Act as if anyone around you might have COVID-19 to protect yourself, Thompson mayor urges

Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook didn’t mince words about people who are not complying with COVID-19 related public health recommendations in a video message to city residents posted online March 31.

“To those of you who choose to believe you are not the problem because you are sure you haven’t been anywhere or touched anything that could cause COVID-19, you are a problem,” said Smook, during the 12-minute message. “I’ve seen taxis with many people in them and I’ve seen people standing in packs waiting for taxis. I am told our vulnerable persons are being kept safe inside their respective units and I see them wandering in groups, sharing a bottle or going up to people asking for change. It takes us all to do our part.”

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Smook’s emphasis on the importance of proper social distancing was echoed April 1 by chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin at his daily COVID-19 pandemic news conference.

“Stay home, stay home and stay home,” he said, stressing that doing so as much as possible is the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19 or any other virus, or passing them along to others. “It’s vitally important that you stay home. Do not go grocery shopping if you’re ill. I encourage all Manitobans to take this seriously.”

Thompson’s mayor also underlined how not having a provincial public health officer in the city makes it difficult to enforce public health orders.

“Our phone line is answered in Brandon I am told,” she said. “We have no one that you or I can call to respond to an issue. we need that warm body to go out and give the message when it needs to be given.”

The mayor also touched on other topics including how council is developing a framework to hold council and committee meetings without physically meeting up while still ensuring the public has access to those discussions and decisions. Manitoba’s Municipal Relations department has said livestreaming meetings or providing recordings of them to the public afterwards are acceptable alternatives to holding meetings with the public present while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The city will soon be launching a blog to complement its quarterly newsletter and provide residents with information from the city more often. It has also launched Thompson Connect, which enables people to sign up for local, provincial and national alerts through text, emails, social media or automated voice calls.

“In an emergency we can reach vulnerable residents who aren’t comfortable with digital media like the internet and social media,” said Smook.

In another message echoing that often delivered by Roussin, Smook said people should behave the same way regardless of how many cases of COVID-19 there are in the north, which had only one confirmed case as of April 1.

“We all have to look as if every person we see has COVID-19,” Smook said. “We have to wash our hands at every chance we get, every door handle we touch.”

She also said her intention wasn’t to ease people’s minds.

“Was this a calming message?” Smook said. “I hope not. I need you all to be at the top of your game.”

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