Pandemic Diary, May 17th, 2021: Living in the Epicentre

It’s official: as of yesterday evening, Manitoba has the highest per-capita incidence of COVID-19 in Canada, even beating out Alberta. We also have more infections per capita than any of the 50 states in the United States. Three-quarters of those cases are my home city of Winnipeg. I am now living right in the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

Manitoba now has the highest COVID-19 case rate in the country, more than twice the national average. Manitoba just passed Alberta. Manitoba’s rate is double Ontario’s. This was entirely avoidable, had the government followed the science and implemented the right public health measures last month (image source: tweet by Tom Brodbeck, Winnipeg Free Press)

Manitoba’s healthcare system is stretched to the limit, despite promises from the provincial government that this would not happen again. CBC reports:

In the middle of April, when COVID-19 case counts were rising exponentially in Manitoba, the deputy public health officer promised this province wouldn’t allow the third wave of the pandemic to get out of control.

Dr. Jazz Atwal pledged Manitoba would not suffer the same fate as Ontario, which failed to enact measures early enough to prevent its own case counts from rising to the point where Toronto intensive care wards struggled to treat record numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Ontario, you know, when you look at how the case numbers went up, they likely waited much too long,” Atwal said at a news briefing on April 16. 

“We’re not going to go down that road, I could assure you that.”

One month later, Winnipeg intensive care wards are struggling to treat record numbers of COVID-19 patients. A record 71 COVID-19 patients are being treated in Manitoba ICUs. Hospitals are now doing everything they can to divert patients of all sorts from intensive care.

Some of the more stable COVID patients have been sent home, where they’re given oxygen and monitored remotely. Others have been sent to long-term care homes, most of which are no longer death traps, thanks to vaccinations.

Hospitals are placing acute-care beds anywhere they can, knowing the number of COVID-19 patients that require intensive care is expected to keep rising until sometime in June.

“Right now, it’s fair to say that from a physical capacity, we’ve expanded dramatically to all kinds of corners of the hospital and we’re almost working one bed at a time. Where’s the next patient going to go? Where can we move?” said Eric Jacobsohn, a Winnipeg ICU physician and anesthesiologist.

“We are sort of just running day by day, expanding where we can. And from what I’m told is … we’re going to make physical space, we have the equipment, but the issue is human resources. Where do you find the people, particularly nurses, other front-line staff, physicians, to look after these patients?”

All of this could have been avoided if Brian Pallister and his government had listened to the experts, who warned that this was coming. They ignored that advice, yet again. It could be that the third wave of COID-19 infections and deaths will be even bigger than the second wave in November and December last year. Hospitals will face an unprecedented crunch for space, resources, and staff over the next month.

This is NOT the time to get sick…any kind of sick. Don’t get into a car accident, don’t fall off a ladder, don’t have a heart attack. And above all, don’t get infected with COVID-19.

My anger at my incompetent government is percolating higher every day. I dearly hope that Manitobans remembers this absolute clusterfuck when the next provincial election rolls around in 2023. Pallister has to go, and the sooner he leaves, the better.

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