Some people in Steinbach are mixed about pandemic restrictions to target the unvaccinated among disproportionately high case loads and hospitalizations coming from the Southern Health region.
The hope is that the restrictions will push for more people like Mark Stahl to be vaccinated.
Steinbach electrician says some of the younger guys he works with have rolled up their sleeves for convenience as they would like to be able to go to bars and restaurants again.
Stahl remains defiant and suspicious.
“They will give you all kinds of gifts and benefits that are unreal to try to entice you to take something,” he said in Steinbach, an hour after the rules were announced Friday.
“If it was as good as they say it is, then people would want it. So no, I do not want it. I have no fear of the virus. I have no fear of COVID.”
With an uptake rate of 65.9 percent, Southern Health has the lowest immunization uptake of Manitoba’s five health regions. Rates in the Steinbach Health District were particularly high at 64.5 percent on Friday and 50 percent in the nearby Hanover Health District. It has affected recent public health orders.
Come Tuesday, storage capacity in Steinbach and other parts of Southern Health will drop to 50 percent due to rising cases in the region, driven mainly by eligible but unvaccinated people.
Hospitalizations are also creeping up: About half of the most recent COVID-19 admissions to intensive care units have been patients from Southern Health, an area that accounts for 15 percent of Manitoba’s population.
Unlike Stahl, Dave Siemens, who runs a construction company, is not bothered by regional rules and news about restrictions for the unvaccinated.
“I feel a little sympathetic to both sides,” he said.
Fully vaccinated, Siemens understands that the restrictions were devised to protect people. But he is not convinced that the new rules will work or that unvaccinated people will follow them.
“I think the harder you push, the more they push back,” he said. “We have to listen to both sides. They are convinced for reasons that we may not necessarily agree with, but they are convinced. And then just to … argue harder and louder will not convince anyone.”
Other provincial-wide restrictions targeting the unvaccinated impact collections.
Private indoor gatherings will be limited to two households if someone at the assembly has chosen not to be vaccinated. Outdoor private gatherings are limited to 10 people, but only if one or more guests are vaccinated.
Under certain circumstances, it is not necessary to cultivate places of worship to check whether there is evidence of vaccination, even though they must have a capacity for 25 people or 33 percent capacity, whichever is higher. On the other hand, churches can continue to hold larger gatherings as long as they ensure that everyone in the church chairs, except those under 12, is double-dosed.
Mac Dumcum is a pastor at Christian Fellowship Church in Steinbach. He’s not yet quite sure how to deal with the restrictions, but he believes additional privileges could affect some on the fence to get vaccinated.
“I think there will be a lot of people who will dig their heels right up to their necks,” he said. “Then you have others who will say, ‘You know what? Maybe this is not as big a problem as I thought. Maybe I should move on.’ I think it will be both. “
‘Do what they have to’
Married couple Celine and Braden Purtill have a one-year-old. They are both vaccinated, and for the most part, people are in their circuit in Steinbach as well.
“Everyone is a little over it [the pandemic], or done with it, but cases are rising again so they do what they have to do, “she said.
Celine supports the rules but is still skeptical they will push the holdouts closer to the needle. She also does not believe that many of these people will follow the new restrictions.
“You just want to lose out on being able to do things, and that’s what people have to live with now,” he said.
Bev Stanley repeats some of these feelings.
The grandmother moved from Winnipeg to Steinbach in 2018 to be closer to her son, his wife and their baby.
She has not been able to take any of the special baby moments nearby with her granddaughter, now three, due to fundraising restrictions – and because his parents have followed public health rules to the letter, Stanley says.
She has missed two birthdays, a Halloween and a Christmas with them. Therefore, Stanley, who was vaccinated without hesitation, supports the latest restrictions.
“I think they are attentive, I think they are careful, I think they are responsible, and I think that speaks to everyone who is completely exhausted by this pandemic,” said Stanley. “Do not give up, be vigilant.”
Stanley encourages those who have not come to keep an open mind and consider being immunized or learning to live with limitations that are targeted at them.
“It’s the price you pay to live in this community.”