Better red than dead: Now is the time for courage and resolve on the part of Manitobans
New restrictions won't bear fruit immediately. They won't at all if Manitobans don't heed advice.
When you look at the latest pandemic indicators, Manitoba is struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19.
On Wednesday, the province reported a record number of daily COVID deaths (nine), a record number of people in hospital with the disease (218) and a record percentage of tests coming back positive (10.7 per cent).
The total number of COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba has doubled since Oct. 26 — a mere 16 days ago.
Intensive care unit capacity is almost maxed out. Health-care workers are getting infected with COVID-19 and two have died.
Contact tracing is backed up anywhere from days to weeks. Provincial epidemiology can no longer pinpoint how and where COVID-19 is spreading.
These are among the reasons why Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin had no choice but to impose new restrictions on Manitoba on Thursday.
How long they will remain will depend on how well Manitobans respond to his plea to heed pandemic public health orders as well as recommendations to avoid socializing with anyone outside your household.
The new restrictions will remain in place for at least two weeks. Roussin said Tuesday they will likely remain for another two weeks after that.
In order for the restrictions to be clawed back, the percentage of tests coming back positive will have to drop well below the current 10.7 per cent, which is comparable to the test-positivity rates in a number of U.S. states.
"You know, if we're going to lift these early, we'd have to see a dramatic decline in that to three per cent or less," Roussin said Tuesday.
"We'd have to see our overall case numbers dramatically decline. We certainly can't continue a trend with 300 or 400 cases a day. We'd have to see a dramatic decline in that.
"And then, of course, we're going to see our health-care system not under strain."
The new restrictions are the broadest since the provincial lockdown in April.
Schools and dental clinics will not be closed, as they were back in the spring, but most of the other measures from that initial, successful lockdown are back.
They include the closure of gyms, theatres, community centres, hair salons and places of worship and retail stores that are not deemed essential.
Other retailers, such as groceries and pharmacies, can remain open as long as they keep customer capacity to 25 per cent.
Most or the other workplaces that remained open in April can still remain open.
The big difference is there's now a five-person limit on gatherings across the province. That's tougher than the 10-person rule imposed last spring, but not as tough as Roussin suggested Tuesday, when he initially said social contact would be restricted to people who live under the same roof.
For weeks, Roussin and Premier Brian Pallister have praised the majority of Manitobans who dutifully observe public health orders while lambasting the minority of us who do not.
It is clear that minority either did not get the message or did not choose to listen to it. This is why the enforcement of public health measures has been increased, along with the severity of the measures themselves.
In the short term, the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 is expected to continue to spike, along with the number of deaths.
This is because of the lag time between infection and hospitalization for the small minority of patients who develop severe cases of the disease.
Around the world, anywhere from one to six per cent of diagnosed patients have wound up in hospital.
Over the past two weeks, another 4,607 Manitobans have been diagnosed with COVID-19. That translates into another 46 to 276 more Manitobans in hospital, if the ratios apply to this province.
In other words, the pandemic is about to get a lot worse in this province before it's going to get better. There will be more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths before any benefit can be realized from the new restrictions.
This is a time for courage and resolve on the part of Manitobans. Act now, and fewer lives will be lost.
Fail to act, and more will perish.
With files from Bryce Hoye