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Public health recommends opening splash pads as heat descends on Montreal

Click to play video: 'Montreal gets an early taste of summer weather' Montreal gets an early taste of summer weather
The City of Montreal and public health officials are grappling with a big problem -- managing July temperatures in May, while battling COVID-19. Not an easy task when asking people to limit their movements and stay at least two metres apart. Global's Gloria Henriquez has more. – May 26, 2020

Montreal is in for a blast of balmy weather over the next few days.

Environment Canada issued its first heat warning of the year on Tuesday for the area.

“Maximum temperatures will reach the low thirties today with humidex values in the high thirties,” the weather agency said in a statement.

The muggy feeling will only intensify on Wednesday, when the heat and humidity crank up. It is expected to feel above 40 C.

Montrealers will get some reprieve on Thursday as the humidity levels dip back into the 30s.

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.

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Regional public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin and Caroline Dusablon, regional coordinator for emergency measures provided an update Tuesday afternoon on the city’s heat plan.

READ MORE: Weather statement issued for Montreal prompts concerns for vulnerable populations

Drouin said in the context of the pandemic, devising a heat plan has been tricky.

“This year we have a new challenge because we have to find measures that will at the same time reduce the risk of heat waves and reduce the risk of transmission for COVID-19,” she said.

Drouin said various ideas have been floated around, including opening up arenas to allow a space for people to cool down while maintaining physical distancing guidelines.

The emphasis, however, has been on finding and implementing outdoor cooling measures because the risk of transmission is lower outdoors.

“We have to be very creative even if we haven’t reached an intervention phase,” Drouin said.

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
Unseasonably warm weather forecast for Montreal raises concerns for vulnerable populations – May 25, 2020

Intervention is required when after three consecutive days with an average of over 33 C and temperatures that don’t go below 20 C.

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Despite intervention not being required yet, Montreal public health has asked that the city open up splash parks as soon as possible.

Some boroughs took to Facebook to announce they are following the recommendations and opening up their splash pads as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

That is the case in east end Rivière-des-Prairies.

Other recommendations include: drinking a lot of water without waiting to be thirsty, spending time in cooler areas in rooms or places that are air-conditioned, taking cool baths or showers, freshening up with a damp cloth and reducing physical efforts.

Drouin said it’s also important to check up on people who might be isolated, including elderly neighbours who are more at risk of suffering from heat-related illnesses.

In that vein, seniors living in long-term care facilities have not been forgotten.

“We have been working for weeks to adapt plans for heat waves and extreme heat to maintain the comfort of staff and users,” Dusablon said.

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

Concerns had been raised that fans or other ventilation measures could potentially transport droplets and increase the risk of transmission but care homes have been given the go ahead to install them.

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“This afternoon the network CEO’s received a new ministerial directive stating that air conditioners, including mobile air conditioners and free-standing fans can be added during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dusablon said, calling it is great news.

She says many long-term care facilities have already finished installing air conditioners while others are doing so after receiving the notice.

Drouin also provided an update on the City’s COVID-19 response.

“Even though we are testing more and more, we’re seeing a reduction of new cases in the last few days and a reduction int the number of hospitalizations,” she said.

Mobile screening units, however will be operating on a reduced schedule in the next few days because of the heat.

“To protect the public and workers, the opening hours will be reduced from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until the end of the heat wave,” Drouin said.

A complete schedule can be found on the Montreal public health website. 

As of Tuesday, Montreal has 24, 388 confirmed cases of the respiratory infection and 2, 584 fatalities.

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