Premier praises vaccine after personal COVID experience
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After repeatedly telling Manitobans they have to “learn to live with COVID,” Premier Heather Stefanson now has some firsthand experience with the novel coronavirus.
On Wednesday, she spared a few moments to talk about it — even though she said, most people don’t want to talk about it right now.
The premier announced she tested positive for COVID-19 a day after taking part in a National Indigenous Peoples Day event at the legislature June 21.
“I had pretty mild symptoms. I had a headache, a sore throat and a bit of a temperature (103 F),” said Stefanson, 52. “The symptoms were so mild it could’ve been a cold or a bit of a flu or whatever.”
After two days of rapid tests that produced negative results, she tested a third time before attending a 1,200-person event.
“I wanted to make sure, because we know how much more quickly this virus spreads out in the community,” the premier said in her office at the legislative building. “I don’t want to be a spreader throughout the community. I take it very seriously.”
After testing positive, she isolated at home.
“I took the necessary precautions,” Stefanson said. “I didn’t go back out until I was testing negative again, which was about five or six days later.”
The premier later attended public events on Canada Day.
The experience has left her feeling even more grateful for the COVID-19 vaccine and having received her booster shot.
“I’m just so thankful for the vaccine, because we’re able to kind of get through this with more mild symptoms,” said Stefanson, who doesn’t personally know any of the more than 2,000 Manitobans who have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
“There’s so many people out there that are walking around, I think, with it that don’t even know that they have it.”
The premier says she will wear a mask when she’s asked to, such as events at the Health Sciences Centre, and when she shops for groceries, which isn’t often these days. “My husband’s doing it, which is great, and my kids have been helping out.”
However, now that summer’s here, most of the events she’s attended are outdoors and she hasn’t worn a mask.
Stefanson agreed to talk about her COVID-19 experience but doesn’t think it’s a subject most Manitobans are focused on at the moment.
“I think, for right now, Manitobans are just so happy and excited to be outside and to be spending time with their families,” the premier said. “There’s been some flooding challenges, for sure, but many of those things are starting to recede.
“I think people are just really excited to maybe not talk about COVID right now but talk about other things — like what’s affecting their families and how they’re enjoying spending time with their families and maybe not having to talk about this much.”
Manitobans know, however, COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, Stefanson added.
“I’ve always said we’re going to have to learn to live with this and that’s what we’re doing and that’s what Manitobans are doing. COVID still exists. I’ve just contracted it and come through it.”
The premier wouldn’t weigh in on whether another wave of pandemic restrictions could be imposed this fall if COVID-19 comes roaring back.
“I think we’ve got a bit of a reprieve here. We’ll see what the fall brings. Obviously, we’ll take our advice from (chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent) Roussin and others, and we’ll see what’s going on in other jurisdictions that seem to get hit sooner than we are,” Stefanson said.
“We can’t predict the future.”
Roussin hasn’t held a COVID-19 media briefing since May 20. The premier said the next update will be held when there’s information that needs to be shared with the public.
“If there’s something to update the public on, then absolutely we’ll have him out there doing that. For now, there’s really not that need to be out there,” she said.
“As we get into respiratory virus season again in the fall, we’ll be encouraging people to get their booster, to get their flu shots.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Updated on Wednesday, July 6, 2022 6:06 PM CDT: typo fixed