Manitoba reported another record-setting number of new COVID-19 cases, as well another new death Thursday, as the province’s top doctor says tighter restrictions are coming to Winnipeg.
Health officials said 173 new cases of the virus had been identified by Thursday morning and say a 38th Manitoban has died from the virus.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public officer of health said the latest death is a man in his 40s from the Winkler area. He said the man had underlying health conditions and was a previously announced case.
It’s the fourth death reported in three days in Manitoba, and the third day in a row the province has seen new record-high number of novel coronavirus cases.
Health officials reported 146 new cases Wednesday and 124 new cases Tuesday.
At a press conference Thursday Roussin said tighter restrictions are coming to Winnipeg as early as Friday because case counts continue to rise sharply.
He says to expect widespread capacity limitations across many business sectors, and indicated that bars, restaurants and gyms may be included.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen says the 10-person limit on public gatherings could be lowered.
Provincial data shows 133 of the new cases are in the Winnipeg health region, 23 are from the Southern Health region, eight are in the Prairie Mountain Health region, three are in the Northern Health region, and six are in the Interlake-Eastern health region.
Roussin says he is looking at imposing widespread capacity limits in public places across many sectors in the Winnipeg region.
The latest cases bring Manitoba’s total number of cases since March to 3,098 and the province’s five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate to 4.9 per cent. Roussin said Winnipeg’s five-day test positivity rate is sitting at 5.8 per cent.
Roussin said there are currently 1,527 active cases in Manitoba including 1,297 in Winnipeg. There 25 people in hospital, including five who are in intensive care, he said.
Roussin says some people who are symptomatic are ignoring public health guidelines and still going to social gatherings.
He says there were 40 infections and 243 contacts who had to self-isolate after one person went out in September.
The province says 2,117 tests for COVID-19 were completed Wednesday bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February to 217,878.
The news comes a day after Manitoba health minister Cameron Friesen told The Canadian Press he is concerned about the latest numbers that show caseloads are still rising two weeks after the Winnipeg region was put under tighter rules that include a 10-person cap on public gatherings.
Friesen said there are other restrictions that could be imposed under the province’s colour-coded pandemic response system, which has Winnipeg in the orange — or restricted — category while the rest of the province is in the yellow — or caution — group.
On Thursday Roussin said all licensed personal care homes in the Winnipeg metropolitan region have been moved to red — or critical — under the pandemic response system.
That means all new admissions to personal care homes in the region will have to remain isolated for 14 days upon arrival and no new admissions will be allowed at personal care homes in the region with a suspected or confirmed outbreak unless that new resident is already confirmed to be COVID-19 positive.
The province also moved the YWCA in Thompson to the critical level Thursday after five cases were linked to the facility.
Health officials said an outbreak previously declared at Maplewood Manor in Winnipeg has ended and the facility has moved back to the yellow level on the pandemic response system.
Meanwhile the list of possible exposure sites in Manitoba continued to grow Thursday, with health officials warning of possible exposures at 10 Winnipeg schools, sites in both the Southern Health and Prairie Mountain Health regions, as well as on a Winnipeg Transit bus, a school bus, and two recent flights.
A release from the City of Winnipeg said the transit exposure happened Oct. 5 and 6 on route 55 between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. both days.
The city says on both days the passenger boarded the bus at St. Mary Avenue and Garry Street, and got off the bus at Lyndale Drive and St. Mary’s Road.
Facemasks have been required on all Winnipeg Transit buses since late August.
Per capita, Manitoba had the second-highest number of active cases in the country behind Quebec, according to data on Health Canada’s website.
The data shows Manitoba has 100 cases per 100,000 people while Quebec has 101 cases per 100,00 people. The Canadian average is 54 per 100,000, according to numbers on the site Thursday.
To try to stem the tide, the province imposed another round of restrictions in the greater Winnipeg area last week. Bars, pubs and licensed restaurants must close at 11 p.m. Alcohol service must stop an hour earlier.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said Wednesday a full lockdown should be one option under consideration, as long as the government is prepared to help people who are put out of work by the move.
“A lockdown has to be on the table,” Lamont said.
“But at the same time, if you’re going to tell people you can’t work, if you’re going to tell people you have to close your business, government has a responsibility to make sure that those people don’t go broke and that business doesn’t go under.”
Roussin didn’t get into specifics about what exactly the tighter restrictions coming to Winnipeg will look like, but hinted at stricter capacity limits.
“We’ve lost our way with the fundamentals at this point, so we’re going to need to act to be able to bring down these numbers,” he said.
–With files from Steve Lambert at 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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