Manitoba’s next phase of COVID-19 reopening could happen sooner than expected: health officials

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With only one new COVID-19 case reported in eight days, Manitoba’s top doctor says Manitoba’s next phase of reopening could happen sooner than expected.

The news came Tuesday as health officials reported no new cases of COVID-19 , but warned that the province’s latest confirmed case is an employee who had been working at a Winnipeg Walmart.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Manitoba not allowing ‘family bubbles’, not an easy decision: epidemiologist

Manitoba’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the lone case reported over the long weekend is a person who had been working the previous weekend at the Walmart in Southdale.

He said the person had been working “on the floor” at the store on May 9 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. but was unlikely to have had contact with customers.

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“Again, this virus is not airborne — it’s spread by close, prolonged contact — there is minimal risk in this situation but we want anyone … if they’re symptomatic at this time and were in that area, to be sure that they get tested,” said Roussin.

“It’s unlikely there have been contact with customers, but we wanted to ensure that people were aware of this.”

READ MORE: Drive-through lines spike at Manitoba COVID-19 testing sites, no new cases for second day in a row

Roussin said health officials have not been able to link the Walmart employee to a known case or travel, so this would be a community transmission case.

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He said health officials have identified contacts the employee had prior to testing positive and those people have been offered testing and have been advised to self-isolate.

Last week health officials said anyone with symptoms can now simply go to a testing site and request a test without having to call Health Links first.

A full list of testing locations is available on the province’s website.

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Further loosening of restrictions possible

Manitoba had gone six consecutive days without a new case of COVID-19 before the one case was reported Monday.

Roussin said Tuesday Manitoba’s reopening plan is going well and health officials are looking to possibly move up the Phase 2 starting date.

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The first phase of reopening started May 4 and the second phase was to start no earlier than June 1.

“We know June 1 who is our target date. It’s likely that we’ll be able to have some measures before then,” said Roussin Tuesday.

“We probably will be ahead of schedule in some of our loosening.”

The province has previously said the second phase will see restaurants resume indoor dining at half-capacity, nail salons reopen, children’s non-contact sports resume, and larger public gathering sizes allowed.

Roussin said he expects to have more information on changes to the reopening schedule later this week.

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In the meantime Roussin reiterated the importance of staying vigilant against the virus, which has so far killed seven Manitobans.

“Our numbers have continued to look favourable, but we continue to remind everyone that this is not a return to normal,” he said.

READ MORE: 1 new coronavirus case in Manitoba after 6 straight days of no new cases

“We still need to be very strict with our physical distancing when out in public, we need to ensure that we are not going out while we’re ill — it’s very vital to our success moving forward — that people don’t attend work, or school or out in the public when they’re ill.”

News of a another day without a case means the number of positive and probable positive cases in the province remains at 290.

As of Tuesday morning one person is currently hospitalized with COVID-19 with no one in intensive care.

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There are 26 active cases in Manitoba, 257 people have recovered.

As of Monday, Roussin said an additional 379 laboratory tests were performed. This brings the total number of tests performed in Manitoba since early February to 35,578.

–With files from Brittany Greenslade

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba distributes 3,000 enforcement officers to ensure physical distancing' Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba distributes 3,000 enforcement officers to ensure physical distancing
Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba distributes 3,000 enforcement officers to ensure physical distancing

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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