As if the weather that led to the long Victoria Day weekend wasn’t depressing enough, tonight’s COVID intro will be all about death.
We’re sorry. I wish I could change both the weather and Manitoba’s unrelenting COVID body count, but I can’t — even though the province routinely does just that with its weekly epidemiological updates. So grab an abacus while I try to explain what does and doesn’t happen when it comes to confirming the number of Manitobans who have lost their lives to this virus.
There was a time when COVID-related deaths were reported to the public in a relatively timely manner. For much of the pandemic, there was a bulletin virtually every day detailing the number of Manitobans who had died, along with a geographic connection and an indication of the age of the deceased.
Of course, that all changed this spring when the province decided it was high time for us to live with COVID. Instead of up-to-date, data-laced briefings, the province switched to a slimmed-down weekly report, in which the figures presented were already a week out of date.
In theory, this time delay should have ensured accuracy. Unfortunately, it was far from accurate, which also means it was far from transparent.
In the last nine weeks, the number of deaths made available to the public has been revised significantly upwards. We were originally told that there were 113 deaths during that period. It turns out the number is now 161, a 40 percent increase from what was originally reported.
To be fair to the province, there is a footnote to their weekly reports to indicate that the “figures are subject to change”. However, the numbers, which are subject to change, are updated as quietly as possible and appear only in a chart where the grief and loss that each death represents is easily buried in a mountain of statistics.
I’m not sure what it says about us when we start minimizing the human cost of the pandemic, when we bury the truth in a way that isn’t fair to those who died from this pandemic and are still living through it live pandemic. In the past nine weeks, 48 Manitobans whose lives have been taken by COVID have been the least mentioned in a province surveillance report. Over the past nine weeks, Manitobans haven’t gotten anywhere near an accurate glimpse of the toll COVID is still taking.
I’d like to think that the province realizes it needs to do better, that the public deserves better, but based on the anemic responses my reporter received when he asked the cause of the statistical discrepancy, it appears that the province considers this a dead problem.
The Manitoba government is no longer providing daily data on the status of COVID-19 in Manitoba. The figures are now provided in a weekly report.
The latest public health guidance can be found on the provincial government website.
The provincial website also provides information on test availability and suitability and vaccine availability and suitability, as well as tips for COVID-19 prevention and risk assessment.
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