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Manitoba health officials give grim warnings as coronavirus numbers rise

Manitoba’s top doctor warned people across the province to reduce their contacts Monday as the province added 100 new cases of COVID-19 and reported another death from the virus.

The latest death is a woman in her 80s who had been a resident at Parkview Place Long Term Care Home in Winnipeg. Her death is the 18th connected to a deadly outbreak at the Edmonton Street personal care home where more than 90 of the facility’s 220 residents have now tested positive for COVID-19.

Monday’s new cases marked the seventh consecutive day new daily case counts have been 100 or higher in Manitoba. Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer said 831 new cases have been identified and 14 people have died since last weekend alone.

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“Our big message to Manitobans — we need to reduce the number of contacts we have outside of our household,” Roussin said, before going through a list of recent cases where people had dozens of close contacts including some who went to work, went shopping, and held gatherings while symptomatic.

“All these restrictions are really there to change the way people are socializing, we need to keep the numbers of cases low and that keeps our ability for people to go to work, go to school — it protects our most vulnerable citizens.”

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor says province has let COVID-19 get ‘off the hook’'
Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor says province has let COVID-19 get ‘off the hook’

Roussin said dozens of health care professionals have had to take time off to self-isolate because people coming in for medical procedures aren’t disclosing that they’ve been in close contact to a positive case.

He said a person who likely picked up the virus at a faith-based gathering visited a personal care home, which led to the “beginnings of an outbreak” at the facility.

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Manitobans need to reduce contacts, avoid socializing, and avoid closed-in, crowded spaces, Roussin said. 

“We see as we increase the number of people we’re in contact with, we increase our risk and that risk can be transferred to people in very vulnerable settings,” Roussin said.

“We’re in a pandemic we have to expect to see cases … but what we shouldn’t expect and we shouldn’t accept are people that have 50 contacts, or people going to work when they’re ill, or people not being forthcoming with health care providers.

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“This is what leads to numbers that we’re looking at right now.”

Chief nursing officer returns to briefings

Manitoba Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa joined Roussin at Monday’s live media briefing for the first time in months.

Roussin said Siragusa will be joining him more regularly at the press conferences — which will be held Monday, Wednesday and Friday going forward — as rising case counts continue to put stress on hospitals and medical staff.

As of Monday, there were 80 people in hospital and 15 people in intensive care, while the number of deaths due to the coronavirus is 55. The province’s five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate rose to 7.1 per cent, while Winnipeg’s test positivity rate hit 8.3 per cent.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Manitoba health officials report 100 new coronavirus cases, another death Monday'
Coronavirus: Manitoba health officials report 100 new coronavirus cases, another death Monday

Siragusa said hospitalization rates for COVID-19 have “increased dramatically” since last Monday, when there were 28 people hospitalized with the virus.

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While Siragusa said Manitoba’s hospitals do currently have capacity for the rising numbers, she warned measures like the province took in the spring — including redeploying staff and postponing elective and non-urgent procedures — could be taken should hospital cases continue to trend upwards.

“This virus is demonstrating the vicious impact it can have on our most vulnerable,” she said.

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The latest cases include 73 in Winnipeg and bring the province’s total number of lab-confirmed cases reported in Manitoba to 4,349.

Click to play video: 'St. Boniface Hospital outbreak'
St. Boniface Hospital outbreak

Of Monday’s other cases, 10 were reported in the Northern health region, five are in the Interlake-Eastern health region, one is from the Prairie Mountain Health region, and 11were reported in the Southern Health region.

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Many of the new cases are linked to Thanksgiving gatherings and Roussin warned that people must be cautious when it comes to Halloween because “nothing we do is without risk.”

Public health officials are advising a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 attended a funeral in Lake Manitoba First Nation on Oct. 12 when they did not have symptoms but was in their infectious period. Public health officials will be notifying close contacts directly. Others who attended the funeral should self-monitor for symptoms. If symptoms develop, people should self-isolate and seek testing.

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Meanwhile Premier Brian Pallister announced Monday that an additional test site will be opening at 125 King Edward St. on Halloween.

“Additional sites are being planned at the University of Manitoba and Assiniboia Downs to provide greater access for Manitobans,” he said in a press release.

With growing numbers of cases in the northern health region and Churchill, the province introduced targeted measures under the restricted (orange) level of the #RestartMB Pandemic Response System Monday to reduce community spread of the virus by reducing prolonged close contact  between people.

The changes are the same elevated restrictions currently in place in Winnipeg, which include closing casinos and bingo halls and limiting occupancy in restaurants.

Click to play video: 'Physicians concerned as Manitobans choose to avoid care during COVID-19 second wave'
Physicians concerned as Manitobans choose to avoid care during COVID-19 second wave

Extra measures are also being put in place for schools in the Winnipeg area and the north starting Monday. They include cancelling field trips, banning choirs and wind instruments and requiring substitute teachers to wear medical masks.

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The province says the latest measures will be in place for a minimum of two weeks.

Prison outbreaks

Provincial officials said Monday an outbreak of COVID-19 at Headingley Correctional Centre, just west of Winnipeg, began with a guard who worked for two days before developing symptoms.

The outbreak now includes 33 inmates and six staff members.

Justice officials say five staff at other facilities and one inmate at a youth correctional facility have also tested positive.

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen says the pandemic is being taken very seriously and the province has developed comprehensive plans, including instructional videos for inmates and staff, to deal with the situation.

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He says inmates and guards are required to wear masks and interactions between people has been limited.

The opposition New Democrats and union leaders have been critical of the provincial response to the pandemic behind bars, saying it puts inmates and guards at risk.

Click to play video: 'Infectious disease expert warns Manitoba reaching ‘tipping point’ in COVID-19 fight'
Infectious disease expert warns Manitoba reaching ‘tipping point’ in COVID-19 fight

“The people who are incarcerated are Manitobans,” said NDP justice critic Nahanni Fontaine. “They are citizens. They are entitled to rights. They are entitled to be safe while they are incarcerated.”

Cullen defended the government’s record, adding a comprehensive plan has been developed to deal with the situation.

Inmates and guards are required to wear masks, interactions between people has been limited and instructional videos have been developed for guards and inmates.

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Cullen also explained changes to moving inmates and isolating those who test positive, as well as the use of personal protective equipment.

“We are taking this pandemic very seriously,” Cullen said.

As of Monday Manitoba had 2,177 known active cases and 2,177 individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, according to provincial data.

–With files from The Canadian Press

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: New COVID-19 measures for schools in Winnipeg, northern Manitoba announced'
Coronavirus: New COVID-19 measures for schools in Winnipeg, northern Manitoba announced

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.

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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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