October 21, 2020

Winnipeg
-2° C, Light snow

Full Forecast

Close
Winnipeg Free Press

ABOVE THE FOLD

Subscribe

COVID numbers raising anxiety in province after summer lull, Roussin says

Winnipeg Free Press

Delivering Crucial Information.
Right Here.

Support this work for just $3.92/week

The summer break from COVID-19 Manitobans were enjoying is officially over, with 38 new cases reported Monday, including one at a personal-care home in Steinbach and new daily cases in the double digits.

"We've seen case numbers that we haven't seen since the beginning of the pandemic," Dr. Brent Roussin said at a media briefing Monday.

"We're seeing some evidence of community-based transmission. With that brings anxiety to Manitobans," the province's chief provincial health officer said.

After two weeks of near-daily reports of double-digit new cases, Manitoba's ninth death was reported Saturday, a Portage la Prairie man in his 80s who was in hospital at the time. On Sunday, another 36 cases were reported.

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, speaks to the media during a COVID-19 update at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Monday.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, speaks to the media during a COVID-19 update at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Monday.

Roussin said 11 Manitobans are hospitalized with COVID-19, three of them in intensive care. One new case at Bethesda Place in Steinbach is being declared an "outbreak" because of the threat it poses to residents.

Roussin had few details to share and couldn't say how many nursing-home staff are self-isolating. He is waiting to find out how COVID-19 got into a care home with strict controls over who can enter and where personal protective equipment is required. Steps were taken "quickly and appropriately" to prevent spread of the infection once it was discovered, he said.

"They immediately had that person in isolation, they immediately isolated wings of that personal-care home."

More than half of Monday's new cases — 20 — are in the Prairie Mountain health region, which includes Brandon, where there are 86 active cases. Most are connected to a cluster of 64 known cases. Public health officials warn of a possible exposure at the 7-Eleven on Victoria Street in Brandon Aug. 5-7 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dr. Roussin said one case of COVID-19 has been identified at Bethesda Place Personal Care Home in Steinbach and is being declared an "outbreak" because of the threat it poses to residents.

THE CARILLON / NICOLE BUFFIE

Dr. Roussin said one case of COVID-19 has been identified at Bethesda Place Personal Care Home in Steinbach and is being declared an "outbreak" because of the threat it poses to residents.

Another 12 new cases were reported in Southern health — which includes the Steinbach care home and the district of Niverville/Ritchot, which now has the most active cases in that region, with 25. They are related to a known cluster but Roussin wouldn't provide details, including if it involves a Hutterite colony.

Just five new cases were reported in Winnipeg, where some community transmission is occurring but most positive tests are linked to known cases. One new case was reported in the Interlake-Eastern health region. With 1,716 lab tests completed Sunday, Manitoba has a five-day test positive rate of 1.78 per cent.

The resurgence of the novel coronavirus Manitobans are seeing now was expected, but not this soon, Roussin said.

"We knew that we weren't done with this virus," he said. "We had that nice stretch — and we'll take it — but we knew we're in a pandemic. Most of us in public health were definitely expecting numbers like this and possibly worse in the fall respiratory virus season."

"We knew that we weren't done with this virus. We had that nice stretch ‐ and we'll take it ‐ but we knew we're in a pandemic. Most of us in public health were definitely expecting numbers like this and possibly worse in the fall respiratory virus season." — Dr. Brent Roussin

Later this week, more information will be added to the daily COVID-19 information provided by the online "dashboard," he said, adding It should help Manitobans see what our current status is and will offer "some ideas" about what could happen "in the future with our numbers."

Roussin wouldn't say how dire things have to get before reimposing measures or ordering new ones, such as mandating masks.

Surgeries backlog addressed

On Monday, the province announced it awarded five contracts to address the backlog in surgeries and exams postponed by COVID-19 this spring as Manitoba joined other provinces bracing for an onslaught of hospitalizations that fortunately didn't materialize.

On Monday, the province announced it awarded five contracts to address the backlog in surgeries and exams postponed by COVID-19 this spring as Manitoba joined other provinces bracing for an onslaught of hospitalizations that fortunately didn't materialize.

Manitoba Health said it has awarded $2.5 million in contracts echocardiogram exams, urology procedures, orthopaedic spine procedures, and foot and hand surgeries. They were awarded to five facilities: Health Sciences Centre, Pan Am Clinic, CancerCare Manitoba, Maples Surgical Centre and LifeSmart Health Cardio 1, a provincial government spokesperson said.

Both public and private providers responded to the request for service agreements. Additional contracts will be awarded as progress is monitored, a press release from Manitoba Health said. By next March, close to 4,000 surgical procedures and 4,000 imaging exams will have been rescheduled, it said.

The Manitoba Health Coalition said the province has not presented any evidence that public health care providers didn't have the capacity to deal with the backlog. "...At a time when we need health care professionals to help catch up on delayed surgeries this decision will pull more of these professionals out of the public system and put even greater strain on our public health system as we recover from the pandemic," the coalition's director Brianne Goertzen said in a statement Monday.

"Experience in other jurisdictions, such as Alberta, shows that care delivered in for-profit facilities costs more, quality of care worsens, and fails to alleviate wait times. The pandemic has made it abundantly clear the importance of a responsive public health system."

– Carol Sanders

Public health will look at factors such as the five-day test positivity rate, the number of cases that can't be linked to clusters and are of unknown acquisition, and capacity in the health- care system, he said. The hospital system is not being overwhelmed and there are fewer people admitted with COVID-19 than when the first wave hit Manitoba in the spring.

"If you look at our hospitalization rate right now, it's lower than what we saw earlier in the pandemic at that time," said Roussin, who acknowledged there can be a lag between a surge in new cases and when people end up in hospital. However in the spring, 10 to 12 per cent of people testing positive for COVID-19 across Canada were hospitalized. On Monday, Manitoba had 232 active cases with 11 in hospital.

The severity of the situation in Manitoba could go either way, and Roussin reminded Manitobans they can determine it by following the fundamentals of good hand hygiene, staying home when they have even mild symptoms, keeping their distance and wearing a mask indoors and places where they may not be able to spread out. Mandating people to do things such as wearing masks may happen if people aren't following recommendations, he warned.

"Nothing's ever been off the table for us. If we're ever concerned that we're not getting the compliance we need, we can always mandate it. " — Dr. Brent Roussin on mandating people to wear masks

"Nothing's ever been off the table for us," he said. "If we're ever concerned that we're not getting the compliance we need, we can always mandate it. "

Health Minister Cameron Friesen defended the province's "ready, safe, grow" economic messaging campaign despite the resurgence of the virus and Manitobans' health concerns.

"As Dr. Roussin has continued to say, we have to learn how to live with COVID-19," Friesen said at the briefing Monday.

"I think that what this campaign is doing is reminding people they have to do the right things in order for Manitoba to continue to be a success story. We do want people to make that shift to get back to work, to get back to whatever normal looks like."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

   Read full biography

History

Updated on Monday, August 17, 2020 at 9:30 PM CDT: Fixes positivity rate.

11:02 PM: Fixes typo.

The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.

To submit a letter:
• fill out the form on this page, or
• email letters@freepress.mb.ca, or
• mail Letters to the Editor, 1355 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2X 3B6.

Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.