At least a dozen health-care workers were forced into a two-week isolation, shoppers were unwittingly exposed to the coronavirus, and an outbreak was declared at a personal care home after a handful of Manitobans ignored pandemic precautions.
Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin has pulled back the curtain on recent public health investigations, sharing examples of behaviour confounding the province’s pandemic response.
On Monday, 100 new cases were reported in Manitoba, including 73 in Winnipeg. That followed a weekend when 314 new cases of the virus were identified in Manitoba.
"It should be clear that these numbers are trending in the wrong direction. If we look at where we were during our first wave, we can see that we let the virus off the hook," Roussin said.
"We’re in a pandemic; we have to expect to see cases," he said. "But what we shouldn’t expect, and shouldn’t accept, are people who have 50 contacts or people going to work when they’re ill or people not being forthcoming with health-care providers.
"This is what leads to numbers that we’re looking at right now."
Manitoba's top doctor said a surgical team at an undisclosed hospital cannot return to work for at least 14 days, after a patient did not disclose being exposed to COVID-19.
Roussin also described a scenario where an individual went to a large "faith-based gathering" and likely picked up the coronavirus. They then visited a personal care home, sparking the facility to declare an outbreak.
He said one person who recently came down with the virus did the right thing by leaving work when they began to feel ill, but instead of going home, they went shopping. A test later revealed COVID-19.
Another who had been recently diagnosed with COVID-19 broke self-isolation and hosted a get-together at their home, exposing many more people to the contagion and infecting others, Roussin said.
New cases have also been connected to Thanksgiving celebrations and funerals.
"We also announced 831 cases — 831 cases in a single week," Roussin said. "On this trajectory, we expect to have more than 5,000 cases by the end of this week."
"We need to change how we’re doing things right now."
Roussin was joined Monday by Shared Health chief nursing officer (and provincial lead on health system integration and quality) Lanette Siragusa to deliver the warning, as the province’s health-care system braces for increased demand.
The pair will be providing more frequent updates in the weeks to come, with news conferences scheduled for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 12:30 p.m.
On Monday, Premier Brian Pallister expressed his frustration with what he described as a small group of people disregarding public health orders.
"Thoughtful Manitobans are making sacrifices and staying away from loved ones, while other people are doing dumb things endangering all of us," he said. "Get with the program; grow up and stop going out there and giving people COVID."
Pallister said he doesn’t know what more the province could do about messaging, and he’s participated in at least 60 news conferences to communicate the need for people to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"We'll all be in code red if people don't get with the program," Pallister warned.
On Monday, hospitalizations for COVID-19 reached an all time high in the province, with 80 people receiving care, including 15 in intensive care units.
Roussin also announced one death: a woman in her 80s, who resided at Winnipeg’s Parkview Place long-term care home. In total, 55 Manitobans have died from COVID-19 — 15 deaths were announced in the past seven days.
Meanwhile, the five-day test positivity rate for Manitoba is 7.1 per cent — hitting 8.3 per cent in Winnipeg — and Roussin said there is widespread community transmission.
The reproduction rate for COVID-19 in Manitoba — also called R0 or R-naught value, which represents how many people will be infected by a single positive case — is nearing two, Roussin said.
"As we continue to see these numbers climb, if we see that we’re not getting the adherence, we need then we’ll have to step up that enforcement," he said. "If we see cases or contacts that are putting others at significant risk knowingly, then we have that ability to enforce, as well."
However, Roussin didn’t provide details on whether any of the COVID-19 scofflaws he noted Monday had received citations.
New cases came from all health regions including five in Interlake–Eastern, one in Prairie Mountain, and 11 in Southern Health. Ten cases were announced in the Northern region, where new restrictions on gathering sizes, occupancy limits and closures of casinos and bingo halls took effect Monday.
The province also warned people who attended a funeral Oct. 12 at Lake Manitoba First Nation may have come into contact with COVID-19. A person who tested positive for the disease was at the funeral while infectious, though not experiencing symptoms.
On Sunday, 2,131 lab tests were completed, bringing the total to 242,787 since February.
Manitoba has reported a total of 4,349 cases of COVID-19, and 2,177 recoveries.
— with files from Carol Sanders
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.