Strange days: A look at Winnipeg as it copes with COVID-19

By | March 18, 2020

As March rolled through its second week and temperatures climbed, the main topics of conversation in Winnipeg were whether patio season was around the corner and how bad the flooding might be.

There were no known cases of COVID-19 in the entire province, and the chances of contracting the illness here were still being labelled as “low risk” by health officials. While concerned about what was happening in other parts of the world, most Manitobans went about their daily routines.

Within five days, everything quickly changed. Stocks of hand sanitizer disappeared and the toilet paper shelves emptied.

The province announced its first presumptive COVID-19 case on March 12 and hours later added No. 2 and No. 3. It also announced the number of people being tested had soared from 40 in a day to 500.

Then the dominoes really began to fall. Professional sports teams suspended their seasons and an avalanche of cancellations followed, reaching into amateur and minor and community levels.

Only a handful of people were on a recent morning rush-hour bus ride that is typically standing-room only. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

This is the new reality at the St. James YMCA gymnasium and aerobics studio. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Stores, museums, schools, government offices, tourist attractions, theatre productions, restaurants, places of worship, and flights have all been shut down or scaled back.

As of March 18, just under one week after that first presumptive case was announced, Manitoba now has 17 presumptive or confirmed cases.

The days have turned cold again but no one seems to be talking about the weather anymore.

All is quiet inside Prairie Theatre Exchange in downtown Winnipeg. The seats are empty and musical instruments from a production that was suddenly halted remain on stage. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

People in masks enter and exit an Access health clinic where people with coronavirus symptoms can get tested. The province has eight dedicated testing sites in Manitoba — four in Winnipeg and one each in Thompson, Flin Flon, The Pas and Brandon. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Every day feels like the Monday of a long weekend. Traffic is light and few pedestrians are out.

Rather than posts about Friyaay and Throwback Thursday, social media is now full of phrases like #socialdistancing and #flattenthecurve, and #staysafe.

Here’s how Winnipeg looks in these strange days.

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