It’s an unofficial Thanksgiving tradition — gathering around the dinner table, sharing a turkey dinner, and engaging in spirited political debates with family and friends defending widely divergent viewpoints.
This holiday weekend, however, some heated discussions will necessarily have begun well before dinner, as new rules force Manitobans to ponder whether to include unvaccinated guests on the invitation list. Some hosts might ask those who attend to bring more than a healthy appetite; fully vaccinated status will also be required.
It is entirely reasonable, and understandable, for Thanksgiving hosts to withhold invitations from those who ‐ out of ignorance, misguided beliefs, or sheer obstinance ‐ have refrained from getting fully immunized.
Under tighter rules meant to prevent Manitoba’s health-care system from once again being overwhelmed — a fourth-wave surge driven largely by people who are not fully vaccinated — private indoor gatherings will be restricted to two households if any person at the gathering has chosen not to get vaccinated.
Only 10 people, not including members of the hosting household, will be allowed to gather outdoors on private property if someone is attending who is eligible for vaccination but hasn’t gotten their shots. If you host your family dinner at a public place where someone isn’t vaccinated, only 25 people or 25 per cent capacity, whichever is lower, will be allowed.
It is entirely reasonable, and understandable, for Thanksgiving hosts to withhold invitations from those who — out of ignorance, misguided beliefs, or sheer obstinance — have refrained from getting fully immunized.
Those of us whose holiday seating charts remain unaltered amid this fourth wave should be thankful for those gathered, but must also be mindful that there are far too many empty chairs at tables throughout Manitoba, a testament to the cruel legacy of COVID–19.
With more than two million vaccine doses administered, over 81 per cent of Manitobans aged 12 and older are fully immunized. That leaves about 160,000 residents who are eligible but remain unvaccinated.
Amid the ongoing gloom of the pandemic, we are all grateful for the sacrifices of front-line workers — from doctors and nurses to teachers and grocery store clerks — whose courage and kind hearts don’t allow them to hide from the coronavirus by hunkering down at home.
This Thanksgiving, Manitobans — at least, those who make use of past experience —should be grateful for the ability to learn. In this case, to learn from what happened after last year’s autumnal gatherings: a descent into a second pandemic wave that put Manitoba on the map as a "worst" destination for COVID-19.
Last December, the province’s COVID-19 death rate increased more than ninefold after a Thanksgiving holiday in which too many ignored public-health orders to have fewer people around the holiday table. There were a total of 465 deaths related to COVID-19 in the province as of last Dec. 11 — 431 of those took place after Thanksgiving.
Those of us whose holiday seating charts remain unaltered amid this fourth wave should be thankful for those gathered, but must also be mindful that there are far too many empty chairs at tables throughout Manitoba, a testament to the cruel legacy of COVID-19.
We might also offer thanks for the removal of uncertainty — we know now how best to get out of this mess — but any such gratitude must be tempered by the knowledge that far too many still can’t, or won’t, accept the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe and effective.
It is nothing short of a miracle that, a mere 12 months into this pandemic ordeal, Manitobans were able to start rolling up their sleeves at vaccination clinics. We’ve come so far, but we’re not yet where we need to be. A full return to normal will remain elusive as long as the "pandemic of the unvaccinated" persists.
We must continue to reach out, with kindness, resolve and factual information, to the remaining misinformed minority. If enough of them can be reached, eventually we will all be able to resume routine in-person political squabbling around our holiday tables.