Three more Manitobans have died from COVID-19 and health officials say 170 new cases have been identified across the province.
The new cases bring Manitoba’s total number of reported cases to 4,701 and come as deadly outbreaks continue at hospitals and personal care homes in Winnipeg and the number of people hospitalized with the virus climbed to new heights again Wednesday.
“We see widespread community-based transmission. We see now that transmission occurring through all age cohorts,” said Dr. Brent Roussin. Manitoba’s chief public officer of health, who hinted tighter restrictions may soon be on the way.
“And so if this trend continues we will need to act to get stronger measures in place to stop this rate of transmission.”
Provincial data shows 89 people are in hospital with COVID-19, including 19 in intensive care. Tuesday’s numbers showed 83 in hospital, with 15 of those in ICU.
The latest deaths bring the province’s total number of COVID-19-related fatalities reported since March to 61.
They include a man in his 80s from Winnipeg linked to an outbreak at the city’s Victoria Hospital, a woman in her 80s from the Interlake-Eastern health region linked to an outbreak at the Misericordia Place personal care home in Winnipeg, and a man in his 40s from the Interlake-Eastern health region.
For the second-straight day data shows Manitoba has more active cases of the virus than those who have recovered, although the province’s chief public officer of health has said the number of active cases is likely over inflated due to a backlog.
Provincial data shows there were 2,334 active cases as of Wednesday morning, while 2,306 people have recovered.
The province’s current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 7.3 per cent, according to provincial data.
In Winnipeg — where 117 of Wednesday’s new cases were reported — the five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 8.6 per cent, according to the province.
The rest of Wednesday’s newly reported cases include 26 infections in the Interlake-Eastern health region, six in the Northern health region, three cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region, and 18 cases in the Southern Health region.
According to the province’s online COVID-19 dashboard, 1,886 cases remain active in Winnipeg where 69 people are in hospital, including 11 in intensive care.
The greater Winnipeg region has been hit hardest by the novel coronavirus and is already under tighter restrictions than most other areas. Public gatherings are limited to five people, some licensed establishments have had to close and the rest are under capacity limits.
Still, Roussin said, people are getting together and continuing to spread the virus. One recent Thanksgiving gathering led to seven cases, he said.
Provincial data shows 3,437 tests for COVID-19 were completed Tuesday, bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February to 248,077.
Cross Lake First Nation moved to critical
Health officials said Wednesday multiple people in Cross Lake First Nation have tested positive for COVID-19, pushing the province to move the community into the red, or critical level, of the province’s pandemic response system.
The cases are related to previously announced public exposures that health officials now say have led to a high number of close contacts.
The move to critical means public gatherings are not allowed and residents are required to stay at home in the community, roughly 529 km north of Winnipeg.
The province says residents should only leave their homes to seek testing or medical care, or to send one person from each household for essential supplies. People who work in essential services will be allowed to leave their homes for work. Non-medical masks must be worn outside by anyone leaving home.
On Tuesday health officials warned of the risk of exposure at a funeral in Cross Lake held Oct. 18. They said someone who tested positive for COVID-19 attended the service when they were in their infectious period. Anyone who attended the funeral is advised to self-isolate and seek testing if symptoms develop.
Meanwhile the province said Wednesday a previously declared outbreak at St. Norbert personal care home has ended.
‘We need to stop socializing’
Manitoba has seen a steady increase in cases and deaths this fall after dropping to nearly no active cases during the summer months.
Wednesday marked the ninth-straight day Manitoba has seen new COVID-19 cases in the triple digits and the province announced a record-setting 184 new cases and three deaths Tuesday. Since Oct. 21 health officials have announced 18 deaths and 1,213 new cases.
The province released data Wednesday that shows the spike in recent weeks is starting to take a toll on health care.
The occupancy rate of intensive care beds has risen to 92 per cent. A few dozen surgeries have had to be cancelled because staff have had to isolate while waiting for test results.
Roussin said people need to stop gathering with people they don’t live with, but so far he is not prepared to make that mandatory by issuing a public health order.
“We need to stop socializing with people outside of our household for now,” Roussin said.
“The public health orders, as we write them, will certainly provide some leeway to that because we need them to be able to be enforceable, but the messaging is right now you should really be strongly considering whether you should be socializing outside of your household.”
Opposition Leader Wab Kinew said the no-socializing advice should be mandatory to flatten the COVID-19 curve and clear up any confusion in people’s minds about what is acceptable.
“I don’t think there should be any daylight in (between) the order and the advice,” the NDP leader said.
“Let’s just have Roussin be able to provide his advice to Manitobans and let’s have it be crystal clear.”
Meanwhile an outbreak at Victoria Hospital in Winnipeg grew to 38 patients Tuesday, according to the hospital’s website.
Victoria hospital remains the largest outbreak at a Winnipeg hospital, the Winnipeg Regional Health Region told Global News Tuesday St. Boniface’s outbreak is up to 23 patients and 11 staff who have tested positive. Three deaths have been linked to the St. Boniface outbreak.
Outbreaks are also ongoing at several personal care homes in Winnipeg, including Parkview Place on Edmonton Street which has seen 19 deaths linked to the facility and 126 cases, according to the latest numbers from the province.
The government could move Winnipeg to “red” under its colour-coded response strategy, which would probably force restaurants and other businesses to close.
Roussin said a change would have to be considered carefully, due to the impact of shutting down entire business sectors. But some sort of tightening is being eyed to stem the rising tide of case numbers and hospitalizations, he said.
“We do need to consider what further public health measures are required to try to reverse that.”
–With files from Brittany Greenslade and Steve Lambert 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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