Arts & Life
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This summer’s spike in COVID-19 numbers in the Asessippi district hit the Asessippi Beach and Campground hard.
This, despite what the owners describe as few known cases in the campground’s immediate area — the region people more commonly recognize as Asessippi.
"When people hear ‘Asessippi,’ they only think of this small area where we are, which is known as Asessippi — they don’t realize it’s actually a district within a region," owners Rick and Karen Goraluk said in a recent joint statement to Crossroads This Week.
In conversation with the Sun, Karen reaffirmed this message — that people don’t realize just how large the Prairie Mountain Health district of Asessippi is.
At issue is the province’s recent shift to allow for more-detailed reports of where COVID-19 cases are found in Manitoba.
Previously offering just which health region cases are found, the province has since broken down each region into districts, of which Prairie Mountain Health has 13, including "Unknown District."
Each district has a unique name that describes its area, with one such district named Asessippi.
Approximately 65 kilometres by 130 kilometres in size, the region is much larger than the area most people commonly associate Asessippi with — the southern base of Lake of the Prairies; an area that includes Asessippi Provincial Park.
"They thought it was right here because it’s our name, right?" Karen said, adding that their bookings plummeted in late August as cases within the Asessippi district went up.
At one point, they had at least 10 sites booked, but ended up with just one person showing up in a tent.
As a result, they reached out to Swan River Progressive Conservative MLA Rick Wowchuk to see what could be done, with one idea changing the district names so they’re renamed District 1, District 2, and so on.
Breaking down health regions into smaller districts is very much a "darned if you do, you’re darned if you don’t" situation, Wowchuk told the Sun.
Prior to the district breakdown, he said his office was fielding numerous phone calls from people wanting to know where cases were being found within Prairie Mountain Health.
Now, with health regions broken up into districts, he said these questions have gone away while new concerns have cropped up.
"You’re never going to please everybody," he said. "There are always going to be flaws in it, and in a case like this the people at Asessippi … this impacted them a little bit."
Coming short of saying whether he’s advocating for these districts to be renamed, he said communication regarding how big these districts are could help — especially in cases such as in the Asessippi district, where most of its COVID-19 cases were found at its southwest corner.
However, concern regarding these districts’ names is not universal throughout Asessippi.
Asessippi Ski Resort owner Daymon Guillas said their summer operations were unaffected by the spike in cases within their namesake district, with mountain bike numbers holding strong and people staying safe by taking health precautions.
"Just assume everyone has it — protect yourself and you’ll be OK," he said, adding that they’re taking numerous steps to prevent the coronavirus’s spread.
Although Prairie Mountain Health is no longer under level orange within the province’s Pandemic Response System, which brought with it a mask mandate in public indoor spaces, he said people have continued to wear them under the less severe level yellow.
It has reached a point that those who don’t wear a mask appear out of place.
"I think it’s our civic duty to wear masks anyway," he said, regardless of what code they’re under.
The ski slopes are scheduled to reopen as usual in early December, albeit with various steps meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the installation of self-serve ticket terminals, online food ordering to prevent lineups, hand-washing stations and various other steps.
"There’s nothing better than fresh air — Mother Nature to clear the mind," Guillas said.
"COVID’s not going to keep us from having fun, but we’re not going to be part of the problem — we’ll be part of the solution."
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB
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