Fall season presents additional COVID-19 risks and a 'chaotic couple of months,' experts suggest

As British Columbia’s public health authority ratchets up COVID-19-related restrictions ahead of fall, experts suggest Manitoba should consider doing the same.

“As we get back to work for many people and back to school for many people, it is the time for all of us to cut back on our social interactions,” said B.C.’s public health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, Tuesday, before ordering the re-closure of nightclubs and banquet halls and tighter restrictions on pubs and restaurants.

“Being indoors is riskier than being outdoors, we know that now. Being in close face-to-face contact with people that we don’t know that are mixing with other people, we know that’s a risk.”

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It’s a series of moves local infectious disease expert Dr. Jason Kindrachuk says should apply to Manitoba.

“Her comments are exactly what we should be starting to consider,” Kindrachuk says.

“We should be trying to limit some of those contacts already and thinking about who we’re in contact with, and keeping in mind that things could change on a dime if we see cases start to bump up in the fall time.”

Manitoba has thus far done “exceedingly well” during the first wave of the virus, Kindrachuk says, but the province is running the risk of letting its guard down.

“The issue that I think we’ve run into is that it seemed like life could go back to normal, and we’re seeing those signs of what happens when we try to do that, when we try to push the boundary on this virus.”

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Ratwan Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa, agrees Manitoba has fared much better than other jurisdictions, but warns the province, and indeed the country, are headed towards a “chaotic couple of months.”

“We have a number of things going against us right about now,” Deonandan says.

“We have the return of kids to school, and schools are pandemic accelerators. We have the increased poor weather, so things are getting colder and people are going back inside. There’s less humidity, so droplets will travel farther, and we have cold and flu season coming along to make things even more complicated.

“I don’t know what to say except prepare yourselves. We’re entering dangerous territory.”

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Despite this, Deonandan adds experts aren’t surprised.

“What we’re seeing across the world is a rolling wave of increasing cases and this is kind of what we predicted back in the spring, that we’d have a relatively easier summer and this disease would reassert itself in the fall.”

Dr. Kindrachuk says stronger procedures, such as masking and limiting contacts, along with “fundamentals” like handwashing and social distancing, can make a difference, as appears to be the case in the Prairie Mountain Health Region, where rising case counts prompted officials to bump up the risk level and implement stiffer restrictions. The numbers have since plateaued.

“So I think again that’s a fantastic point for Manitoba,” Kindrachuk says.

“For Winnipeg, the trend is starting to show that cases are rising here. We have the ability to get ourselves out of this just by making good individual choices … limiting social contacts, maintain distancing, maintain hygiene, and really start to consider using masks.”

“These are all things we can do to get this virus under control as much as we can.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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