Right in the centre - Please change the channel


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Editor’s note: After two weeks away from my desk with surgery and a second bout in hospital with complications, I want to thank all the people who prayed for me. Thank you to son, Mike, for writing a column and wife, Christine, for doing the same. I hope and expect to make a full recovery, but won’t likely be back to full strength for some weeks yet. I have never slept so much in my life before. The care I received in three different hospitals was outstanding.

After spending nine grinding months facing death, despair, fear and frustration, it’s time for Manitoba to change the channel.

I, for one, think the province of Manitoba has done a good job of combatting COVID-19. The government has done a good job, but after all the grinding, it’s time to adopt some new approaches. That Dr. Roussin, his staff and the premier have not strangled someone is a miracle. We need to change the channel. The citizens of Manitoba need hope and a sense of fairness. Our leadership needs to offer hope and fairness and those commodities have been missing for a few months now.

1. The daily death announcements need to be modified. Either tell us if the deaths were “random” or due to underlying conditions or just give us totals. Knowing the age, what care home people lived in at the time of their death or where they lived doesn’t help much in our quest to understand what is actually happening. 

2. We need to know how many people die each day of all causes. It’s morbid sounding, but are we actually losing many more people than other years? The health people must know these facts and if we are expected to take daily gut punches about C-19 deaths, we need to know context.

3. We need to tune out all the media when they simply regurgitate the death counts. Where are the stories about hope and about new treatments? I think the mainstream media has been hiding in their home offices for way too long, not actually applying their skills, resources and talents to finding stories about hope. It is a sad commentary on our news media, that with combined decades of experience and endless college degrees, that what we have been served up in terms of C-19 coverage by the media, for the most part, has been awful.

4. The majority of deaths by far have been in care homes and among our elderly who have underlying health issues. That does not make the deaths any less sad or hurtful, but it does now show a number of things. It would appear that perhaps if we had done a better job of sanitizing, protecting of residents and screening of staff and visitors over the years, we might have had less deaths from all diseases, such as influenza and pneumonia.

5. I am not sure who is to blame, but we still haven’t done enough to protect our vulnerable. Staffing levels should never be allowed to get stretched as badly as they appear to have been in the worst hit care homes. Hopefully, that lesson has been learned. The Long Term & Continuing Care Association of Manitoba says that care has been underfunded for 15 years in Manitoba. In case anyone is keeping track, that covers several governments, both federally and provincially and four different political parties.

6. Given that the spread of C-19, when it has deadly effects, is mostly in care facilities, should we not move mountains to protect our elderly?

7. Given that C-19 spreads mostly in large, unmasked gatherings, should we not adjust our approach on the economy and business? Wash our hands, socially distance unless we wear mask, stay out of large, unmasked crowds, stay at home when you are sick. We can do all that. 

8. However, back to hope and fairness. The government needs to immediately open up all businesses at 25 per cent capacity. It makes no sense to think that C-19 isn’t being spread at Costco or Walmart, but it is being spread at the local hair dresser or clothing shop. 

9. There is also an elephant in the room. While large gatherings are all illegal now, not everyone is obeying those rules. Some communities have repeatedly flaunted the provincial rules. One community has openly announced they plan to allow large Christmas and New Year’s gatherings. Those kinds of decisions seem to be the wrong way to go.

10. C-19 is real, it’s not fake, people can be asymptomatic, mildly sick, severely sick or die from it. Let’s change the channel and fight this thing with logic, hope and fairness. If we don’t do that, we will still be taking a daily gut punch of death stats next Christmas and with no progress to show for it.

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.