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Correctional and health-care facilities are on the list of sectors to receive replacements, after the province's decision to pull expired face masks from rotation "out of an abundance of caution."

A statement from Shared Health released Tuesday said replacement stock would be provided before the end of the week.

However, Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union president Michelle Gawronsky said the initial incident has inspired further distrust in the province amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The workers should be very proud of themselves — it’s because they stood together in solidarity and stood up for what is right that is now going to provide protection for them and their family," she said.

Several correctional facilities had begun to receive replacement masks as early as Monday night.

According to the province, there were 93 active cases at Headingley Correctional Institution, as of Tuesday. Out of the 185 total cases since the start of the outbreak, 38 were staff and 147 inmates — meaning out of the around 550 inmates at the centre, more than one in four has tested positive for COVID-19.

There were 25 active cases at the Women’s Correctional Centre, 13 at Agassiz Youth Centre (Portage la Prairie), two each at Winnipeg Remand Centre and Manitoba Youth Centre, and one each at Brandon Correctional Centre and Milner Ridge.

Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Tuesday he was "concerned" about case counts rising in such facilities, but was thankful they hadn’t seen "any severe outcomes" related to the Headingley outbreak.

"We just know in these settings, this is how this virus spreads, with indoor, prolonged contact, and so we have to focus on doing whatever we can to not introduce this virus into these type of settings," he said.

Meanwhile, the Manitoba Nurses Union says it has been "flooded" with reports from members that have received expired masks.

"Distributing expired masks to health-care workers who are risking their lives to care for others is absolutely unacceptable… far too many front-line staff are becoming ill with COVID," MNU president Darlene Jackson said in an email.

"We are eight months in, and these issues should have been dealt with months ago. Government must do better."

Jackson said the masks in question have been reported at many hospitals across the province, along with multiple long-term care and home care services.

Gawronsky said the MGEU brought up the issue of expired masks earlier in the spring, and were told by the province they were safe for use.

"It’s very serious, and folks going into work deserve to know that their employers provide them with the equipment to keep them safe, them and their families," she said.

— with files from Danielle Da Silva

Twitter: malakabas_

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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