COVID-19 forces closure of some Ontario cooling centres as temperature soars

Cooling centres are usually opened up for residents when temperatures spike, but COVID-19 restrictions are limiting this option.

After weeks of below-seasonal temperatures, summer-like warmth is moving through Ontario with daytime highs hovering around the 30-degree mark in several regions.

Environment Canada has issued heat warnings for the south amid increasing humidity, which could have some communities feeling like 40 degrees by Wednesday.

Normally, cities will open up cooling centres for residents when temperatures spike -- but this is not a normal year. COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions have forced the complete or partial closure of some cool spaces, as stated by the City of Toronto's website.

“We have some flex in the places that are available to us. We've also lost some places due to the closure of some public buildings but we have a number of these cooling centres that will be open should the heat alert be declared,” said Mayor John Tory.

The City of Toronto has closed a significant number of cool spaces due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, during a heat warning the city will open emergency cooling centres. The city says these centres will be offered to residents as a last resort if they do not have access to a cool space and cannot keep cool in their home or outdoors.

“If there are large numbers of people than the current number of spaces will accommodate, then we will find other places we can put those kinds of facilities in place so they're available to people who are suffering from what is expected to be a very high levels of heat,” said Tory.

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GETTY - Hot Toronto

File photo courtesy: Getty.

Six locations around Toronto will be open with staff trained in helping those affected by extreme heat. The city says strict infection prevention and control measures will be in place.

The City of Mississauga’s facilities including community centres, libraries, swimming pools and splash pads remain closed as per provincial orders. A spokesperson for the city says they are prepared to reopen based on direction from Peel Public Health.

Residents are urged to check their jurisdictions websites for more information.

In the meantime it’s important to stay hydrated, stay in a cool place and never leave people or pets in parked vehicles.

Cooler and conditions are expected to return in time for the weekend, with humidity dissipating by next week.

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Here are some tips on staying safe amid heat, courtesy of the City of Toronto:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of water even before you feel thirsty.

  • Check on others. Call, text or video chat with family, friends and neighbours (especially older adults living alone) to make sure they’re staying hydrated and keeping cool.

  • Take cool showers or baths or use cool, wet towels to cool down.

  • Use a fan near an open window to bring in cooler air from outside.

  • Avoid the sun. Stay in the shade or use an umbrella.

  • Dress for the weather. Wear loose, light-coloured, breathable clothing and, if outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat.

  • Block the sun. Keep blinds or curtains closed during the day.

  • Protect people and pets. Never leave a person or pet inside a parked car.

  • Avoid using the oven or stove; they make your space hotter.

  • Consult with your doctor or pharmacist on medications that increase your risk to heat.

  • Do not leave hand sanitizer in cars; hand sanitizer poses a fire risk and can ignite due to its high alcohol content.

  • In an emergency, always call 911. Call 911 if you have or someone you are with has a high body temperature, is confused, is unconscious, or has fainted.