If there’s a face of the coronavirus crisis in Manitoba, it’s Dr. Brent Roussin.

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This article was published 8/9/2020 (450 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If there’s a face of the coronavirus crisis in Manitoba, it’s Dr. Brent Roussin.

Since the daily COVID-19 briefings began in March, Manitoba’s chief public health officer has become a household name. Alongside Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health Manitoba, Roussin has been shepherding Manitobans through an uncertain, stressful time.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Guy Roussin, 11, with the family’s Labradoodle, Rogue.</p>

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Guy Roussin, 11, with the family’s Labradoodle, Rogue.

For Roussin personally, the past six months have been a marathon. He was finally able to take a well-earned vacation in August, only to have to cut it short because of a spike in cases.

"It’s been challenging times, certainly, with the time commitment and a lot of media attention that’s come with the role and the pandemic," he says. "I think for that stretch in our first few months of dealing with it were for sure seven-day weeks with 12- to 14-hour days, and really trying to get as much time with the family in between that."

Indeed, his family — Rea, his wife of 22 years, his 16-year-old daughter Breanna, and his 11-year-old son Guy — has been a source of stability and support for him.

"I couldn’t have made it without them," he says.

When he’s not working, the doctor has been trying to carve out time for himself where he can. He sneaks in workouts and connects with his family at the dinner table.

He’s maintained connections with friends while following his own public health guidelines — though one suspects anyone who is friends with the man whose most-quoted mantra was "now is the time to stay home" was likely an early adopter of Zoom hangouts.

"I think most of them were on board, yes," he says with a laugh.

SUPPLIED</p><p>The Roussins’ dog Moose, a Maltese; pets are ‘part of the family.’</p>

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The Roussins’ dog Moose, a Maltese; pets are ‘part of the family.’

Here are five things that helped Manitoba’s top doc stay grounded during the pandemic.

1. Family

"We’re a close family. We try to spend a lot of time together despite the busyness. We’re typically quite active, and this was certainly challenging during these times. During those really long days, seven days a week, we made the commitment that no matter what time I came home at night, we would sit down and have dinner together. So there were a few late dinners, but everyone knew how important it was that we stay connected — and we really managed to stay connected during this time."

2. Friends

"During the period where we had a lot of the tight restrictions, we managed to stay in touch and have multi-friend Zoom events to stay in contact that way. We were all quite busy and trying to stay home as much as possible for those who weren’t working, and we didn’t want to lose touch. So, we had dinners together over Zoom and we used a lot of technology to try to stay in touch."

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Roussin and Lanette Siragusa, provincial lead, health system integration, quality and chief nursing officer for Shared Health, speak during the province’s latest COVID-19 update in July.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Roussin and Lanette Siragusa, provincial lead, health system integration, quality and chief nursing officer for Shared Health, speak during the province’s latest COVID-19 update in July.

3. Pets

"They are part of our family. We have two dogs: a three-year-old Labradoodle named Rogue and a two-year-old Maltese named Moose. They keep us busy and active and keep us laughing a lot."

4. Fitness

"So, you know, very busy times, stressful times, and still, I did whatever I could to try to keep the nutrition OK and find time — well, make time — to get some exercise. We transformed our garage into a gym and in our time together, me and Rea spent a lot of time in there working out together, just trying to stay healthy during these stressful times. Rea does a lot of CrossFit, so she gets me to do some of that as well. I like lifting weights and doing different cardio-type exercise, either rowing or on the bike."

5. Lanette Siragusa and his public health team

"It was a quite a stretch there for that 12 weeks where the team had to rely on each other for advice and support. Having Lanette co-chairing incident command — you know, a real great problem-solver, a tremendous knowledge of the health-care system — you can’t get through something like this without that kind of leadership. The public health team, the other medical officers of health, all the public health staff here, public health nurses — I’ve always said I have the privilege of being the face of the work, but there’s a list a mile long of people who are working just as hard as me who are getting things done."

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @JenZoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.