Right in the centre - The value of being prepared


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The province is asking people in Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) to wear masks as much as possible in public places. It’s not too much to ask.

The battle against COVID-19 needs to be taken seriously, so masks are fine by me where they are required.

I also believe context and history are important.

Last February, both the Winnipeg Sun and the Winnipeg Free Press reported on 96 cases of Influenza A and 42 cases of Influenza B in Manitoba.  The Winnipeg Sun reported on the province’s latest influenza surveillance report at that date. The story said, “There have been 213 hospitalizations since September, with 21 of those requiring admission to the intensive care unit. The latest report, which covers the week of Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, said there were 138 lab-confirmed cases of the flu: 96 cases of Influenza A and 42 cases of Influenza B. In total, there have been over 1,100 confirmed influenza cases since September. According to the report, almost a quarter of Manitobans have received the flu shot this season, which is an increase over last year, when 23.6 per cent got the shot. Last flu season, 17 Manitobans died and there were 228 hospitalizations with 42 requiring admission to the ICU.”

 At that time, there were no laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases here, with Dr. Roussin stressing that influenza remains a bigger threat for Manitobans than coronavirus.

“We advise Manitobans that the risk of influenza remains high and so those who have not received the influenza vaccination should continue to (exercise caution), taking measures such as frequently washing your hands, coughing into your sleeve and staying home when ill,” said Roussin. “All are important measures to stay healthy and avoid infections.”

The context is important. Back in February, almost no one knew who Dr. Roussin was, but now we are very familiar with his steady guidance during a pandemic. Back in February, as noted in the quote above, his message was the same as it is now, but nobody was listening to him then. Back in February, the death rate for Flu A and B was 20 for the previous six months. Now the C-19 death rate is 13 for the past six months. The A and B confirmed six month case rate was 1,100. The confirmed six month case rate for C-19 is 993.

There have been 127,149 C-19 tests (as of Aug. 25) and 993 confirmed cases. That’s 107 less than the A and B Flu rate for the previous six months. One has to wonder how many cases of A and B would have been found if the province had done 127,149 tests for A and B as they have for C-19.

Dr. Roussin has offered a lot of good advice in a daily mantra. He was offering it in February about A and B Flu, as noted above, encouraging everyone about, “taking measures such as frequently washing your hands, coughing into your sleeve and staying home when ill.”  He is repeating it every day in regard to C-19.

But we must remember that he also says not to live in fear. That is is true. Fear gets us nowhere. Caution yields progress. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:17 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” In times like this, we need Dr. Roussin’s advice and that is backed up by the Biblical advice. If God doesn’t give the spirit of fear, then who does?  It’s the devil who gives the spirit of fear. In 1Peter 5:8, the Bible says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

We need to be vigilant, for sure. We need to protect the vulnerable, the aged, the sick, anyone who needs protection. 

People were getting sick and dying from September to February in the same numbers they have been getting sick from February to now. What C-19 has taught us is to be more careful. We have always had sicknesses and we always will have. What we have not had before is the intense level of awareness. Today, we know up to the minute, how many cases and deaths. In February, few were paying any attention. We have learned to be ready and prepared.

Sickness and disease will always be with us. So will death. We will all die someday. It’s important that we be ready and prepared for that too.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.