Just under two years ago, I wrote an emotional op-ed for the Free Press wherein I explained that I have a lung disease, cystic fibrosis, that makes me extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, and that the selfish behaviour of anti-maskers put my life at risk.

Opinion

Just under two years ago, I wrote an emotional op-ed for the Free Press wherein I explained that I have a lung disease, cystic fibrosis, that makes me extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, and that the selfish behaviour of anti-maskers put my life at risk.

That behaviour hasn’t gotten any better, but now I find myself having to raise my voice, to shriek that my life shouldn’t be an acceptable casualty to our government, which has apparently decided that my life, and the lives of other disabled, immunocompromised, elderly or even just statistically unlucky people are not worth even the slightest effort.

We are on our own. The government can’t protect everybody. They aren’t even going to try.

They don’t have crystal balls, they say. They don’t have the foresight of failed attempts to contain three successive waves of the virus. It’s not as though they could predict that the health measures that failed to make even the slightest dent in transmission wouldn’t work if they rolled them out again in exactly the same way. And surely it’s not as though seeing how Omicron surged through other jurisdictions might have informed how it would behave once it arrived in Manitoba.

If there was any way to predict, or even intuit, such things, it would make the complete lack of any effective measures on the part of this Progressive Conservative government seem callous and unfeeling.

Everyone should expect to be exposed to COVID-19 in the coming weeks, they say. For all those vulnerable groups of people I mentioned earlier, that is a devastating and terrifying pronouncement. For two years, my spouse and I have lived almost entirely at home. All our groceries are delivered. I am extremely lucky and privileged to be able to work from home.

In the fall, I hugged my parents, all of us wearing masks, for brief moments. That was the most relaxed our health restrictions got. At Christmas, we had to resort back to leaving gifts on the doorstep. For two years, my life and the lives of my family members have been completely upended to protect me from COVID-19.

And now the official position of the government is that I will probably get sick anyway. There are statistics showing only a very small amount of people who are triple-vaxxed (which I am) have severe outcomes, such as hospitalization or death. But those small statistical numbers, those thin lines at the bottom of those charts — those are people. People like me. It’s hardly any comfort.

Heather Stefanson pledged as premier that she would listen to doctors and experts. Well, despite repeated questions from reporters over the last few weeks, no one in government will answer a simple question: did public health recommend stronger health restrictions? The refusal to answer speaks for itself: yes, they did, and Stefanson didn’t listen.

She is not listening to doctors and experts. She is choosing inaction at a time when it will cost lives. As well, the government wants to stop counting "incidental" cases of COVID-19, meaning if a patient is admitted to hospital for a different reason, such as a broken arm or complications from cancer, and then they contract COVID-19 while in hospital, they won’t be counted as a COVID-19 case.

But those people, who need health services at the hospital for other reasons, may not survive a COVID-19 infection. Especially when, per capita, Manitoba has the highest rate of severe outcomes and deaths related to COVID-19 among Canadian provinces. But what should the government do? Don’t forget, they say, the toll on our mental health if the government were to impose more restrictions.

What about the mental health of people and families who have spent two years doing absolutely everything in their power to protect themselves from getting COVID-19? What about the mental health of parents who are sending their children into completely unsafe school environments, where it’s as if the government’s stance is to expose everyone to the disease?

To resort to this tactic rather than institute any further health restrictions or even try to increase hospital capacity is to borrow an opinion from the anti-vaxxers: let everyone get COVID-19 and then whoever doesn’t survive, they probably wouldn’t have lived long anyway.

This employment of what amounts to social eugenics is not acceptable, especially not from our government. This inaction will cost hundreds, if not thousands, of Manitobans their livelihoods, their family members, their lives.

To you, premier: suddenly, your strategy of avoiding as many public appearances as possible is making sense. You should be ashamed to show your face to Manitobans.

Keith Cadieux lives with cystic fibrosis and works in the arts sector in Winnipeg. He is also a writer and editor and contributes book reviews to the Winnipeg Free Press.