The mayor of Niverville, Man., is insulted his community will face increased COVID-19 restrictions and is calling for an exemption, because its vaccination rate is above the provincial average.
Myron Dyck said he doesn’t take issue with the need for more strict rules in the province where case numbers are creeping back up, but he does not like how it’s being regionalized and leaving Niverville lumped in with communities with low vaccination rates.
“I say that this has been a bit of an overreach and I’m hoping that Dr. Roussin will see that, and we can meet and that this can be corrected,” he said.
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin on Friday announced new rules that target the unvaccinated by curtailing gatherings if they include people who are eligible to be vaccinated but have not been.
While those rules are provincewide, the new restrictions also come with a specific limitation for the Southern Health region, which contains the communities in Manitoba with the lowest vaccination rates and consequently, a disproportionate share of the growing caseload.
Businesses in the Southern Health region must reduce their capacity to 50 per cent as of Tuesday, as Manitoba moves into the restricted orange level of its pandemic response system.
When Roussin revealed the new orders, he said they amount to “a very significant lockdown on the unvaccinated” to prevent the health-care system from once more becoming overwhelmed.
Dyck’s frustration with the crackdown in the south is that his community has done everything asked of it and as of Oct. 1, the last time provincial data was updated, had 81.8 per cent of its residents double vaccinated.
That’s slightly higher than the provincial average of 80.7.
Despite Niverville’s efforts, the overall vaccination rate in the Southern Health region is 65.9 per cent, dragged down by rates of 24.2 in the rural municipality of Stanley, 41.5 in Winkler and 50-64 per cent in several other communities.
Dyck reached out to Roussin after Friday’s announcement of the new orders to request a meeting and ask that Niverville be excluded from the latest rules. Specifically, he wants the 50 per cent retail restriction dropped for Niverville.
Not only does that financially hurt businesses that have done their part, it is a hardship to staff who are constantly being laid off and rehired whenever the province shuffles the health orders, he said.
Those employees have been on the front lines during the pandemic, facing vitriol from people who refuse to wear masks or follow the rules. At some point, those employees will simply give up and stop coming back, Dyck said.
“They’re doing their part … and we’re among the leaders in vaccination rates in the province, [but] we’re told it just doesn’t matter, you’re just going to get lumped in anyway [with those other communities],” Dyck said.
“So their morale has taken a huge hit.”
Niverville, about 20 kilometres south of Winnipeg’s Perimeter Highway, is a bedroom community of the city, which is the Manitoba health region with the highest vaccine uptake at 87.6 per cent. Dyck would like to see his town treated with the same consideration as Winnipeg.
At one time during the pandemic, Winnipeg’s caseload was higher than the rural areas and had greater restrictions placed on it. At that time, Niverville was considered part of what was called capital region, so it was also hit with the restrictions, Dyck said.
So why is it being pushed away now, he asked.
“It’s like, no, no, you’re not part of us anymore.”