Manitoba health officials have announced the province’s deadliest day of the pandemic with four deaths caused by COVID-19 and 147 new cases, as more restrictions are being brought in for Winnipeg and the north.
The latest deaths include two residents at Parkview Place Long Term Care Home in Winnipeg, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 70s, the province said.
Their deaths are the 13th and 14th connected to a deadly outbreak at the Edmonton Street personal care home, where dozens of people have tested positive.
The other victims reported Thursday include a man in his 80s from the Winnipeg health region and a man in his 80s from the Interlake-Eastern health region.
Forty-seven people in Manitoba have died from the virus since March, the vast majority in recent weeks as the province saw a significant growth of positive cases after going weeks in the summer without a new infection.
The province also marked its highest rate of hospitalizations — 42 people in hospital and eight in intensive care. The latest cases bring the province’s five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate to 5.6 per cent.
Manitoba’s chief public officer of heath, Dr. Brent Roussin said Winnipeg’s five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate rose to 6.5 per cent as of Thursday.
Roussin said there is widespread community transmission and warned against people continuing to socialize outside their homes.
“We see infectious people at work, out in public at gatherings. This certainly can be avoided,” Roussin said.
The other cases reported Thursday include 87 in the Winnipeg Health region, 33 in the Southern Health region, 10 in the Northern health region, 10 in the Interlake-Eastern health region, and seven in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
More restrictions for the north, changes coming to schools
The rising cases led health officials to put further restrictions in place in northern Manitoba and move all schools in the north and Winnipeg into the orange, or restricted level, on the province’s pandemic response system.
In the north, there had been a total of four cases until late in September compared with 69 now.
“We know that the north is already at risk for transmission of this virus, especially in remote isolated communities (where there is lack of) access to health care,” Roussin said.
The new public health orders issued for the north, including Churchill, will be the same as those currently in place in the greater Winnipeg, Roussin said.
The greater Winnipeg area, which includes bedroom communities, was placed under tighter restrictions than the rest of the province in late September. Mask use was made mandatory in indoor public places and gathering were capped at 10 people.
More recently, the rules in the Winnipeg region were further tightened as the numbers remained high. Gatherings have been capped at five people, restaurants and bars have had to operate at 50 per cent capacity and some establishments, including casinos, bingo halls and live-entertainment nightclubs, have had to close for two weeks.
The latest restrictions coming to the north will go into effect starting Monday and will be in place for at least two weeks, Roussin said.
Meanwhile Roussin said the new rules coming to schools in the north and Winnipeg area under the new restricted level also start Monday and will include:
- Schools must ensure two metres of physical distancing to the greatest extent possible, and adjust classroom space as necessary; excess furniture must be removed from classrooms to create additional space; and other spaces within schools must be repurposed to accommodate more distancing (e.g., multipurpose rooms, empty rooms, shared spaces, common areas and libraries).
- Extracurricular activities are only permitted if all learning and distancing requirements have been met. If these activities continue, established guidelines must be followed and, in the case of sports, participants should maintain distance when not active.
- Teachers and staff who move across cohorts of students, including substitute teachers, are required to wear medical masks. Medical-grade disposable masks have been issued to all schools. N95 masks are not required.
- Indoor choir and the use of wind instruments are not permitted.
- All field trips must be postponed or cancelled.
- Blended learning (in-class and online) for grades 9 to 12 where distancing cannot be achieved will continue as per status quo.
- Kindergarten to Grade 8 students may be offered a temporary remote learning option for the duration of the Restricted level (orange).
Roussin says the changes to schools are coming into place despite seeing “minimal school-based transmission” of the virus.
“We are seeing, though, more wide-spread community transmission, so this increases the amount of cases we see in school,” he said.
The move to further restrictions come as an outbreaks have been declared at at Arborgate School in La Broquerie, Man. and at the Ochekwi Sipi Personal Care Home in the Fisher River Cree Nation, which has moved to red, or critical, on the response system, after a health-care worker tested positive for the virus.
The province says an outbreak previously declared at Bethesda Place personal care home in Steinbach has ended.
Twenty-seven cases connected to a poultry plant in Blumenort, southeast of Winnipeg, are linked to infections in the community, Roussin said.
An outbreak at Headingley provincial prison nearly tripled this week to 32 positive cases, Roussin added.
He aid the growing numbers are “all a result of increased contacts.”
“We have to change things. We fell back on the fundamentals,” Roussin said. “We got back to all that normalcy that we want, but we just know this is what happens when we attempt that.”
On Wednesday health officials reported 135 new cases across the province, with 102 coming from the Winnipeg health region. They also reported the province’s 43rd death from the virus, a man in his 80s who had been a resident at Parkview Place Long Term Care Home in Winnipeg.
The Manitoba government also increased fines for people and businesses who ignore public health orders Wednesday.
The fine for individuals who break self-isolation orders or violate rules such as a cap on public gatherings has jumped to $1,296 from $486. For businesses that exceed capacity limits, fail to have proper physical distancing in place or contravene other rules, the penalty has risen to $5,000 from $2,542.
The latest cases of novel coronavirus identified Thursday bring the total number of cases reported in Manitoba to 3,773. Provincial data shows there are currently 1,806 active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba and 1,920 people have recovered from the virus since March.
The province said 2,220 tests for COVID-19 were completed Wednesday, bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February to 233,222.
–With files from Kelly Geraldine Malone 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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