean themselves and lower their body temperature,” she said.

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The lack of showers is worrisome, Woodhouse says — not just because of the impending heat, but because of the virus.

“Without enough places to sleep, with no places to shower, with no clean clothes, it’s going to spread the [novel coronavirus],” she said.

“We’re putting a shout out for extra supplies; water, feezies, popsicles, and baby wipes because, again, there’s no showers.”

READ MORE: Crowded shelter or $880 fine? Homeless face ‘impossible’ coronavirus choice

The early onslaught of summer has caught the city unprepared.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, however, said the city is working with public health to see what can be done to prepare for future heatwaves while respecting COVID-19 guidelines.

“If the pools are open that is one option,” she said. “But if they are not, what are we going to do to create those oases, places were people can enjoy water or air-conditioning spaces like  libraries?

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“So we will experience those places but differently this summer.”

Another area of concern is seniors living in long-term care homes where there is often no air-conditioning.

It’s something advocates say they have been demanding for years.

“We need action now for tomorrow,”said Paul Brunet chair of the council for the protection for patients in Montreal. “Tomorrow is the heat wave. Where have you been for the past ten years?”

Brunet said it’s a matter of life and death.

“What will happen is that we are going to lose patients,” he said. “It’s a question of human rights and safety of patients. We don’t want to lose patients anymore.”

READ MORE: Data ‘problems’ fuel inaccurate statistics on Quebec seniors home COVID-19 deaths, cases

Quebec Premier François Legault explained during his daily briefing Monday that 97 per cent of long-term care facilities (CHSLD) have air-conditioned zones where residents can be moved to cool down.

“We are working to ensure that it is 100 percent of the CHSLDs that have at least one area to gather residents when there are days of extreme heat,” he said.

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But Health Minister Danielle McCann admitted that with COVID-19, the situation would be trickier.

“It’s gonna be more complicated this year, and we gonna have to be very careful not to have you know people mix,” she said, referring to the cooling zones.

McCann also said a short-term plan to install additional air-conditioning units scheduled for June was being pushed ahead.

Quebec’s public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said guidelines will be sent out to the regional health authorities overseeing operations in long-term care homes with a directive to ensure that patients do not suffer from heat.

— With files from Global’s Phil Carpenter

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