Medical health officers for Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health are advising municipalities across the Lower Mainland to open cooling centres this weekend.
The two health authorities said they were providing an exemption to COVID-19 capacity rules and ensuring no one will be denied access to these centres because of concerns about crowding or physical distancing.
“If people are wearing a mask and have difficulty breathing, they should remove the mask, whether they are indoors or outside, as wearing a mask may impact thermal regulation during heat events,” the advisory from the health authorities reads.
This as B.C. is in the midst of a heat wave, and health officials said a heat warning had been escalated to an extreme heat alert.
Record-high temperatures are expected in the Lower Mainland tomorrow will continue until at least Tuesday, with daytime highs ranging from 29 to 39 C combined with overnight lows of 18 to 21 C.
Humidex values during this period will reach the high 30s to possibly the low 40s. High temperatures are historically associated with an increase in deaths among Lower Mainland residents.
“While everyone is at risk of heat related illness, hot temperatures can be especially dangerous for the young, the elderly, those working or exercising in the heat, persons with chronic heart and lung conditions, persons with mental illness, people living alone and people experiencing homelessness,” the advisory reads.
“If you are taking medication, particularly for mental illness, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it increases your health risk in the heat and follow their recommendations.”
Medical health officers are reminding Lower Mainland residents to take precautions to protect themselves from the heat, including staying hydrated and keeping cool.
The reminder is to drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages no matter how active you are.
People are being reminded to never leave children or pets alone in a parked car and to use public splash pools, water parks or pools or take a cool bath or shower.
At current temperatures, fans alone are not effective.
In their joint statement, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. health minister Adrian Dix said mass COVID-19 immunization clinics are indoors, and many pop-up clinics have moved to cooler, indoor locations.
“If you have a vaccine appointment at a pop-up clinic or are planning to drop in, check the location before you go, wear a hat and sunscreen, and bring water,” the statement reads.
“Just as we have taken care of our neighbours, seniors and elders during the COVID-19 pandemic, they may also need some assistance this weekend. Let’s continue to support each other with kindness and compassion, and help our friends and family get their vaccines safely.”