The Mayor of Winkler reacted Monday to alarming numbers of COVID-19 cases and COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths coming out of the Southern Health region, and he urged residents in his community to consider getting vaccinated as a way to look out of the health of themselves, and those around them.
The province reported that as of Monday morning there were 660 new reported cases of the virus identified in Manitoba since Friday, but 258 of those cases came out of the Southern Health-Santé Sud region, which includes communities in southeastern Manitoba, including Morden and Winkler.
With the number of new active cases in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) since Friday sitting at 185, Southern Health has reported 73 more new cases than Winnipeg in that time frame, despite serving significantly less Manitobans.
The WRHA serves approximately 750,000 Manitobans, while Southern Health currently serves about 207,000 residents.
“I would like to say the results of elevated COVID cases are disappointing, although not unexpected for Southern Health,” Winkler Mayor Martin Harder said on Monday in an email sent to the Winnipeg Sun.
“My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, been separated due to infections, and continue to experience health and financial loss.”
The province said that Southern Health also accounts for 15 of the 24 current ICU admissions, and 67 of the 152 total hospitalizations due to COVID in the province as of Monday.
Seven of the 11 deaths being reported today since last Thursday also came from the Southern Health region.
And while COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain high in Southern Health, the region’s vaccination rates continue to sit well below the provincial average.
Statistics show that as of Monday in Southern Health approximately 69% of eligible residents have been vaccinated, while that number sits more than 20% higher in the WRHA at 90% of those who are eligible.
Harder has, in the past, been critical of the province’s vaccination and health order messaging, and has defended low vaccination numbers in Winkler claiming they stem from a fundamental distrust of government among many in the community.
However, on Monday Harder said he is still urging residents in his community and fellow Southern Health communities to consider getting vaccinated, as a way to keep themselves and others safe, and to do it no matter their opinions about the government, and their push to get people vaccinated.
“I urge you to consider the health of your family, and not look at government enforcement as your motivation to make every effort to be vaccinated to reduce risk, protect your community and unite our efforts to get beyond COVID,” Harder said.
“Please consider others, and how this impact on communities is prolonging the pain.”
The Winnipeg Sun also reached to Morden Mayor Brandon Burley on Monday for comment, but did not hear back before Monday’s press deadline.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun