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Brandon region frustrated by tighter COVID-19 restrictions, but willing to do what it takes

Click to play video 'Brandon businesses prepare for new restrictions' Brandon businesses prepare for new restrictions
Brandon businesses are riding the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with the region moving to the "restricted" level on Monday. Marney Blunt reports – Aug 21, 2020

A recent outbreak of COVID-19 in the Brandon area has resulted in the Province of Manitoba imposing tighter measures on the Prairie Mountain health region.

Brandon’s mayor says it’s a frustrating situation for his community — but one he’s confident the city will have under control soon.

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest
Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest. Twitter

“We’re not thrilled to be in this position,” Mayor Rick Chrest told 680 CJOB.

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“The province has monitored this very closely. All along, as a municipality, we very carefully and deliberately followed the guidelines and the orders of Dr. Roussin and his team. This is a health emergency and requires the prescription of experts and scientists to manage this.”

Chrest said he understands people’s frustration — especially considering Brandon went 70 consecutive days without a new case earlier in the pandemic.

“I feel really badly. for our citizens and (it’s) maybe putting a black eye on our community, where most people have done a phenomenal job and will continue to do so.

“It’s a stark reminder for all of us — every community large and small — to not take this for granted.”

Read more: Manitoba sees 33 new cases of coronavirus, further restrictions coming to Prairie Mountain Health region

As of Monday, Aug. 24, the province is requiring masks in all public indoor places and at all gatherings — both indoor and outdoor — throughout the region.

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Public gatherings are also going to be restricted to 10 people.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba chief public health officer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

“These new steps are in direct response to the spread of the virus through large, family and other gatherings, which is why we are restricting gathering sizes and mandating masks in all indoor public settings,” said chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

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“If public health begins to see other forms of transmission, additional steps may be required to contain the spread.”

The restrictions will remain in place for two weeks, and are subject to change or further restriction as needed.

Read more: Manitoba pork plant suspends products to China amid coronavirus outbreak

Brandon businesses are riding the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with the region moving to the “restricted” level on Monday.

James Chambers, owner of Brandon bakery Chez Angela, said although the bulk of the requirements around sanitation and hygiene have been in place at his business for months, there are a lot of unanswered questions before the restrictions go into effect.

“We just got a message from our public health inspector that they don’t yet have clarity about what all those restrictions are going to mean for the restaurant industry at this point,” Chambers told 680 CJOB.

“We’re sitting here Friday, and we’re two days away.”

Click to play video '3 more employees at Brandon Maple Leaf hog plant test positive for COVID-19' 3 more employees at Brandon Maple Leaf hog plant test positive for COVID-19
3 more employees at Brandon Maple Leaf hog plant test positive for COVID-19 – Aug 6, 2020

Although Brandon is the current hot spot for COVID-19 cases, it’s not the only community affected by the new restrictions.

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Sharla Griffiths, city manager for Dauphin, Man., told 680 CJOB she was surprised to see the Westman region move into the restricted level of the province’s pandemic response system, but agrees it’s for the best.

“Especially since the province implemented their pandemic response system just the day before, we didn’t think that anybody in the province would see a change so quickly,” said Griffiths.

“However, based on the numbers that are in the Prairie Mountain health region, we’re thinking it does make sense.”

Griffiths said the health region is quite large, and beyond Brandon — its most populous city — plenty of people do travel throughout the area.

“We see people travelling through the region daily,” she said.

“We do empathize with our neighbours in Brandon, that they’re having a cluster or an outbreak, but we’re not naive to think that can’t happen here.”

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Click to play video 'Brandon Chamber of Commerce on restrictions' Brandon Chamber of Commerce on restrictions
Brandon Chamber of Commerce on restrictions – Aug 21, 2020