Manitoba’s COVID-19 caseload grew by 427 new infections Thursday, as the province reported four more pandemic deaths.
The triple-digit bump pushed the province to 7,177 total cases since March. It also entrenched the province as having the most new cases per capita in Canada in the past 14 days.
Of the four deaths announced by officials, three contracted the novel coronavirus while receiving unrelated care in hospital: a woman and man — both from Winnipeg and in their 70s — were patients of Victoria General Hospital; a Winnipeg woman in her 80s was a patient at St. Boniface Hospital.
A woman in her 50s from the Southern Health region also died from COVID-19, raising the number of Manitoba pandemic fatalities to 91.
A record-setting 153 COVID-19 patients were also in hospital Thursday, including 16 in intensive care.
Now, the province’s largest hospital is working to contain an outbreak in a medicine unit that has already spread to seven patients. Unit GA4 at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre has been elevated to red/critical on the pandemic response system.
According to Shared Health, which manages the facility, patient movement on the unit is now restricted, all patients have been tested and are being monitored for symptoms, as the source and scope of the outbreak is being investigated.
Shared Health said all staff wear universal personal protective equipment and the risk of being required to self-isolate is considered low.
"Since the outbreak was initially declared, several COVID-19 positive patients from this unit were transferred to a unit with other COVID-positive patients to create capacity for non-COVID patients. No additional patients or staff have tested positive," a spokesperson for Shared Health said.
HSC is the third Winnipeg hospital to report an outbreak of COVID-19.
An outbreak was declared at St. Boniface on Oct. 16. It now includes 16 staff and 25 patients.
On Oct. 24, an outbreak at Victoria hospital was declared on two family medicine units. It has grown to include 41 patients and 38 staff.
On Thursday, the Manitoba Nurses Union called on Shared Health to revise its PPE guidelines to make N95 respirators the minimum standard when staff are working in outbreak situations or with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients. It also called for all staff and patients in outbreak settings to be tested for the virus.
"Nurses are doing everything they can to provide safe patient care amid the growing demand, but they have been repeatedly frustrated by slow responses to outbreak situations from leadership at many different facilities," MNU president Darlene Jackson said in a written statement to the Free Press. "The HSC situation is just the latest example."
She said no notice was issued after at least four positive cases of COVID-19 (two nurses, two patients) were connected to a different unit at HSC earlier this week.
Meanwhile, the province declared outbreaks at Rest Haven Care Home, Cedarwood Supportive Housing, and Bethesda Place personal care home — all located in Steinbach.
David Driedger, chief executive officer of HavenGroup (which operates Rest Haven and Cedarwood), said one staff and two residents of Rest Haven had tested positive for COVID-19. An outbreak was declared at Cedarwood as staff work at both sites, he said, and a public health investigation is underway.
"Their symptoms were identified early and we isolated them and enhanced our protocols," Driedger said. "All the residents on that floor, currently 17, are all in isolation for containment purposes."
A spokesman for Southern Health said one case is connected to Bethesda Place, and contact tracing is underway. No other details were provided.
It's the second time an outbreak has been declared at Bethesda Place. Four residents died after an outbreak was declared in August and concluded Oct. 22.
Park Manor care home in northeast Winnipeg is also grappling with an outbreak. CEO Abednigo Mandalupa Jr. said one staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday (and last worked on-site Oct. 28).
Winnipeg reported the bulk of the new cases Thursday, with 265. However, cases outside the metro region are trending upwards: Northern region reported 60, Southern Health had 55, Interlake-Eastern had 32, and Prairie Mountain had 15.
The five-day test positivity rate in the province was 8.9 per cent, rising to nine per cent in Winnipeg.
A record-setting 4,055 tests were performed by the province’s two laboratories Wednesday.
Public health officials also announced new orders affecting personal care home staff: all workers and replacement agencies are now responsible for abiding to the one-job-site-per-employee rule. Previously, the obligation was solely on care home operators.
The province also declared outbreaks ended at Meadowood Manor in Winnipeg and the YWCA in Thompson.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.