Brandonites get used to new COVID-19 restrictions, including mandatory masks, small gatherings

By | August 24, 2020

Monday marked the first day of a new set of restrictions on Manitoba’s Prairie Mountain Health region — which includes Brandon — with the hope of containing the spread of a COVID-19 outbreak in the region. 

Masks are now mandatory in indoor public spaces and at outdoor gatherings in the western part of the province. Gatherings are also limited to ten people, both inside and outside. 

“It’s difficult,” said Michelle Brown, speaking with CBC News from her vehicle in the parking lot of a Brandon strip mall on Monday. “A lot of people are struggling with ‘where do I wear it [and] why do I have to wear it?'” 

The new orders were announced on Thursday in response to a growing COVID-19 outbreak in the province’s second largest city. Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said the measures were needed to prevent the outbreak from getting out of control. 

As of Monday, the city had 114 active cases of the novel coronavirus. Thirty-four of those were employees at Brandon’s Maple Leaf Foods plant, which has faced calls to shut down until the outbreak is under control.

Some felt the measures should have been put in place sooner than Monday. 

“I don’t understand why they gave that gap, like go have one last woopah for the weekend and then we’ll see what happens,” said Michelle McDougall. “I just think they should have done it right away, or sooner.” 

“It’s too bad everybody wouldn’t pay attention to it,” said Orm Longman, who said he still noticed some people out in public without masks.

“Most people do the right thing but there’s always somebody who doesn’t want to do something or doesn’t want to be told what to do,” Longman added. “That’s the sad part.”

Longman said he has confronted people who aren’t following the rules. 

“I just say this is law, haven’t you been told,” he said. “You’re endangering other people.”

Brandonites following the rules: mayor

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest said city officials have been meeting regularly to discuss the situation, but feels many Brandonites are following the rules.

“I think, like anything else, the first couple of days will just take a little while for everybody just to figure it out … what to do and what not to do,” he said. 

Chrest said he’s confident the city will get the outbreak under control in not too long. 

Mayor Rick Chrest speaks with reporters outside Brandon city hall on Aug. 24, 2020. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

“This can happen anywhere,” he told reporters outside Brandon city hall on Monday. “One case slipping in can really manifest and every community should take this as a lesson to return to the fundamentals.”

He said he agrees with the province’s health officials that public education, over enforcement, is the way to go. 

“We haven’t had to do a great deal of enforcement from the very beginning,” Chrest said. “Our community is a really good community. 

“The fact that we have a surge in cases is not really a reflection of the way our community embraced this from the beginning,” he added. 

Brown said she’s also confident the city will get through the surge in cases if everyone works together. 

“We’ve stuck together through many other things before with the floods and stuff like that,” she said. “We’ll get through this too and we’ll come out stronger for it.” 

Roussin said the measures would be in place for at least two weeks, but likely longer. 

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