A year of new words, worries, and rules began one year ago when Manitoba had its first confirmed COVID-19 case on March 12, 2020. In the midst of closures and loss, there was also plenty of good on display.
The first cases of the novel coronavirus were in Wuhan, China where the World Health Organization learnt of the viral "pneumonia" in December. The world was watching but it would be months before Manitoba saw a case.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's Chief Public Health Officer, held his first COVID-19 press conference on January 23, 2020, in a meeting room. He was relatively unknown at the time, especially to the general public. Sitting in front of a room of reporters, Roussin did not have much information to go on, as the virus was still new to the world.
"We are taking these precautions, that is why we have the infection prevention control measures in place right now to ensure we are taking full precaution so we do not see secondary cases should we see one suspected."
Roussin said Manitobans need to "take all precautions" if there was a suspected case of what was being called Coronavirus.
Not long after, Canadians began returning home.
By February 7, the first 10 COVID-19 tests were completed in Manitoba, all negative.
The WHO announced the official naming of the Coronavirus causing concern around the world on Tuesday, February 11, calling it COVID-19.
'CO' stands for Corona, 'VI' for virus, and 'D' for disease. '19' is for the year the virus immerged.
Manitoba remained on high alert for the virus but did not see any cases in February. The government and health officials began preparing for what could come.
On Thursday, March 12, 2020, Manitoba saw its first case of COVID-19, changing the province forever.
That morning, then-Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced a woman in her 40s who had recently been to the Philippines was Manitoba's first presumptive case of COVID-19.
"I want to remind all Manitobans today that while COVID-19 is on the move and rapidly progressing...Manitobans should know that the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 will experience mild-to-moderate symptoms and they will recover," Friesen said at the time, asking Manitobans to protect others.
Two weeks later, the province saw its first death, a woman in her 60s who had been intensive care.
$35.2 million dollars in special funding was approved to provide for personal protective equipment (PPE) designated for hospitals and frontline care workers.
Manitobans flocked to grocery stores, stocking up on toilet paper and canned goods. Streets emptied with people suddenly pausing their lives and heading inside, not knowing how long the virus could last.
On March 18, it was announced the Canada/U.S. border would be closed. That same day, the City of Winnipeg announced mass suspensions of public-facing services. Three days after that, the City announced even more suspensions, including obtaining a wedding license from the City. Hours later, the Province of Manitoba declared a State of Emergency.
Many workers left their offices for a temporary move to work at home, not knowing they may never return to office-life as they knew it. At the end of March, the then-Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced that students would not be returning to school following Spring Break.
The province put $18 million towards childcare, allowing people who had a background in childcare to province at-home daycares.
Care homes were closed to visitors, with families going to great heights to connect.
Students began volunteering their time to help in any way they could, while others prayed that they would be able to go home.
Students at Canadian Mennonite University's Outtatown program could not find flights home from their Guatemala site, needing the help of Canadian authorities.
Couples planning to be wed either postponed their plans, or found alternatives.
The month started off with all "non-critical" businesses being ordered to close at midnight on April 1.
Premier Brian Pallister and Minister Cameron Friesen holding a press conference, asking retired nurses to help. Minister Health Stephanson, then Families Minister, asked for Manitobans to open daycare centres and home daycares to help front-line workers continue their jobs. Many people were working from home, saving money on gas. MPI issued rebates due to the low levels of claims.
During this time, it was discovered there were language barriers for people accessing COVID-19 information. One of the ways to combat this was by adding ASL interpreters to press conferences.
"We know it's going to be a long, hard road, but love is contagious and we want to spread it," Pastor Moses Falco said at the time.
Families spent Easter at home, finding ways to worship online. Care homes found ways to connect despite people staying in their rooms, away from their loved ones. Some care home workers needed to find new work.
Businesses reopened for the first time since the pandemic, with many people excited to return, and the province rolling out plans to help those who cannot.
Warming weather saw the reopening of campgrounds, but Ontario was asking cottagers to stay home. Manitoba Parks asked visitors to use caution. The Assiniboine Park Zoo reopened. The Teddy Bear Picnic went online.
Emergency workers abroad returned to Canada to do critical work in their home country, and home care workers worked overtime to show love and support. At the same time, the province put $45 million into seniors care. A 107-year-old shared her advice as she lives through her second pandemic.
First Nations leaders in northern Manitoba were concerned about COVID-19 entering their communities.
Nurses celebrated National Nursing Week by staying home.
Operation Inspiration graced the skies of Winnipeg, offering people something to look forward to.
Parishioners rejoiced as churches and places of worship were allowed to reopen.
Hutterite colonies began to face COVID-19 outbreaks.
“It’s always challenging when you have to make changes to your lifestyle like this," Ian Kleinsasser, Crystal Spring Hutterite Colony member said. "And is It worth it? Of course it is worth it! When you are a close-knit community, you care for each other and want to be very cautious.”
HOMESCHOOLING PANDEMIC CONNECTIONS
As cases began to rise, the province emphasized the importance of unity.
"With this virus, when we talk 'we are all in it together,' we mean it. The best way to protect others is to protect yourself," Dr. Brent Roussin said.
$17.9 million was invested into CoVisitation shelters to give those in care homes an isolated place to hold visits.
Lines to get tested for COVID-19 were hours-long.
Manitoba moved to Level Orange.
A much-anticipated COVID-19 tracing app powered up, with officials encouraging Manitobans to use it. Health care workers were later asked by employers to keep their apps off at work. COVID-19 tests moved to an appointment-method.
211 was created, giving Manitobans somewhere to call to be connected with community services.
Funeral services became concerned about limited funeral gathering sizes.
Manitoba moved to Red on the Pandemic Response System, drastically reducing gathering sizes, and eventually a lockdown. Manitoba reached over 10,000 COVID-19 cases. A wage-top-up program for caregivers was announced.
Doctors were highly concerned about the rising cases. The province created new ads. Construction stalled for Personal Care Home visitation shelters. Maples Personal Care Home was under fire after a series of distressing 911 calls. Feeling cooped up, a care home resident in southern Manitoba began a walk-a-thon.
Public Health Order enforcement was taken more seriously, with more policing services joining the team.
It was announced that Christmas will look different for 2020.
The military was brought in to help at outbreaks in a First Nations community as they struggled to contain cases.
Manitobans began to be immunized against COVID-19, starting with healthcare workers.
“I just feel like I need to be healthy so I can be there and look after people in the community," Sherry Plett, a nurse and one of the first Manitobans to be vaccinated said.
Families spent Christmas alone and hospital workers spread Christmas cheer.
Military crews left a First Nations community after getting cases under control. Seniors began getting their COVID-19 vaccinations as hospitalizations remained in the hundreds. A pastor with over $20,000 in fines spoke out.
Premier Brian Pallister made shifts in his cabinet.
The funeral industry spoke out about frustrations regarding gathering sizes.