A New COVID Normal?
The Omicron wave is declining, and pandemic restrictions are loosening, but the risk of COVID-19 is not gone. Living with COVID means paying attention to the current level of transmission and considering the risk to yourself and those around you. That’s our new normal, at least for now.
A cautious approach is still recommended by physicians. COVID is still circulating widely across the province, and many remain at increased risk for severe illness and death. Manitoba’s hospitals are still strained, with ICUs overcapacity. Manitoba currently has the highest level of hospitalizations and death with COVID per capita in Canada.
Why do I need to be cautious?
As pandemic restrictions are loosened in Manitoba, it’s still important continuing taking precautions a little longer for a few reasons:
To protect each other, because there is still a lot of COVID circulating in Manitoba and many Manitobans are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID.
To ensure we don’t slide backwards and make this pandemic last even longer.
To help protect our hospitals, which continue to be understaffed and overwhelmed. COVID care is disrupting other services, resulting in thousands of surgeries being cancelled.
What should I do?
Doctors recommend taking many of the same precautions that have saved so many lives during the pandemic, even if those steps are no longer required in the government’s pandemic restrictions.
Remember, anyone around you could be at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. Some vulnerabilities are invisible.
Here’s what doctors recommend you can do to decrease the risks for you and those around you:
Wear a good quality and well-fitted mask when you’re around other households or in public places, especially if you or someone else could be vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19.
Recent research has shown that while all masks help, surgical masks and respirators offer stronger protection.
Get vaccinated and boosted. The vaccine dramatically decreases your risk for severe illness and outcomes, like needing hospital care or dying from COVID-19. A booster dose is important to maintain your protection. Talk to your doctor, or find one near you at ManitobaVaccine.ca.
Reconnect with others gradually. Just because there’s no limit anymore on how many people we can see, take it slow for now. Keep your contacts outside of your household to a reasonable size and avoid places that feel crowded.
Find Fresh Air. While gathering outdoors is best, it’s not always practical in Manitoba winters. For indoor gatherings, try to find somewhere with good ventilation, or take some easy steps to improve ventilation in your home.
Try to avoid the “Three Cs”: Closed spaces, Crowded places, Close-contact settings. Learn more here.
See tips on improving ventilation in your home here (U.S. CDC)
Stay home when ill, even if you have mild symptoms. You can check your symptoms here.
Who is at increased risk?
Over half of Manitobans are at increased risk for COVID-19 complications or severe illness, including needing hospital care or dying. This includes:
Age. The risk increases with age. The risk is highest for those over 65, but even those 40+ and 50+ are at increased risk.
Chronic or underlying medical conditions, including those affecting the lungs, heart and kidneys (see full list below).
Immuno-compromised people, either because of a medical condition (e.g. cancer, HIV) or treatment (e.g. chemotherapy, certain medications).
Smoking (current or previous) or substance abuse disorder
Disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, intellectual and developmental disabilities, spinal cord injuries.
People who are Indigenous or Black and other people of colour can also be at higher risk, potentially because of where they live or work or related issues like poverty or poor access to health care.
What chronic diseases or underlying medical conditions increase risks?
Lung diseases, including COPD, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary fibrosis, tuberculosis, and moderate-to-severe asthma.
Heart conditions, including heart failure, coronary artery disease, or other heart diseases.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Diabetes (type 1 and 2)
Liver disease, including cirrhosis and hepatitis
Blood disorders, including sickle cell disease and thalassemia
Brain and nervous system conditions including stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s
Mental health conditions, including depression, schizophrenia and psychotic disorders
Cancer or history of cancer
If you have a chronic condition or underlying medical condition, talk to your doctor to help understand your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Unvaccinated at Increased Risk
Manitobans who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 are significantly more vulnerable to severe illness and death, especially when the virus is circulating as widely as it is right now. Each dose reduces this risk, with a booster shot following two doses offering the strongest protection, including against the Omicron variant.
If you are not fully vaccinated and plan to visit public places as restrictions are eased, it is especially important to take other precautions to protect yourself and others, including wearing a good quality mask. See above for precautions you should consider.
We encourage you to talk to your doctor about COVID-19 vaccination. There is a lot of outdated and incorrect information circulating about the vaccines, and physicians want to ensure that you have the facts to make a fully-informed choice about getting vaccinated. If you don’t have a family doctor, find answers to common questions at ManitobaVaccine.ca and use the vaccine finder to locate a physician near you who can help.
Learn more about COVID-19 and risks:
Risk Factors for Severe COVID-19 Disease (BC Centre for Disease Control)
People who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19 (Public Health Agency of Canada)
People with Certain Medical Conditions and COVID-19 (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
COVID-19: Who’s at higher risk of serious symptoms? (Mayo Clinic)
Preventing COVID-19 in People at Increased Risk of Severe Illness(Public Health Ontario)
COVID-19 Treatment Protocol (Shared Health)