Today is officially day 707 since I first began working from home for my university on March 16th, 2020, and the number of days that I have been back on campus since then is still in the single digits. (I will finally be returning to campus full-time on February 28th, 2022, when all the University of Manitoba Libraries will reopen. The university has a mask mandate and a vaccine mandate, going so far as to deregister those students who have not uploaded proof of vaccination to a special website. They are not messing around!)
Here in my home province of Manitoba, our government has started to lift the public health restrictions that have been in place, despite the still-alarmingly high number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions of COVID-19 patients. A Feb. 11th provincial government news release stated:
New public health orders will come into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15 that will move all of Manitoba to the Yellow (Caution) level under the Pandemic Response System. Capacity limits will be eliminated in venues such as restaurants, licensed premises, entertainment venues, indoor and outdoor sporting events and casinos, as well as gatherings at private residences. Capacity limits will be removed for outdoor public gatherings but will be limited to 50 people indoors unless proof of vaccination is required. Young people ages 12 to 17 participating in indoor sports and recreation will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccination or recent testing. There are no changes to retail and personal services.
As of Feb. 15, close contacts of a person who tests positive for COVID-19 will no longer be required to self-isolate. Public health continues to recommend self-isolation for people who live in a household with others who have symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 but it will no longer be required.
Many people (myself included) are questioning why the Manitoba government is moving so quickly, and seemingly against the advice of scientists, doctors, and public health experts, in lifting these restrictions. Premier Heather Stefanson has announced that Manitoba will, as of March 15, 2022 remove all mask requirements and all other COVID-19 restrictions, a decision that is also proving to be divisive. Some people are fully in support, while others feel it is still to risky.
As for me, I have essentially barricaded myself in my apartment since the start of the Omicron wave of the pandemic, only venturing out to visit my mother and stepfather (who also rarely leave their life-lease condo), and to pick up the groceries I order online via Walmart, picking a timeslot to avoid contact with other people as much as possible (Sunday mornings between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m.). I have also been wearing an N95 facemask every time I step out of my apartment, and practicing elaborate social distancing as much as possible.
Yes, I am so sick and tired of all this after seven hundred and seven days. Yes, I want this to be over as badly as the next person (although just declaring yourself “over COVID” ain’t going to make it happen!). But I honestly don’t believe that the pandemic is finished with us just yet, not when so much of the world’s population (especially in the poorer, Third World countries) hasn’t been vaccinated yet. There’s still too much chance of the coronavirus mutating again like it did with Omicron, and causing us to shut down all over again.
But I still want to evade the SARS-CoV-2 virus as long as possible, especially at a time when so many other people are getting sick, and Manitoba’s healthcare system is stretched to the limit! Because of my underlying health conditions (obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and asthma), even though I am triple-vaccinated, I still worry that I would have a severe case of COVID-19 if I were to become infected.
Today, my mother telephoned me to tell me the news that I have been expecting but dreading: two people among my family in Alberta have developed COVID-19. Fortunately, although both are sick, they are not seriously ill, and are thankfully not experiencing any breathing difficulties. (In both cases, it has been like a very bad case of the flu, with muscle aches and pains. One has a sore throat.)
I know that eventually I will catch COVID-19. My goal in 2022 is to avoid getting COVID-19 as long as I possibly can, so that when I do get it, every single possible healthcare support is readily available to me, including a good supply of anti-viral medications like Paxlovid, just in case I do land up in a worst-case scenario. It is extremely unlikely that I will be in that situation, but I still so worry.
And if that means that I will still be face masking and social distancing long after other people stop (and getting most of my socialization needs met via social VR and virtual worlds!), then that is a price I am willing to pay for my own peace of mind.
Postscript: My friend John Facetimed me this afternoon and told me that CBC news has announced that Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for COVID-19. I have seen pictures of the Queen looking so frail recently, so I am concerned:
She reminds me so much of my own beloved grandmother, who coincidentally was also named Elizabeth (she passed away well before the pandemic started). I would not call myself a monarchist by any stretch, but the Queen is still Canada’s head of state, and I wish her a speedy recovery.
Everybody’s getting COVID-19, it seems. It’s just a matter of when, and how bad.
Stay safe and stay healthy!