Despite having dramatically different COVID-19 responses and geographic locations, southern Manitoba communities are lumped together when talking about pandemic responses.
On Friday, Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced new public health orders for all of Southern Health Sante Sud, reducing retail capacity to 50 per cent.
He says this is due to the low vaccination rates and a very high percentage of new COVID-19 cases, but this number is varying dramatically, depending on the are. He could not say if Southern leaders were consulted in the new orders, saying many stakeholders were involved in the new orders and decisions need to be made quickly.
“Targeted restrictions, especially geographically, are difficult because of mobility. Trying to decide on what precise geographical region is, what will most people recognize as the geography that they are familiar with, and where of course where the epidemiology is. So very very tight geographical targeted restrictions will just make mobility that much easier,” Roussin says in a Monday press conference.
On the cusp of Winnipeg is Headingley, a community many consider to be an extension of Winnipeg and sometimes is as part of the metro region in the health orders. They technically fall under the Southern Health region’s Cartier/SFX district which has a vaccine uptake rate of 77.3 per cent and has five active COVID cases as of Monday morning.
“Our numbers are probably more in line with the Winnipeg metro region, which sometimes we are put in with the Winnipeg metro region health orders, and in this case, we are with the Southern Regional heath authority orders. I think it would be nice if we could have a little more consistency,” Mayor John Mauseth says.
While his and other communities near Winnipeg have higher vaccine uptake rates than other parts of Southern Health such as the R.M of Stanely at 24.2 per cent, Southern Health is talked about as a whole.
The mayor is optimistic about his community, saying throughout the entire pandemic they have proven to follow the health orders and recommendations.
“We have a phenomenal community and I feel like we have all done our part in supporting local businesses and making sure the outreach has been there for residents that need it.”
For Headingley, businesses along the TransCanada Highway will need to follow those retail restrictions, even if their neighbours within walking distance down the road in Winnipeg do not.
“I can respect what the intentions are behind them, but I don’t think that they are going to have an overly great effect on things, and that is just because of enforcement,” Mauseth says.
Many people who work in Winnipeg hang their hats in rural villages, such as in the R.M of Richot. Looking at their high vaccine uptake rate, Mayor Chris Ewen is displeased they are included in the Southern Heath-specific orders.
“Is it unfortunate that we are lumped into other areas, regions, and towns in the Southern Health area that that doesn’t have those vaccination rates? Yah, it is a bit disappointing,” Ewen says. “Having said that, there is not a lot that you can do to keep cutting these municipalities and towns up to grant some more permissions than others.”
Many of his residents work and shop in Winnipeg as their communities dot the city’s outskirts.
The Niverville/Richot district has nine active cases and a vaccine uptake rate of 82.1 per cent according to the province of Manitoba, something Ewen is proud of.
The mayor says he understands logistically why they are included, saying “at the end of the day, the Province of Manitoba is looking for a higher vaccination rate and if that means Richot is part of an area that needs to start focussing on a higher vaccination rate point then that is just the way the province mandates it. There is not a lot that we can do.”
Ewen, also a business owner, says he does not think the new health orders will have a large impact on local businesses.
“I think the province is just driving the point home that they need to see a higher vaccination rate in all the area, and if we are continuing to be lumped in with that there is not a lot one municipality can do to push back against it.”
Ewen says his council and their volunteer firefighters are all vaccinated, seeing success.
“It is tough to be part of the problem when we are doing what we are being told to do and will just continue to listen to what is going on in the other municipalities throughout the Southern Health region.”
Ewen also is unsure of how much of an impact the new orders will make in his area.