A Winnipeg man in his 60s has become the third Manitoban to succumb to the coronavirus. As with the two previous deaths, the man was in intensive care in hospital when he died.
No further information was given about the man, other than that he had underlying medical conditions.
On Tuesday, health officials also announced an outbreak of respiratory illness in a medicine unit at Health Sciences Centre, but provided few details.
"Eight staff and three patients with symptoms have been tested to determine the cause of their illness. A test for COVID-19 was also included," said Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer with Shared Health. The results are not yet known.
The province could not immediately say how many of the eight staff were doctors or nurses. "It's a mix," Siragusa told reporters.
Nor could officials say whether the health-care workers had been tending to coronavirus patients.
All staff who are awaiting their test results have been sent home to self-isolate for 14 days, Siragusa said. "None of the staff who have been identified were working while they were symptomatic," she added.
The three symptomatic patients remain in hospital and have been isolated, she said.
Spokespeople with the Manitoba Nurses Union and the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals said they were unaware of the outbreak until they tuned in to the province's daily briefing on Tuesday.
By end of day, the MNU was still trying to track down how many of its members may have been involved or which area of the hospital was affected. The MAHCP also had not been able to determine whether its members were involved.
Public health officials announced 13 additional cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total number of lab-confirmed and probable positive cases in the province to 217. Manitoba reported its first case on March 12.
Twelve people are currently hospitalized, with six in intensive care. Twenty-one individuals are deemed to have recovered from the virus.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer, warned that Manitobans will be dealing with the virus for some time. He said he couldn't say when the disease will peak in the province.
"We are early in the outbreak," he said. "We're going to see many, many more cases here in Manitoba."
Manitoba is mid-pack among Canadian provinces in the number of tests for the coronavirus per 100,000 people, at 1,037. It has one of the lowest infection rates, at 15.75 reported cases per 100,000 in population.
Roussin said so far most hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Manitoba — particularly those in intensive care — have been older with underlying health issues, "including respiratory and cardiac conditions."
Public health officials are starting to collect and categorize information on hospitalized patients to develop a clearer picture of those who are most affected by the virus.
"We're trying to get a detailed assessment (of) the average length of stay, type of underlying conditions and an age breakdown," Roussin said.
The first Manitoban to die was Margaret Sader, a woman in her 60s who worked at Sinclair Dental in Winnipeg. Her death was announced on March 27.
Last Friday, it was learned that Wade Kidd, 54, who worked as a custodian at Windsor Park Collegiate, had died of the virus.
The government announced Tuesday that assessment clinics for COVID-19 patients are being established. The sites will offer care — by appointment only after a referral by a doctor or by Health Links — for anyone who has tested positive for the virus or has respiratory illness symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.
The locations will also contain separate spaces for coronavirus testing.
The first testing and assessment clinic in Winnipeg will open Wednesday at the St. James Assiniboia Centennial Pool and Fitness Centre. When that site opens, Access Winnipeg West will once again focus on primary care and community health services and no longer serve as a designated community testing site for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Siragusa said a new online mental health therapy program announced by the province at the end of March to help Manitobans cope with anxiety caused by the pandemic is about to be launched.
She said Tuesday that about 700 Manitobans had pre-registered for the program, which offers one-on-one counselling to those age 16 and over. Those who signed up are being notified and the service "will be available more broadly next week," she added.
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