COVID victims deserve to be more than statistics



Dr. Brent Roussin used to read aloud a list of every death related to COVID-19 at the start of every press conference. The province’s chief public health officer did it, presumably, because he didn’t want the deceased to be just a statistic on a page. He also did this to emphasize the deadly nature of the disease.

“Today I have the sad duty to announce Manitoba’s first death related to COVID-19,” Roussin said March 27, 2020. “Our condolences go out to their friends and family.”

It was the start of his unwavering commitment to reading the age range and gender of every person who died of COVID-19, including the area of ​​the province they came from. He did it for almost a year.

Wash your hands, stay home, cancel unnecessary trips, wear a mask and later get vaccinated, he urged. Why? Because people were dying. Not just seniors, as if that matters, but Manitobans of all ages, many in their 20s, 30s and 40s, he reminded the audience of all the opportunities they had.

Even when COVID-19 deaths began to pile up in record numbers during the deadliest two months of the pandemic — November and December 2020, when 617 Manitobans died — Roussin dutifully read every death. On December 5, 2020, the worst day of all, when 19 deaths were reported, a gloomy Roussin read every one of them.


DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS KITS

Dr. Brent Roussin used to read aloud a list of every death related to COVID-19 at the start of every press conference. Deaths have become what Roussin didn’t want them to be in early 2020: statistics on a webpage.

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DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS KITS

Dr. Brent Roussin used to read aloud a list of every death related to COVID-19 at the start of every press conference. Deaths have become what Roussin didn’t want them to be in early 2020: statistics on a web page.

Wash your hands, stay home, wear a mask because people are dying was his daily message.

“I think we all know we can’t keep going down this road. We have to reduce those numbers,” he said at the time. “We can’t keep losing so many Manitobans.”

The number of deaths dropped dramatically in January the following year, after strict public health measures were enacted two months earlier. The death toll would have been much worse without them. Only a few thousand people had been vaccinated by early January.

Deaths continued to decline in 2021 as vaccines began to do their job. Roussin continued to read the details of each deceased for a few more months, but then stopped. He still provided the daily death count and offered his condolences, but he no longer read each individual case. The province continued to list every death in its news releases until March of this year. Then it stopped too.

Today, the province does not release information on individual deaths related to COVID-19. The only data it publishes are the aggregate numbers of deaths included in its weekly respiratory monitoring reports.

Today, the province does not release information on individual deaths related to COVID-19. The only data it publishes are the aggregate numbers of deaths included in its weekly respiratory monitoring reports.

Deaths have become what Roussin didn’t want them to be in early 2020: statistics on a web page.

It’s not that COVID-19 deaths have plummeted and no longer require public reporting. On the contrary: there are more deaths from COVID-19 on average in 2022 than there were in 2020 or 2021. There were on average 17.8 deaths from COVID per week in 2020 (from March 27 to December 31) and 12.5 per week in 2021 So far in 2022, there have been an average of 26 per week, more than double last year’s figures. Worse, the death rate is rising. In May, 161 deaths were reported, an average of 40.3 per week.



Why was there so much concern about “losing so many Manitobans” to COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, but not now?

It’s not that Roussin or anyone else in public health cares. Of course they do; they have dedicated their careers to saving lives and keeping people healthy. While no one expects Roussin to continue to read every COVID-19 death as he once did, it is an infectious disease that continues to kill and cause serious illness. This requires a much stronger communication strategy than what we have seen from the government in recent months.

Although no one expects (Dr. Brent) Roussin to continue to read every death related to COVID-19 as he once did, it is an infectious disease that continues to kill and cause disease. serious.

Why are so many people still dying from COVID-19 (there were 52 new deaths reported on Thursday compared to the previous week)? Who are they and how many have not received at least their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Are we seeing an increase in deaths among those who only have two injections due to diminishing effectiveness? Shouldn’t we be doing more to promote the first and second boosters, given the higher rates of death from COVID-19 among those who did not receive a booster?

Why don’t public health officials hold regular press conferences to answer these and other pressing questions?

Perhaps the real question is: when did we become so numb to COVID-19 deaths?

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Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck
Journalist

Tom has covered Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

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