Taking a look backwards to one year ago, when Northern Manitoba was heading into its first COVID-19 Thanksgiving, though we thought perhaps at the time that it would be the only one, and some things didn’t look that different than they do now.
Sure, the weather was probably cooler, since early fall of this year has seen Thompson enjoying unseasonably, perhaps even unnaturally, warm weather without even a hint of that dreaded s-word. But the city was heading into the second wave of the pandemic, which would prove to be devastating and deadly for many northern communities, even if we didn’t know it at the time. This year, the same seems to be true, though it is now the fourth wave and there are COVID-19 variants fuelling much of the current increase in cases.
In the last editorial before Thanksgiving last year, we wrote that people might be finding it difficult to find things to be grateful for, thanks to the preceding initial six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lots of Manitobans thought we had had it hard over that period, though now, in hindsight, it was basically the calm before the storm.
On Oct. 5 last year, there was one active case of COVID-19 in Thompson, the city’s first since early April at the very beginning of the pandemic. It was the third case in the city overall and there had been a grand total of 18 cases in Northern Manitoba since COVID-19 was first detected in Manitoba. On Oct. 4 of this year, there were 12 new cases in the region and more than 170 active cases, with four northern health districts each having more cases of COVID-19 than the whole region had from March to October of 2020. Now, the north has had more than 8,300 cases overall, 55 of the region’s residents have died and life, which we thought was turned upside down during the first wave of the pandemic, has been so thoroughly turned upside down at least a couple of times since, that normal now feels weird. To give some idea of where we are compared to last year and how much has changed since then, October has started off much worse for the north in terms of COVID infections, and yet many of us probably feel like we’re in a good position.
So once again, let’s take the time to consider what there is to be thankful for.
As mentioned above, there’s the weather. Any time you make it to Thanksgiving without having to shovel something in Thompson, that’s a pretty good fall.
Then there’s the fact that students can be in school. A year ago, that would have seemed kind of unremarkable, but by November things had slid quickly downhill and school meant Google Meet and Zoom and homework packages and recording yourself playing your instrument for band practice.
Most of us also have the freedom to gather was we wish, within reason. You can go see a hockey game if you’ve had two COVID-19 vaccinations, or eat a meal in a restaurant or see a movie. Once again, these may seem like nothing, given how we took for granted being able to do so in the pre-COVID era. Now, for some people, just being able to hug family members is a source of more pleasure than they may have previously imagined possible.
More than anything, of course, there are COVID-19 vaccines to be thankful for. Not just one, but three, which the majority of Manitobans and those who live in the north have received. Sure, there are people out there who believe that it’s all a giant conspiracy, a way for Bill Gates (who, by the way, is extremely rich already) to get rich by implanting 5G microchips small enough to be administered by a needle (which aren’t a real thing) because .. because … well, new world order, government control, Agenda 21, China and so on. But the evidence is showing that fully vaccinated people are much less likely to contract COVID-19, end up in hospital because of it or get admitted to intensive care if they do. Though case numbers are rising and things aren’t looking like totally smooth sailing ahead in Manitoba, or anywhere else, imagine how much worse they could be if the vaccines didn’t exist, your unhinged uncle’s Facebook rants notwithstanding. This Thanksgiving, unlike last year, we don’t have to imagine. All we need to do is look back on some pretty recent memories.