Leanne Hanuschuk has been waiting patiently for months.
The payoff comes Saturday.
Her granddaughter just turned a year old, and while she has been able to see her daughter and the baby, Hanuschuk’s own mother hasn’t been able to visit her great-granddaughter since October.
"We couldn’t really get together and celebrate Christmas with them, which was kind of a bummer, but I understand why," Hanuschuk said. "And with her first birthday, we really couldn’t celebrate that much, either."
So, for the first time in 10 weeks, four generations of her family will be able to connect in person when the current code-red public-health restrictions are eased Saturday, permitting a maximum of two designated visitors to households in all areas of the province other than in Churchill and the Northern Health region.
The change requires that households designate two specific visitors, period — a choice made in an attempt to reduce contacts that could quickly multiply if people were able to gather with different pairs on different days, Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday.
"I know some of you will be disappointed today that you’re only able to get together with two people, because you have many friends and family you’d like to see and you’d like to visit, and you’ve been holding back the ability to do that out of respect for the rules," he said.
Hanuschuk said she’s not concerned about exposure as long as the other people in her family are doing what they can to stay safe.
"We know everybody’s been pretty healthy, and we are keeping our social circle small as to who we’re visiting," she said.
Hanuschuk has had a lot to juggle over the last 21/2 months. Her mother lives alone, and she provides child care for her granddaughter while her daughter works. Nevertheless, she said she supports the restrictions and plans to keep looking forward.
"Hopefully things will change in the next year or so," she said.
"We just have to be patient."
Just outside of Beausejour, Wendy Trites lives with her husband and said while she misses spending time with her four adult children, she has no plans to have additional visitors.
"It only takes one person to walk into a house and have contact with four others," she said. "I haven’t seen some of my kids in four or five months."
Her children have "made a strong commitment to following the restrictions," even during times where there was more of an urge to gather than there is today.
"It was hard at Christmas, because a lot of our friends did see their children and did break restrictions, but we made a decision not to as a family," she said.
“Our kids are pretty firm that they’re not going to place anybody at risk or place us at risk.” – Wendy Trites, no plans to expand bubble
"Our kids are pretty firm that they’re not going to place anybody at risk or place us at risk."
It’s concerning to see people prematurely celebrating, Trites said. She acknowledged that while "our numbers may be flattening out a little bit," gathering in any number isn’t something the province is ready for yet.
"I think we’re not there yet — the restrictions shouldn’t be opened up on people getting together," she said. "I think we’ve made a real dent in the virtual world and realized people can work from home, and people can do with less shopping and things like that. I do think if they’re going to loosen anything, it should be a different loosening of restrictions."
It has been taxing, and said she sympathizes with people who have smaller support systems.
"I can see if someone is going to go visit someone because they live alone — you have to balance mental health as well as physical health, because that has been a real sad outcome of this pandemic, is that people are really hurting emotionally and mentally," she said.
"But at this time, if this is what I can do, why wouldn’t I stay home?"
Living alone suits Jordan Miller just fine, and she’s been happy to keep her bubble small through the pandemic. It’s just her and her cat at home, and her one contact has been her partner. It’s a routine she doesn’t plan to change.
"These restrictions would end, this virus would go away, if people stopped gathering," she said.
Miller owns a local art gallery so her work puts her in contact with the public, and she has Type 1 diabetes, putting her in high-risk territory. Her allergies also mimic symptoms of COVID-19, and staying isolated when she can helps put her mind at ease.
"As soon as I start connecting with other people, I worry I could pass it on by being around other people," she said.
She does miss seeing some people — her mother lives in a building with other seniors, so Miller made the decision to see her only in essential situations.
"My mother, for instance, she’s in really good health, but she’s almost 65 years old, so I haven’t seen her… she lives in a building with other seniors," she said.
Her business has been slow and steady through the pandemic — art sales have been strong, and while she hasn’t been able to host receptions for buyers, doing business online model has worked well. She plans to hunker down and wait the pandemic out, regardless of loosened restrictions.
"I’m a huge introvert. I’m totally OK with spending a lot of time by myself. I have my art… I feel like I’ve lived this way all of my life," she said. "Not in isolation, but seeing people at a safe distance."
The new public-health orders will be reassessed in three weeks.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.