Right in the centre - More to COVID-19 than meets the eye


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

As Manitoba’s combination of good management, good fortune and good luck produces enviable COVID-19 results, there are some deeper lessons to be learned.

C-19 hit highly populated areas really hard. Places like New York suffered immensely and I believe there were many reasons. They live in densely populated areas. They have a high population of Jewish and Italian people, whose culture exhibits lots of hugging, kissing and general camaraderie. New Yorkers maybe travel a lot internationally or are in close contact with people who do. All that said, it was, as was common around the world, that a high percentage of the deaths were among elderly people or people with compromised immune systems.  In contrast to Manitoba care homes, we are told that many New York, Montreal and Toronto care homes had four people to a room. If  we think about it, it must be a huge, if not impossible task, to maintain isolation and the necessary sanitation standards with four people in a room.

In Manitoba, it has been reported (as of May 18), that there have been seven deaths. It was also reported that there have been 29 deaths from seasonal influenza. I think it is terribly important that we determine the actual numbers of influenza cases and deaths. If in fact, the influenza deaths are in care homes, maybe testing needs to be done more often and isolation protocols be instituted more often.

It appears that we are losing a lot of older people to the flu and maybe that can be curbed by applying what we have learned from COVID-19.

Had we known, and I think we should have known, how to fight and contain C-19, we might have been able to avoid so much fear and damage to our economy. It caught my attention when the top medical official in the U.S., Dr. Faucci, said he doesn’t give economic advice. Those words sound familiar, as when I was mayor of Neepawa in 1999-2002, I implored the RHA officials to not cut back to 100 beds at Neepawa’s care home. I said at the time, that people would retire to Neepawa to be in line to go to a nice new care home. I was right. I was assured of two points back then. One, I was told that health officials didn’t have a mandate for economic development but to bring health care in at the lowest possible cost. Second, I was told not to worry about 20 less beds at Neepawa because the flu season would look after the needs for more beds.

I guess that last statement is partly true, but if we learn how to fight flu like we have learned to fight C-19, maybe we will need more beds if more people hopefully survive the flu.

As to the economic development aspect, I was also right as towns that have medical clinics, care homes and hospitals attract workers and industry. People who come to work in these towns experience an interesting phenomenon. Their parents move as well to be close to the kids and grandkids. After a few years of retirement, the retirees move to the care home. Health care has always had an economic development component, in spite of what health officials want to think about their role in life.

Ironically, C-19 has changed the world and how we do things, especially in terms of economic activity.

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.