With the elimination of restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have reached the point where we are all highly trained epidemiologists.

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This article was published 10/8/2021 (325 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

With the elimination of restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have reached the point where we are all highly trained epidemiologists.

We have reached that pinnacle where we are all seen to be as knowledgeable about the pandemic, its causes, prevention and treatment, as your typical anti-vaxxer or anti-masker. In eliminating the need for masks in most places, the government has decided that all members of what the premier has dubbed "Team Manitoba" should be calling the plays. We’re going coachless.

As the province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said: "Individuals are going to have to do some level of risk assessment for themselves as well on whether they want to wear masks indoors."

Perhaps the province could leave it to individuals to assess the risk of driving without a seatbelt, riding a bike without a helmet, walking across Pembina Highway against the light.

So now, no doubt, Manitobans are busy crunching numbers and creating graphs to assess their risk of death the next time they go out to pick up some Rice-A-Roni and a carton of milk. While we won’t be sharing their salaries, we will be sharing in the decision-making of the experts employed by the government.

Indeed, they’re now expecting citizens and shopkeepers to take on most of their tiresome task. They point out store and restaurant owners can still mandate the wearing of masks in their businesses. Yeah, that’ll work. No shirt, no shoes, no mask… no revenue.

Since the government no longer feels it is responsible for mandating such measures, they are now "recommendations." We can put those right alongside eating a balanced diet and drinking eight glasses of water a day.

In fact, it might as well extend the idea.

Politically, this government needs a win. But at the moment, with all the unforced controversy it creates, it couldn’t cross an open field without stepping in the single cow flop on the range.

Perhaps the province could leave it to individuals to assess the risk of driving without a seatbelt, riding a bike without a helmet, walking across Pembina Highway against the light. In fact, why have traffic lights at all? It should be up to individuals to calculate the rate of speed of the oncoming semi, factoring in their speed in crossing and distances needed to avoid being flattened.

Why must experts get involved? We all know how to avoid becoming hood ornaments.

As far as COVID-19 is concerned, we can create one of those cop-show walls at home, a bundle of pictures, strings and push-pins connecting rates of variant infections, hospitalizations, vaccination rates and other factors. In the end, about the only conclusion we’ll reach is that we need another ball of yarn.

Those things are the responsibility of the government and its public-health officials. It’s the government’s responsibility to determine risk, looking ahead to the virus and its mutations and vulnerability of the population. But this government has thrown caution, and the virus, to the wind. Not only has it dispensed with the idea of wearing masks, it has done even less to encourage people to get vaccinated.

It is extremely timid now with mandating anything regarding the virus. It seems content that one in five Manitobans are totally unvaccinated. The premier won’t even mandate that members of his cabinet or caucus be vaccinated.

Corporations around the world — whose workforces number in the hundreds of thousands — have mandated that their employees must be vaccinated. Not here. Not even at the province’s governing table. Role models of a different sort.

Many of those unvaccinated will contract and spread COVID-19. Some may even serve as factories for new mutations, potentially ones immune to current vaccines. And perhaps this is where the line starts to blur between the province’s politics and science.

Politically, this government needs a win. But at the moment, with all the unforced controversy it creates, it couldn’t cross an open field without stepping in the single cow flop on the range. It seems its chief adviser is a Magic 8 Ball.

Such political worries almost always result in timid government responses. They don’t want anyone being mad at them. Bold strokes are out. Getting rid of masks, stopping short of mandating vaccinations and generally hoping for the best seems to be the current modelling by the politicians and/or health experts. Just offload decisions onto citizens; if they get sick, well, that’s on them.

At the media briefing to announce the relaxed restrictions, the premier explained why this road was chosen at this time. "We’re in a good place right now — and yahoo to that," he said.

He should have been more specific about which yahoos he was talking about.

George Stephenson is a Winnipeg writer.