Manitoba is painfully close to a couple of major COVID milestones, and they both could be reached by Tuesday.
As of Monday, we are one day shy of two weeks of no new cases and we are one case away from having zero active cases. It is a race to a clean bill of health with Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. Two provinces with a a fraction of the population of Manitoba.
You know who cannot make the claim? Pretty much any of the 48 states to our south. In fact, they are hitting the wrong kind of milestones, many of them are setting daily records for new cases. The U.S. has been drowning in a second wave of the pandemic for the better part of a month. On Sunday, Florida counted 15,299 new cases, a record for any state. It fuelled the U.S. to daily record of 66,281 cases and helped set the course for a new worldwide record of 230,370 in one 24-hour period. It was the fourth day in a row of more than 200,000 new cases.
There is a reason why public health officials continue to say we are not out of the woods yet.
It is all the more reason the U.S.-Canada border must remain sealed to non-essential traffic for the foreseeable future.
“Right now, if you look at the epidemiology in the U.S., it’s really important to ensure we are not seeing a lot of reintroduction of this virus into Manitoba. This is our biggest risk right now,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, provincial chief public health officer.
Currently, the 49th parallel is closed down until July 21 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said talks continue on an extension, but nothing is certain. In fact, 29 bipartisan congressmen signed a letter to Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair calling for a phased reopening.
This cannot happen until the U.S. has their act together.
What makes all of this really scary is we do not know what this virus will look like come winter.
Dr. Carlos Farkas, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Manitoba, said there were more than 140 variations of COVID-19 from the U.S., Australia and China all with regional variances. It is one of the big hurdles in coming up with a vaccine and one of the reasons it attacks different demographics differently in those regions.
Despite the health orders in place, non-trade border crossing have more than doubled since early April.
According to the Canada Border Service Agency’s weekly crossing statistics, there were 2,868 non-commercial travellers who crossed through one of the crossings along the border. On July 5, that number had jumped to 6,167. Truck drivers crossing the border has remained steady as supply routes stayed open. CBSA was unable to say how many of those crossings have happened at the Emerson crossing, which is one of the busiest west of Ontario.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has sent health officers to 36-high traffic points of entry, including land crossings. Public Health was unable to say how many of those health officers have been deployed to Emerson prior to deadline.
It is important to note, there are more than just truckers who are allowed to cross. Essential workers have been allowed to cross, but those exemptions are limited to those making medical deliveries and those who have to cross the border to provide or receive essential services including emergency responders, health care workers or critical infrastructure workers.
The problem is those who are abusing this loophole for more than just essential work.
In early July two Americans were fined $1,000 each by the Ontario Provincial Police for being in violation of the Mandatory Quarantine Act for not quarantining for 14 days following entry into the country.
I am by no means calling for any vigilante action to be taken against our wayward neighbours who are visiting here too early. But we need to tighten up these issues at the border now. It only takes one case to bring the virus back into a community.
Though I may disagree with their politics from time to time, I love Americans. Both of my parents were born in the U.S. and I still have family there, some who I would love to see again sooner rather than later. But it will have to wait.
I also am aware there are spouses who have been separated for four months now and other more difficult stories out there caused by the shutdown.
But we cannot afford to crack open that border even an inch until the pandemic is under control.
Manitobans have sacrificed too much to be forced backwards because of a premature opening green-lit by politicians who do not live here.