Coronavirus: A look back at 6 months of pandemic in Manitoba

Click to play video: 'Six months of COVID-19 in Manitoba'
Six months of COVID-19 in Manitoba
WATCH: This weekend will mark six months since the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Manitoba. In this piece, Global News reflects on how quickly things have changed since then – Sep 11, 2020

As Manitoba celebrated the start of a new year — and reports of the novel coronavirus began trickling out of China — it was already starting to look like 2020 might end up being a year like no other.

But it was hard to predict exactly how different the year would turn out to be.

While it hadn’t arrived in Manitoba yet, COVID-19 slowly started changing things in the province — stores sold out of household necessities, schools cancelled trips abroad, and handshakes became unfashionable.

But then it all hit home when Manitoba’s first case was reported March 12.

Read more: Coronavirus: First numbers released for case counts in 12 Winnipeg neighbourhoods

Sept. 12 marks exactly six months since that first case of the novel coronavirus was announced.

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Since then, provincial numbers have been lower than most — as of Friday, we had 1,393 cases and 16 deaths in total. Compared to provinces like Quebec (64,463 cases with 5,774 deaths), Manitoba has been lower on the COVID-19 radar.

But Manitoba has still struggled with the same issues as the rest of Canada and the world. Here’s a quick look back at the past six months.


Click to play video: 'Manitoba Health Minister announces province’s first presumptive case of COVID-19'
Manitoba Health Minister announces province’s first presumptive case of COVID-19

On March 12, Manitoba’s Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin, along with Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa, announce the first three positive cases of COVID-19.

The province knew it was coming, but there are stories of shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) around the world. Roussin, Siragusa and provincial officials work on securing adequate supplies, while COVID-19 testing sites are announced. Workplaces start to socially distance. A state of emergency is declared.

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Gyms and fitness centres close, hospital visitation is severely restricted, and travel restrictions pop up across Canada. Before the end of the month, schools close, and there is one death.


Click to play video: 'Manitoba looks at tougher restrictions during coronavirus outbreak'
Manitoba looks at tougher restrictions during coronavirus outbreak

Closures of businesses, restaurants and schools are now underway. The most cases seen in a day so far, 40, is announced at the beginning of the month. Teachers suddenly find themselves having to come up with a whole new way of teaching online. Some students are unable to access their education.

People are told to stay home and wash their hands. Masks are debated, but Roussin says at the time, there’s no firm evidence masks help prevent the disease. Confusion reigns as the province keeps trying to secure PPE and there are five more deaths.

But there’s good news. Premier Brian Pallister announces the reopening plan and case numbers are falling. By the end of April, six Manitobans have died from COVID-19.

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Click to play video: 'Patios reopen as Manitoba restaurants continue to adapt to restrictions'
Patios reopen as Manitoba restaurants continue to adapt to restrictions

May remains quiet as most businesses are still shuttered, except for essential ones. However, some health restrictions are lifted and some businesses are allowed operate under strict health guidelines, such as hair salons and restaurant patios.

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The Pallister government announces several programs for renters, business owners, students and others, but warns the provincial deficit may still balloon to $5 billion for the year. There is a small outbreak at Paul’s Hauling in Brandon.

Manitobans are still restricted to no more than 10 people per gathering. One new death is reported in May.


Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Winnipeg retail outlets easing into loosened health restrictions'
Coronavirus: Winnipeg retail outlets easing into loosened health restrictions

June gets underway with a further loosening of restrictions. Now bowling alleys, recreation centres, bars, dine-in restaurants and many other businesses are allowed to open, albeit with restrictions. Later in the month a third phase of reopening kicks in allowing bigger public gatherings and opening up travel between Manitoba and western provinces as well as Northern Ontario.

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Read more: Truck drivers in Manitoba share experiences from the first 6 months of the pandemic

The City of Winnipeg reports a dire financial situation, projecting a more than $50 million deficit. But city libraries slowly start opening, and word comes city-owned pools will open soon, too. High school students graduate — some with drive-thru ceremonies — and limited indoor visits are opened up at personal care homes. Manitoba’s education minister says students will head back to classrooms in the fall.

The number of new cases wanes by the end of the month and there are no new deaths reported in June.


Click to play video: 'Winnipeggers react to potentially loosened travel restrictions'
Winnipeggers react to potentially loosened travel restrictions

July starts off with no new cases reported, which starts a streak of no positive tests that will stretch until five are reported July 14. With active case counts in the single digits for much of the month, Manitobans seem to get optimistic, something Roussin warns we shouldn’t get complacent.

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Churches reopen amid the loosened restrictions and the CFL says Winnipeg will be the league’s hub city for a possible shortened 2020 season. Midway through the month, the first COVID-19 cases are reported at a Manitoba Hutterite colony which eventually grow to hundreds of cases at colonies province-wide.

The province goes ahead with a scaled-back fourth phase of reopening including opening casinos and movie theatres at a reduced capacity, but nix a plan to lift a self-isolation requirement for travellers from Eastern Canada after concerns from the public are raised.

An eighth COVID-19 death is reported late in the month, as new case counts continue to rise.


Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: 72 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, 45 in Prairie Mountain'
Coronavirus: 72 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, 45 in Prairie Mountain

Case counts climb in early August, as Manitobans get used to seeing double-digit increases day to day. In Winnipeg, city officials reopen recreation facilities and pools. Cases of COVID-19 are confirmed at the Maple Leaf pork processing plant in Brandon and new cases tied to the facility are announced daily.

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The use of masks proliferate as some businesses begin requiring customers to wear them. The province announces a four-tier response system for outbreaks. Cases surge in the Prairie Mountain Health region, including in Brandon, and the province tightens restrictions in the area.

The province says students will return to class Sept. 8 and eventually backtracks a plan not to make masks mandatory in schools. Winnipeg loses the chance to be a hub city for the CFL when the league announces there won’t be a 2020 season. The highest one-day case count yet — 72 — is reported Aug. 23.

As parents anxiously make back-to-school plans, the province has 469 active cases by the end of the month and outbreaks have been declared at several personal care homes. The province’s COVID-19 death toll has risen to 14.


Click to play video: 'First Manitoba COVID-19 case in a school'
First Manitoba COVID-19 case in a school

All eyes are on Manitoba schools as teachers head back Sept. 2 to get ready for students a week later, and two more deaths are reported the following day.

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Students head back to school following the Labour Day long weekend and the first case in a classroom is reported the very next day. Health officials say a Grade 7 student at Churchill High School in Winnipeg received a positive test result while at the school on the first day back. They say the student hadn’t acquired the virus at school and the risk of spread was low because she was wearing a mask and kept proper physical distances while at school.

Despite safety measures put in schools, provincial data shows not all parents buy in — a 25-per cent increase in homeschool registrations is reported. The province expands the data it provides for case counts in Winnipeg, for the first time breaking numbers down into 12 different neighbourhoods.

By Sept. 11, Manitoba has seen a total of 1,393 COVID-19 cases since March 12. Sixteen Mantiobans have died and 1,090 are reported to have recovered from the virus.

Click to play video: 'Manitobans reflect on six months of COVID-19'
Manitobans reflect on six months of COVID-19

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

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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.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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