WINNIPEG -- A new heart installation on the Assiniboine river walk is paying tribute to all the Manitobans who have died from COVID-19.

“We thought it’s time that as Manitobans we had some way that we could come together and remember all of the people that we’ve lost to COVID-19. All the people that have died,” said Shawn Kettner, a member of Communities Not Cuts, the group that organized the installation. 

Kettner explained that each heart represents a person, and the hope is to have a heart for every person that’s died.

At the time of Kettner’s interview 866 Manitobans had died from the disease, but this number has since grown to 871.

“That’s a lot of people,” she said.

“That’s a lot of people to have died in such a short period of time.”

Kettner said the memorial makes her sadder than she’s felt in a while, noting that people have become numb to the whole situation.

“You realize that as we continue on the path that we’re on we’re just going to continue to lose more and more people,” she said.

Kettner noted she doesn’t understand why the province is handling the pandemic the way it is.

“There’s another way of doing this. I can’t understand why this is what we’re doing. Why it’s okay to just work toward keeping it safe in our hospitals and not overwhelming our hospitals. Why isn’t our goal not to stop people from dying?” she said.

“Why do we have to lose more parents and grandparents and kids and brothers and sisters, it’s ridiculous. It’s just so sad.”

Kettner hopes that when others see the heart installation they will realize that these deaths are more than just numbers.

“One of the things that I did on the hearts that I’m working on is I wrote down in as many languages as I could find translations for, you know (I wrote) mom and dad, grandma and grandpa,” she said.

“It’s not just our moms and our dads from one part of society, it’s all of us and we’re all in this together. The people from northern Manitoba, southern Manitoba, all across from the cities to the rural communities, we’re all suffering together.”

Organizers will remove the hearts before the river thaws in the spring and hope to bring it to another location.

“Hopefully at some point this will come to an end, and maybe at some point we’ll be thinking about a permanent memorial to all the Manitobans that we’ve lost,” Kettner said.