Manitoba health officials reported one new death from COVID-19 Thursday and 22 new cases, as another outbreak has been declared at a personal care home in the province.
Manitoba’s chief public health officer of health also threatened to start issuing fines to people who don’t follow orders to self-isolate.
Dr. Brent Roussin said the virus’ latest victim is a woman in her 90s from the Southern Health region. He said her death is linked to an ongoing outbreak at the Bethesda Place personal care home in Steinbach.
It’s the second death this week associated with the Bethesda Place care home, which declared an outbreak after a resident tested positive for the virus Aug. 17.
Since then several cases have been linked to the Steinbach care home, including the death of another a woman in her 90s reported Tuesday.
The new cases reported Thursday include three people in the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health region, nine in the Prairie Mountain Health region, six in the Southern Health region, and four in Winnipeg.
They bring the province’s total number of confirmed and probable cases identified since March to 1,064. As of Thursday Manitoba had 407 active cases of COVID-19, health officials said.
Roussin said investigations have found seven of the cases are linked to close contacts of previously-announced cases, and additional case investigations are ongoing. He has previously said there is evidence of community transfer in both Brandon and Winnipeg.
So far, 14 people have died, and 643 people have recovered in Manitoba from the virus.
Outbreak in Brandon, fines for not self-isolating
The news comes as Rideau Park Personal Care Home in Brandon also reported an outbreak of COVID-19 Thursday after a staff member tested positive, Prairie Mountain Health CEO Penny Gilson confirmed.
Gilson said there have been no other cases linked to the one at the facility and the outbreak is being declared out of an abundance of caution.
The move means the site is putting in additional measures to reduce the risk to residents and staff and is restricting visitations, Gilson added.
“The individual wore protective personal equipment and is self-isolating,” Gilson said in a statement. “Close contacts have been identified and the case investigation is continuing.”
The Brandon personal care home has been moved to critical, or red, under the province’s pandemic response system.
At a media briefing Thursday Roussin said starting Friday public health orders will require Manitobans to self-isolate for 14 days if they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or if they have been exposed to the virus through a close-contact.
He said those required to self-isolate will be notified by a public health official, and once notified they must go to their residence or an approved self-isolation location and remain there 14 days or until directed otherwise by public health.
Exceptions will be made for in-person appointments with health care providers, Roussin said, but those under the orders must wear a mask, maintain physical distancing, and minimize their time away from their self-isolation location.
Failure to self-isolate in accordance with public health advice will be considered a violation of the order and those in violation could face fines of $486 a day for non-compliance under The Public Health Act, Roussin said.
The province already has the power to penalize such rule-breakers, but it is a lengthy process that requires health officials to first issue offenders individual communicable disease orders and then detain them. Under the new order, offenders can be issued fines immediately.
Roussin said the move makes it easier to enforce the rules by removing some of the red tape.
“What concerned us in the prairie mountain health region, especially in Brandon, was the amount of large gatherings that we linked cases to and then reports of large gatherings that had people who should have been self isolating in attendance,” he said.
“For the most part we’re going to work with people to try to get them to self isolate, support them to self isolate but there might be cases where we would issue this ticket.”
Manitoba has seen a recent spike in cases after going nearly half the month of July without reporting a single new case of the virus. That streak ended July 14 when five new cases were identified and the province’s total number of lab-confirmed positive and probable positive cases rose to 330.
Since then 734 new cases have been reported in Manitoba, including 121 since Monday.
Roussin has repeatedly said the province may strengthen its messaging on wearing masks, which are currently mandatory in public places only in the Prairie Mountain health region. Many private businesses also require customers to wear masks.
Roussin said the government may move to make masks mandatory in the rest of the province on public transit.
“It’s something that we’re looking at.”
Health officials said 1,429 laboratory tests for COVID-19 were completed Wednesday, bringing the total number of tests completed since early February to 130,835. The province’s current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is three per cent, according to provincial data.
–With files from The Canadian Press
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. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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