Manitoba’s health orders flex to meet extreme heat over next few days

With temperatures likely to soar into the mid-30s over the next week, Manitoba’s provincial health orders are being adjusted to help residents during the heat wave.

Public health orders introduced last month in the fight against COVID-19 required municipalities to close facilities like pools and libraries — facilities often used during heat waves by those who don’t have air conditioning at home.

Changes to the orders announced Wednesday include allowing the temporary reopening of municipal splash pads, pools and wading pools, as well as those operated by hotels, campgrounds and other private businesses.

Local governments will also be allowed to use libraries and other public facilities as cooling centres for vulnerable residents.

The revised orders went into effect Wednesday at 2 p.m. and will be in place until June 12 at 12:01 a.m.

The orders require efforts to keep people using the facilities separated by at least two metres. Rules that prohibit gathering with people outside your household still apply.

All facilities must have supervision in place to maintain physical distancing and enforcement officers will monitor locations to help make sure health orders are followed, a provincial news release says.

The province says municipalities can put measures in place to protect vulnerable residents from the heat by providing bottled water, installing shade tents or using transit buses as makeshift cooling centres. 

A spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg says its Office of Emergency Management is working with Main Street Project, End Homelessness Winnipeg and provincial officials on “providing additional opportunities for relief from extreme temperatures this week that will safely follow public health orders.”

Organizations work help vulnerable people cool down

Extreme weather events, from bitter cold to blistering heat, are seasonal occurrences for organizations that work with vulnerable people, such as the Main Street Project and Siloam Mission. 

The agencies are working together and have changed their hours to allow people in the communities they serve to access their air-conditioned facilities for some relief from the heat. 

“We’re working together to make sure that people have places to come … to avoid things like heatstroke [and] sunstroke, to get hydrated, to get some water,” said Siloam Mission spokesperson Luke Thiessen.

Main Street Project’s cooling tent on Martha Street gives people a place to spray down to help fight the effects of extreme heat. ( Marouane Refak/Radio- Canada)

Main Street Project staff have set up a cooling station at 75 Martha St. to work directly with people outdoors. 

“Extreme weather does contribute to a few more people coming through,” said Main Street Project’s Cindy Titus. “I’m sure we will have lots of folks stopping by the cooling tent to soak off and grab a bottle of water.”

Both organizations say they would gratefully accept donations of bottled water. For the first time since the pandemic began last year, Siloam Mission is also asking for donations of men’s and women’s clothes — especially items suited for summer use. 

Heat warnings have been issued for most of southern Manitoba. Temperatures could reach a high of 36 C in Winnipeg on Friday, and parts of southern Manitoba could see temperatures as high as 40 C, according to CBC meteorologist John Sauder.

With temperatures likely to soar into the mid-30s over the next week, Manitoba’s provincial health orders are being adjusted to help residents during the heat wave. 2:25