Normally, on the evening of Hallowe’en, my best friend John and I have a regular routine to avoid the pesky little trick-or-treaters going door-to-door in our suburban neighbourhood. Instead, we leave our homes (carefully turning off our entrance lights to indicate that no one is home and zero candy is forthcoming), and we both decamp to a local restaurant for a leisurely meal and some conversation over a beer or two. We’ve been doing this for years,
Unfortunately, this year, there will be neither the trick-or-treaters nor the restaurant meal. Yesterday, the provincial health department reported a surge of 480 new cases of COVID-19, almost all of them occurring in and near the city of Winnipeg:
Three more seniors have died from COVID-19 at Parkview Place, one of several seniors homes, hospitals, and schools where outbreaks are currently taking place. While the five-day testing positivity rate in the province as a whole is 8.6% (that is, of all COVID-19 tests conducted within the past five days, 8.6 out of every 100 people have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus), the 5-day positivity rate in Winnipeg itself is higher, at 9.7%.
Effective Monday, the province has established an emergency, code-red lockdown in and around the city of Winnipeg (affecting approximately 780,000 people). What this means is:
- Hospitals and healthcare services will continue to offer urgent and emergency surgeries, procedures and diagnostic services, but elective and non-urgent surgery and diagnostic services will be postponed. All hospital visitation has been suspended, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis for patients receiving end-of-life care, in labour and delivery, and in pediatrics.
- Public and private gatherings (both inside and outside) are restricted to a maximum of five people. “Limiting contacts outside the household is strongly encouraged.”
- All restaurants and bars are closed, except for take-out, drive-through, and delivery.
- All indoor and outdoor sports and recreational facilities, group sports, bowling alleys, etc, are closed. Gyms and fitness centres are restricted to 25% of regular full capacity, and all exercisers must wear masks.
- Non-essential retail stores will be allowed to remain open at 25% of regular full capacity (or 5 people, whatever is higher). Grocery stores and pharmacies will operate at 50 per cent capacity. “eService, pick-up or delivery [are] recommended whenever possible. Encourage limiting the number of people from each household who go shopping.”
- Casinos, arcades, gaming establishments, VLTs, movie theatres, concert halls, museums, galleries, and libraries must close (this includes the three libraries that have reopened at the University of Manitoba).
- Community, cultural and religious gatherings will be limited to 15% capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower.
Notable in its absence from this list is shutdowns of K-12 schools, where the provincial advice is to continue blended (in-person and online) learning, and to ensure as much physical distancing as possible between students when in class. However, given the way things are going, I will not be surprised if the lockdown is extended to both public and private elementary, junior high and senior high schools as well. (One Winninpeg chool, Centre Scolaire Léo-Rémillard, now has 14 coronavirus cases, has 4 classes in self-isolation as a precaution, and has already decided to move its Grade 12 classes completely to remote learning.)
All the leaves have fallen from the trees, there is a cold westerly wind, and the sky is overcast and grey. There is already snow on the ground, and below-freezing temperatures. November, December, and January are going to be difficult months for us here in Manitoba.