Editorial: Spring fever could have different connotation this year as COVID-19 cases climb again

No one in their right mind could have been happy April 12 to hear chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin say that he believes the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is starting in Manitoba and that stricter public health orders could be coming soon unless current trends start to move in a different direction.

Undoubtedly, everyone is sick of wearing masks and social distancing and staying home as much as possible and obeying all the other rules that have been imposed in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, which only about 35,000 Manitobans could have naturally acquired immunity to, while others are protected to some degree by virtue of having received one or two doses of one of the various vaccines developed since the pandemic began. Unfortunately, there is evidence that many people have not been following those orders carefully enough or consistently enough, which may be getting harder to get away with safely as the number of infections caused by variants of concern increases, since these are more easily transmittable, even in outdoor settings or with shorter exposure times, and a higher proportion of people infected with them end up in hospital or intensive care, as do a higher proportion of younger patients.

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We might not like what Roussin had to say, but the evidence that things are heading in the wrong direction is there.

Tuesday was the seventh straight day with more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Manitoba. The last time that happened was in mid-January.

The five-day test positivity rate among people swabbed for the virus was 6.2 per cent April 12, the highest it has been since early February. During the time that test positivity was six per cent or higher in Manitoba – Oct. 22 to Feb. 5 – there were more than 100 new daily cases of COVID-19 infections provincewide for more than three months in a row except for a single day, Jan. 2, which was probably mostly due to fewer people getting tested on new Year’s Day than any other factor.

Some people think we’ve been doing pretty well against the virus in the north. We have – in comparison to January, when there were more than 1,800 infections in the region. We’ve also been doing better considering that there’s been more freedom to mingle in recent weeks than there was back  in November, when the number of cases really began trending upwards in the north. Still, in the first 11 days of April, there were more than 400 new cases of the virus announced in Northern Manitoba, putting the region on pace for about 1,100 cases by April 30, if the current average of more than 36 new cases per day is maintained. Literally the only month since the pandemic began that that total would be significantly better than is January.

Going into the third wave without even ever really having gotten out of the second one is a hardship, not only for people, but for the businesses they own and work in. But if you look around at other parts of Canada, or other parts of the world, believing that Manitoba will somehow be spared requires some serious magical thinking. Many of us believed that in the summer and early fall of 2020. The last two months of last year demonstrated how wrong that assumption was and cost nearly 700 Manitobans their lives. It’s natural to feel hard done by at the prospect of stricter public health orders returning once more. Viruses don’t have feelings and certainly don’t have the ability to care about yours. They can be affected by actions, however. For the most part, except for the addition of vaccinations, those actions  are the same ones we’ve been instructed to follow for more than a year, which at least some people find it very difficult to do.

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