The Labour Day long weekend is approaching, which means we’re rounding the corner to a start back to school. It has been five months since COVID-19 stopped time in Manitoba, changing everything about the way we interact at work, at school, and with friends and loved ones. We have been fortunate to have had a wonderful Manitoba summer to enjoy nature and experience local treasures. But many of us may be starting to worry about the possible challenges of a bustling return to the classroom followed by a cold prairie winter set against the backdrop of annual flu season AND the lurking presence of COVID-19.

In the words of Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, “Manitobans need to learn to live with this virus, because it’s going to be with us for some time.” Do your part by keeping social activities and interactions brief and efficient, while sticking to healthy behaviours, a solid hand hygiene regimen, and good cough/sneeze etiquette. In other words, take recommended precautions and reduce your risks.

We are still in a pandemic, and information is evolving every day. Here are a few reminders to focus on the fundamentals, as well as some of the valuable lessons we’ve learned along the way:

  1. Manitobans have more than proven we can follow public health orders — we literally crushed the curve in the spring — but I have heard from many colleagues and leaders that they are fatigued. They are tired of all the information and news, tired of trying to understand and adapt, and worried that all our efforts may not really make a difference anyway. Let’s keep at it.
  2. Back to the basics: Practice physical distancing according to the 3 C’s. Limit your time in crowded spaces with poor ventilation, and minimize close, prolonged contact with others. Be efficient and purpose-driven in your outings. To quote the signage on the entry doors to a Winnipeg mall: “Active Shopping Only.” Practice excellent hand hygiene. Wash your hands often and thoroughly (20 seconds), and use alcohol-based hand rub, especially after touching high-touch surfaces (60% alcohol or more). And most importantly, DON’T go out if you’re sick — even if you’re only displaying mild symptoms.
  3. Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean isolation and loneliness. It means keeping a sensible 2 metres (6 feet) between you and others, and when you can’t keep that distance, wear a mask — especially indoors.
  4. When you wear a mask, treat it properly to ensure it protects you the way it’s supposed to. Don’t share it with others; keep a hefty collection available if you can; don a clean one after every use; wash your mask by hand (with detergent) or in the washing machine; don’t fiddle with it when it’s on your face; don’t pull it up and down below your nose and chin, and don’t put it on or remove it with unsanitized hands.
  5. As an employer, feel confident in your protocols, and know that you have been doing an excellent job of it. You’re following fairly complex, frequently-changing rules set out by Public Health for the protection of your establishment and your employees, as well as for the safety and well-being of consumers and clients. If your staff members are able to work from home and it still makes sense to continue those arrangements, continue them. If you have a sick employee, send them home and support them in making sure they access testing if required.
  6. Canadian businesses are incredibly resilient and agile. It has been inspiring to learn of organizations re-tooling and adjusting to the ever-changing conditions.
  7. This pandemic has been toughest on small to medium enterprises, including hospitality, restaurants, shops and boutiques, and Canadians need to support local. We applaud our entrepreneurs and we encourage you to continue pushing, while investigating every possible source of emergency relief for which you may be eligible. If you have questions about COVID-19 funding streams or other business matters, consult with us or with your local chamber any time.
  8. The Chamber network across Canada is aligned and united. We are dedicated to business, and we have been working together throughout COVID-19 cross-functionally and nationally to support our communities. We are the Voice of Business.

Thank you to our valued members for your ongoing support of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and for the trust you continue to place in us to champion your interests. We look forward to connecting with and hosting you virtually for the foreseeable future, and to returning to in-person events once it is deemed safe to do so. We’ve missed you, and be well.

Chuck Davidson
President & CEO