Thanksgiving dinners, travel by Manitobans within the province and even the sharing of a vape pen have allowed COVID-19 to spread among us.
A month after stricter public health orders were imposed in Winnipeg, it's clear they haven't worked, Manitoba's chief public health officer said Wednesday as he announced 170 new cases of COVID-19.
Dr. Brent Roussin hinted more severe lockdown and enforcement measures could be imposed as the provincial health-care system's capacity runs out. He wouldn't offer specifics when asked what will trigger the move from orange to red under pandemic-response rules in the Winnipeg metropolitan region.
"It's certainly concerning, the trend that we see, and we're not seeing the results that we expected with the restrictions," he said.
"If this trend continues, we'll continue to see that strain on the health-care system, so we will need to act to get stronger measures in place to stop this rate of transmission."
"It's certainly concerning, the trend that we see, and we're not seeing the results that we expected with the restrictions." — Dr. Brent Roussin
Three days before Halloween, Roussin warned case counts could spike further if Manitobans don't follow the rules. No one should hold a Halloween party, he said, even though current restrictions on indoor and outdoor gathering sizes allow for one household to gather with five other people.
The rule was written that way because that's what the province can enforce right now, Roussin said, but he warned against gathering with anyone outside your household.
It's OK to celebrate Halloween outside as long as people wear masks, maintain physical distancing and wash their hands, he said.
"No one should be holding a Halloween party indoors," he said, suggesting people find innovative ways to connect virtually.
Orange (restricted) limitations were imposed in Winnipeg and surrounding communities on Sept. 28. The final stage of lockdown measures in Manitoba would be a red (critical) level of restrictions, some of which have been in place in hot spots of the province. Cross Lake was the latest to go into a red-level lockdown this week following an outbreak of 11 cases in the northern First Nation.
Moving to the red zone isn't taken lightly, Roussin said, adding public health officials are considering the health fallout as well as the economic repercussions.
"We just know that restrictions, especially things that shut businesses down, shut sectors down, have huge implications, as well, on health. It's not just the economy... so given these numbers, we may very well see ourselves in that area again, but we do so very cautiously, knowing that these have huge implications for us all," Roussin said.
On Wednesday, the province announced three deaths, bringing the death toll in Manitoba to 61.
Two deaths are related to hospital/long-term care outbreaks in the city: a man in his 80s died after being exposed to the virus at Victoria General Hospital; a woman in her 80s died after being exposed at Misericordia Place personal care home. A man in his 40s from the Interlake Eastern health region was the third person to die of COVID-19.
There were 117 new cases in the Winnipeg region, 26 in Interlake-Eastern, 18 in Southern Health, six in the Northern region, and three in Prairie Mountain.
Many of the newly detected cases spread at Thanksgiving gatherings, Roussin said. Seven people tested positive after one such dinner. Other cases have spread because people are sharing items, including a vape pen, and some were the result of Manitobans visiting family in other areas of the province, he said. In other cases, people who were sick ran errands.
Manitoba's five-day positivity rate was 7.3 per cent as of Wednesday. There are 2,334 active cases, including 89 people hospitalized and 19 in the intensive-care unit.
Since mid-March, the province has had 4,701 cases. As of Wednesday, 2,306 people were listed as recovered.
There have been 248,077 COVID-19 tests completed to date in Manitoba.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.