Monday, March 14, just a few days past the second anniversary of the first positive test for COVID-19 in Manitoba, is the last day before the province lifts its remaining pandemic-related public health orders, most notably the requirement to wear a mask in indoor public places.
Effective 12:01 a.m. March 15, people can go mask-free in indoor public places, though staff, patients and visitors at healthcare facilities will still have to wear a mask and to change into a supplied medical mask after entering and answering screening questions.
Orders restricting travel into Northern Manitoba also end Tuesday, as does the requirement that people who test positive for COViD-19 must isolate. Manitoba will also stop doing individual COVID case investigations and will no longer generate key codes for the federal COVID Alert smartphone app.
“This path forward will be different for all of us, whether we choose to wear masks or not, or how and when we connect with family and friends,” said Health Minister Audrey Gordon in a March 14 news release. “Let’s be patient, thoughtful and kind to each other as we navigate this new normal together.”
Public health recommends that people isolate for five days after COVID-19 symptoms start until they have no fever and other symptoms have begun to improve. Those who test positive but do not develop symptoms are also asked to isolate for five days from the date of their test. It is also recommended that people with COVID-19 wear a mask until 10 days after symptoms begin or a positive test if they must have contact with other people and that those with symptoms or who have tested positive avoid non-essential contact with people at higher risk or in higher-risk settings during that time.
“We will continue to provide public health recommendations and guidance on COVID-19, but now Manitobans are empowered to make their own decisions about what is right for themselves and their families,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer. “We know these restrictions have taken a toll on many people’s health and well-being, but we also know that this shift may cause different stress and anxiety for some. This is a process for everyone to take at their own pace and we need to remember to support each other as it happens.”
In a weekly update to students’ caregivers, R.D. Parker Collegiate principal Bonnie Rempel said that masks will no longer be required for staff and students but that the choice of whether or not to wear one is up to individual employees and students. The school is also advising staff and students who test positive or have COVID-19 symptoms to stay home for at least five days and not to return to school until symptoms are improving and a fever is no longer one of them.
Manitoba schools are no longer required to implement cohorts or impose physical distancing requirements.
University College of the North recently announced that it would continue to require masks and proof of vaccination at its campuses and other facilities until the end of the winter term.