Environment and Climate Change Canada is forecasting above-normal temperatures in Manitoba starting today and persisting into early next week. This system will bring hot conditions to southern Manitoba, with some areas experiencing extreme heat for several days.

Public health orders contain certain exemptions for levels of government, and do not apply to a facility where health care or social services are provided. With the current forecast, municipalities will be temporarily permitted to repurpose facilities such as libraries and community centres as cooling centres for vulnerable people who may not otherwise have the means to cool off during heat waves.

Meanwhile, in an email sent to PembinaValleyOnline, Cathy Ching from the South Central Regional Library indicated they will not be in a position to open their branches, at this time, as cooling centres.

"We do not have the capacity, or the staff, to ensure safe distancing and safety protocols for people to be in our buildings during this difficult time. Sorry for the inconvenience," stated the the email.

A provincial government official confirmed Wednesday afternoon that municipal splash pads and pools are included in this temporary exemption. 

The change also allows for the operation of outdoor pools or splash pads at hotels, campgrounds and other private businesses, but the restrictions on gatherings and interactions with people who do not reside at the same private residence continue to apply. The orders will go into effect today, June 2, at 2 p.m. and will be in place until June 12 at 12:01 a.m.

People attending these facilities must be reasonably able to maintain a separation of at least two metres from other members of the public and the rules against gathering with people outside your household still apply. It is expected that all facilities will have required supervision and efforts will be made to ensure the public follows proper physical distancing and public health protocols. Provincially designated enforcement officers will be monitoring and recommending any required adjustments.

In addition, municipalities may consider providing services to address the health effects of the heatwave including:
• distribution of bottled drinking water;
• providing shade tents in priority areas;
• operation of transit buses as mobile cooling centres, where applicable; and
• allowing drop-in and overnight shelters to offer expanded daytime hours during periods of extreme heat.

Everyone is at risk for the effects of heat. However, during a period of prolonged heat, older adults, people with chronic illness and people living alone have a particularly high risk for heat illness, especially if they are living in an urban area or do not have air conditioning. Others at greater health risks to heat include infants and young children, and people who work or exercise in the heat.

Manitobans are encouraged to check in regularly with vulnerable or socially isolated community members, friends and family. Contact people by phone where possible to reduce face-to-face interactions, which will help control the spread of COVID-19.

Never leave people or pets alone in a parked vehicle or direct sunlight.

Certain substances, including amphetamines, MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, alcohol and cannabis, can alter mental status as well as increase the risk of over-heating. Some medications can also increase your risk, so it is important to ask your doctor or pharmacist whether the medication you are taking affects your ability to cope with heat.

If you have many of the following symptoms, your body may be overheating and at risk of heat illness or heat stroke:
• headache;
• red, hot and dry skin;
• dizziness;
• confusion;
• nausea;
• rapid weak pulse; and
• a complete or partial loss of consciousness.

The longer a person’s body temperature is above 40 C (105 F), the greater the likelihood of permanent effects or death. If these symptoms occur, immediately move to a cool place and drink water.

Emergency medical care may be needed depending on the severity of symptoms. If someone has a high body temperature, is unconscious or is confused, call for help. While waiting, cool the person right away by moving them to a cool place, apply cold water to large areas of the skin or clothing and fan the person as much as possible.

Heat illnesses are preventable. The health effects of heat can be reduced by:
• drinking plenty of liquids, especially water, before you feel thirsty;
• wearing loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and a wide-brimmed hat;
• planning outdoor activities during cooler times of the day;
• limiting alcohol consumption;
• avoiding sun exposure and considering cancelling or rescheduling outdoor activities;
• going to a cool place such as a mall, community centre, public library or place of worship, after checking the hours these sites are open under COVID-19 restrictions;
• taking a cool shower or bath; and
• blocking the sun out by closing awnings, curtains or blinds during the day.