Family and friends of a retired Winnipeg real estate executive are issuing a sombre reminder to Manitobans to remain vigilant against COVID-19 — even those who are fully vaccinated — after he caught the virus and died.

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Family and friends of a retired Winnipeg real estate executive are issuing a sombre reminder to Manitobans to remain vigilant against COVID-19 — even those who are fully vaccinated — after he caught the virus and died.

Arch Honigman died Sept. 23 at St. Boniface Hospital, six days after being admitted for COVID-19 symptoms. The 61-year-old had been fully immunized since May, having had early access to the vaccine due to pre-existing health conditions that made him more vulnerable to the disease.

Supplied photo</p><p>Arch Honigman was a life-long Winnipegger who was the co-owner of Winpark Dorchester Properties.</p></p>

Supplied photo

Arch Honigman was a life-long Winnipegger who was the co-owner of Winpark Dorchester Properties.

"My husband was the most vibrant, happy person," Joanna Biondi said in an interview with the Free Press Tuesday, just days after her partner of 11 years was buried at Shaarey Zedek Cemetery. "He wanted to be out of the house, he wanted to be go, go, go.... He was a free, loving, spirited and out-and-about people person.

"And for COVID, it’s heartbreaking how I really put my foot down for his health," Biondi said. "We did all the right things to keep everybody safe and it just didn’t work."

Throughout the pandemic, the Lindenwoods-area couple kept a small social bubble that included Biondi’s parents. Even after everyone in their circle was fully vaccinated, the pair continued to double-mask, avoid crowded places, get groceries at off-peak hours, steer clear of restaurants, and only gather outdoors with a small group of trusted and fully vaccinated friends.

Biondi said her husband, a lifelong Winnipegger who was the co-owner of Winpark Dorchester Properties, was well known in the Jewish and Italian communities, and was eager to get vaccinated and back to the things he enjoyed.

He signed up for the AstraZeneca shot when he became eligible because of his pre-existing health conditions.

Supplied photo</p><p>Winnipeggers Arch Honigman and Joanna Biondi, seen on their wedding day in 2017. Honigman died Sept. 23 at St. Boniface Hospital, six days after being admitted for COVID-19 symptoms. </p></p>

Supplied photo

Winnipeggers Arch Honigman and Joanna Biondi, seen on their wedding day in 2017. Honigman died Sept. 23 at St. Boniface Hospital, six days after being admitted for COVID-19 symptoms.

"He was so proud. Every day he asked me, 'When is my immunization card coming?'" Biondi said. "He wanted that card so bad.

"He wanted it for when things got better, knowing that he could possibly take another step in doing more things."

Biondi, while still reeling from the shock of her sudden loss, said she hopes by sharing her grief, others will double-down on their mask use, get vaccinated and follow public-health requirements in order to protect their loved ones and the community at large.

Ultimately, public health was not able to determine where her husband was exposed to COVID-19, she said.

"My husband was loved. He was adored. He was a pillar in the Jewish community and he did a lot for people," she said.

Supplied photo</p><p>'My husband was the most vibrant, happy person,' Joanna Biondi says of Arch Honigman, who died earlier this month of COVID-19. </p></p>

Supplied photo

'My husband was the most vibrant, happy person,' Joanna Biondi says of Arch Honigman, who died earlier this month of COVID-19.

"You think that this is over, we think that we’re all getting vaccinated, and it’s not. It’s just not. I didn’t want it to happen to my husband, but if anything comes out of this, it’s going to make people reconsider their thoughts of dropping their guard."

People who are fully vaccinated rarely experience severe outcomes from COVID-19, medical experts say.

Since the vaccine became available in December last year, 18 fully immunized Manitobans have died after contracting COVID-19, including five people between the ages of 60 and 69, and 13 people 70 or older.

A total of 941 infections have been reported in fully immunized Manitobans during the same period, or 0.1 per cent.

Since the pandemic began, 1,211 Manitobans have died from the virus.

Health officials have continued to recommend mask use, social distancing and following public-health orders after vaccination, as the shot is not 100 per cent effective, and each person will have a different immune response to the vaccine.

“Being vaccinated is very important, and it helps lessen the risk of getting sick from the virus and having a bad outcome... but it doesn't eliminate the risk.” – Physician Mitchell Cosman

Winnipeg physician Mitchell Cosman said the news of Honigman's death has been a wake-up call. The two were close friends for the better part of a decade.

He said Honigman will be remembered as a generous and kind soul, beloved by many in the community.

"Even amongst those who are familiar with the rules and completely accepting of the public-health guidance, there’s this tendency to rebound back to the way we’ve always done it, which is to gather closely, to talk closely," Cosman said, adding his friend's death has renewed conversations on the need for caution, social distancing and wearing masks.

"Being vaccinated is very important, and it helps lessen the risk of getting sick from the virus and having a bad outcome... but it doesn't eliminate the risk."

Biondi applauded the team of doctors, nurses and staff at St. Boniface Hospital for the attentive and compassionate care her husband received. She was grateful for the opportunity to be with him in the intensive-care unit before his death.

"They were all calm and orderly and wonderful to us. But I saw them coming off their shifts, and I saw the nurses in tears. I saw the doctors with such saddened faces. It was awful," Biondi said. "They’re not only working with their education and knowledge and their persistence, they’re working with their hearts on their sleeve."

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.