War Mandryk: Premier’s COVID-19 infection unlikely to alter a divided Sask

War Mandryk: Premier’s COVID-19 infection unlikely to alter a divided Sask


Positive COVID test in Scott Moe might make his attempts to sway more people toward his view a lot more complicated.

war Removing his mask at press conferences has become a source of controversy after Premier Scott Moe's COVID-19 infection.
Removing his mask at press conferences has become a source of controversy after Premier Scott Moe’s COVID-19 infection. Photo by TROY FLEECE /Regina Leader-Post

It doesn’t appear that Premier Scott Moe’s positive COVID-19 test is swaying anyone who has already made up their mind as to where they stand at this stage of the pandemic.

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But it might make Moe’s attempts to sway more people toward his view a lot more complicated.

A friend of a friend neatly categorized Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 spectrum into three groups to which — at least in broad strokes — most of us can identify:

Group 1: The cautious who were early adopters of social distancing, isolating, wearing masks and getting their vaccinations as quickly as possible out of concern for either themselves or those around them and often are very vocal about it. They have long-supported restrictions and the onslaught of Omicron has them on edge and and even more eager to see more restrictions.

Group 2 : This is the largest group (likely the majority) who generally did the right things, are vaccinated and still following the rules but avoid much of the hyperbole from the other groups. This is the group chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab has described as “willing to take moderate risks” by going to the gym, restaurants and bars and socializing more. Where they stand on Omicron and more restrictions is more up in the air, which is why everyone else is vying for their attention.

Group 3: While perhaps compliant with rules like masking and social distancing and even getting their vaccinations, these were the people more likely to grumble about rules and probably weren’t as compliant. Perhaps because of political views or professional business interests, this is the group that’s “done with it.” They are now vocal about Omicron being of low risk, arguing against restrictions.

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A couple additional observations: This same breakdown is most everywhere, although the percentage each group makes up likely varies from province to province and state to state. Depending on the circumstances of the day, some may be inclined to shift from one group to another.

Also, the first and third groups, in particular, have their own subsets that would include the more radicalized. For example, anti-vaxxers/hardcore libertarians get lumped into Group 3, but by no means make up its majority of people who simply want to get on with life.

Mostly, the subsets are dogs barking on either side of the social media fence, which is why God invented the mute and unfollow buttons.

That said, there is a burning desire in Groups 1 and 3 to bring Group 2 aboard. This push-pull dynamic hasn’t been lost on politicians who always have a vested interest in shaping public opinion to their favour, but recognize the need to be rather subtle about it.

There again, one of the victims of this pandemic has surely been subtlety.

At Moe’s press conference Wednesday, the Saskatchewan premier set aside any pretence of political neutrality on the matter and engaged in a massive push to bring Group 2 into Group 3.

Moe’s pitch was the hard sell that people are now exhausted by restrictions he claimed aren’t working elsewhere and won’t work here. He even framed it as a matter of freedom and liberty. While Moe has always been a Group 3 guy, he was mostly quiet about it, even suggesting three weeks ago that more public restrictions would be considered if Omicron produces a spike in cases.

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That changed … but things may have to change again with Moe’s positive test result Thursday.

While it’s likely Moe’s overall view/approach will remain, it would be strange for him to now claim Omicron is something we really shouldn’t worry about.

He got the variant that’s spreading rapidly in a province with few restrictions. And even a quick recovery offers Moe little opportunity to downplay Omicron’s seriousness when thousands of others are now infected. Some are likely to have more severe outcomes.

But will Moe’s infection change the opinions of people firmly entrenched in their COVID-19 camp? Well, that seems unlikely.

Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

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