Manitoba’s new COVID-19 case numbers and test positivity rates continued to drop over the weekend as health officials mull a further loosening of pandemic restrictions in time for the long weekend.
The province announced 80 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths Sunday — with the most cases and all deaths in the capital city.
Of the new cases, 31 were identified in Winnipeg, with 28 cases in the Northern health region, nine in the Prairie Mountain health region, eight in the Southern Health-Santé Sud region and four cases in the Interlake-Eastern region for a total 30,237 lab-confirmed cases of the virus since the onset of the pandemic.
The province is reporting 3,256 active cases of the virus and 26,135 people who have recovered from COVID-19.
Sunday’s deaths include one man in his 70s, one man in his 90s and a man in his 100s from the Winnipeg health region, as well as one woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at the Poseidon Care Centre in Winnipeg.
The province’s five-day test positivity rate continues to improve, ringing in at 6.1 per cent provincially and 3.8 per cent in Winnipeg. Lab data indicates 1,434 tests were completed Saturday for a total 489,506 tests completed since February 2020.
As the city's rate falls towards three per cent, it approaches the level of positivity the province said in the summer would lead to changes in restrictions. Last week, provincial officials said they were considering relaxing restrictions when the current public health order expires on Feb. 13.
All child-care providers working in licensed child-care centres, nursery schools and family or group child-care homes — which includes eligible early child development specialists and autism applied behaviour analysts — will soon be able to access rapid testing. Appointments at the pilot test site, located at 1066 Nairn Ave. in Winnipeg, will be open to these child-care providers on Monday.
As caseloads and test positivity rates continue to drop in southern Manitoba, provincial leaders are considering relaxing some pandemic restrictions when current health orders expire on Feb. 13.
Among proposed changes, public health officials are considering the resumption of in-person religious services — though current restrictions have not been a limitation for some groups.
South of Steinbach on Sunday, the Church of God Restoration gathered for another indoor service.
"If they could, they’d shut us down, but there’s a power on our side," Church of God minister Tobias Tissen told the congregation during the service, which was posted online, as he gestured towards the outside of the building.
An RCMP spokeswoman said officers were in a support role at the church, about 15 kilometres south of Steinbach, as Manitoba Justice and the public health inspectors monitored for non-compliance.
The church, which has been sanctioned multiple times for public health violations, posted a similar livestream video last Sunday.
Though cases may be improving in the south, ongoing case spikes in remote northern communities have prompted military intervention.
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to Pauingassi First Nation on Saturday to respond to an ongoing outbreak in the community of just over 600 people, according to a social media post from the Armed Forces.
The community, located some 280 km north of Winnipeg, has been under strict lockdown all week; band operations and schools have been closed, public gatherings prohibited and residents are asked to stay home except for essential trips. The Southern Chiefs Organization took to social media Friday to note that more than 25 per cent of Pauingassi community members had tested positive for the virus.
The province also announced on Sunday that the outbreaks at Le Chalet de La Broquerie assisted living facility in La Broquerie and Deer Lodge Centre, Lodge 2 West in Winnipeg have been declared over.
— with files from Grant Burr
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.