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Lower Mainland tries to keep cool amid first heat of COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video 'B.C. South Coast prepares for first summer heat wave during pandemic' B.C. South Coast prepares for first summer heat wave during pandemic
B.C. South Coast prepares for first summer heat wave during pandemic

Popular parks and beaches were already packed Sunday morning, as the Lower Mainland prepares for its first real taste of summer heat.

Environment Canada is forecasting highs of 25 C near the water, with the mercury climbing into the low 30s in the Fraser Valley.

Metro Vancouver said parking lots at White Pine Beach, Sasamat Lake and Belcarra Regional Park were already full by 8 a.m.

Read more: Sunscreen time: B.C.’s South Coast to get first real heat of the summer

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The district warned visitors not to park illegally on the nearby roads, saying it had increased fines for infractions.

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Park officials have been pleading with people to respect social distancing amid COVID-19 as they try to cool off in the heat.

Click to play video 'B.C. evening weather forecast: July 25' B.C. evening weather forecast: July 25
B.C. evening weather forecast: July 25

John McEwen, Anmore mayor and chair of Metro Vancouver’s regional parks said the parks belong to everyone, but that there are limits to what they can accommodate, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Don’t bother coming if it’s closed. Unfortunately, we have limited capacity at this time,” he said.

“Think about going to another of our regional parks.”

Read more: B.C. officials plead with park-goers to obey rules to stop COVID-19 spread

McEwen said people hoping to get into the parks around Anmore last weekend was so bad that officials began blocking routes to traffic in the community by 7 a.m., while improperly parked vehicles lined the road from Sasamat Lake all the way to the Ioco townsite four kilometres away.

At Cultus Lake, officials have been forced to fence off the two main dock sections at Main Beach due to overcrowding, with the Parks Board specifically calling out “younger park patrons.”

At Vancouver’s Third Beach, the site of a now-viral drum circle where hundreds of people were filmed ignoring physical distancing, Dr. Bonnie Henry made an appearance, Saturday — if only in effigy.

A cut-out image of Dr. Bonnie Henry keeps watch at Vancouver’s Third Beach on Saturday, July 26, 2020.
A cut-out image of Dr. Bonnie Henry keeps watch at Vancouver’s Third Beach on Saturday, July 26, 2020. Global News

Someone printed the province’s top doctor’s face and posted it on the beach, presumably as a reminder to beach-goers to keep two metres apart.

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Social distancing isn’t the only concern as the temperature heats up.

Union Gospel Mission spokesperson Jeremy Hunka said the region’s homeless are now facing twin dangers of the coronavirus and hot weather.

Read more: ‘Assume it’s here’: Advocates urge action as COVID-19 reported in Downtown Eastside

“Both of these things are extremely dangerous, and it’s just one emergency, one extreme situation on top of each other,” he said.

Click to play video '‘Moving camps doesn’t solve the problem’: B.C. homeless advocate on need for better housing solutions' ‘Moving camps doesn’t solve the problem’: B.C. homeless advocate on need for better housing solutions
‘Moving camps doesn’t solve the problem’: B.C. homeless advocate on need for better housing solutions

“Dehydration, heat exhaustion, sunburn, and it can create situations where people die, we’ve seen that before.”

Hunka said the mission had opened its Vancouver drop-in centre for a few hours a day, but that capacity was strictly limited due to physical distancing requirements.

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He said staff were also trying to distribute warm weather clothing, sunscreen and reusable water bottles, but that their supplies were far lower than usual this year — because the pandemic has affected donations.