Lifted mandates force people, businesses to consider: to mask, or not to mask

By: Alli Pauls

A significant date looms for Manitobans, who now have the option to continue covering their face or not, as the end of the province’s mask mandate went into effect Tuesday. Some welcome eliminating the public health order, while others are skeptical and wonder if the province is moving too quickly. 

The Manitoba government announced on Feb. 11 that the mask mandate will be lifted as of March 15. The highly-scrutinized announcement came as the province reeled from COVID-19 Omicron variant that swept through much of the population. 

“Manitobans have put their lives on hold, and it’s time that we give them their lives back,” Premier Heather Stefanson said in a news conference, announcing the end of several long-standing mandates.

The approaching deadline is weighing heavily on business and restaurant owners, who can choose to continue enforcing masks and proof of vaccination requirements on their property. 

And many say they will, despite the backlash they could face from customers.

Manitoba’s mask mandate was lifted on Mar. 15./ALLI PAULS

Alexander Svenne, the executive chef and owner for Little Goat Food & Drink, said his restaurant won’t do away with mask and vaccination requirements for people who want to dine in. 

“We want to keep both our employees and customers safe and healthy,” Svenne said.

Svenne said the province’s decision to end mandates is a bad idea and that it comes too soon.

“I think they should have done all the things with expanding capacity and getting rid of all the social distancing stuff, and then held on to the vax passport and the mask mandate for a lot longer.”

The province is still urging people to wear masks in places where social distance isn’t possible.

Mackenzie DeiCont, a recent graduate from the Asper School of Business, is committed to following the current public health guidelines.

“Wearing a mask is something so easy and so effective against COVID-19,” the 22-year-old said. “I will continue to wear a mask everywhere I go to protect myself and the people around me.”

Danika Holliday, a 22-year-old, who noted she’s immunocompromised, said COVID-19 is still very real and she relies on the people around her for protection. 

Holliday said she is disappointed the province is removing the mask mandate with no consideration for those who are most vulnerable to the virus.

“I’ll only go out to public places if masks and vaccine passports are a requirement,” she said. “I will continue to social distance and sanitize regularly, not just for myself, for the people around me.”

Manitoba will join Alberta and Saskatchewan as the only provinces to abolish the mask mandate, though more are expected to follow soon.