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People debating whether or not to queue in the cold to see if their sore throat or cough is COVID-19 can — beginning Tuesday — instead sign up for an appointment for a nasal swab.

After weeks of high demand for novel coronavirus testing that resulted in people in Winnipeg waiting hours, either in their car or outside community screening sites, the provincial government has started rolling out its appointment system for test sites.

Appointments will be accepted at 604 St. Mary’s Rd., 2735 Pembina Hwy. and 1181 Portage Ave., the province noted Monday. Tests can be booked by calling 1-855-268-4318 or using an online portal on the government website (www.manitoba.ca).

Chart showing the daily and rolling five-day positivity rate for COVID-19 in Manitoba

It was unclear Monday how many appointment slots would be available, though such visits are expected to take five minutes for adults and about 10 minutes for children.

For now, other test sites in the city, including the drive-thru locations at 1284 Main St. and 1066 Nairn Ave., will remain first-come, first-served, the province said.

The appointment system is to be expanded to other Manitoba communities in the coming weeks.

Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin fielded questions from reporters by phone Monday, as access to the media conference room was restricted, with new limits on gathering sizes in effect in the Winnipeg region.

Wait-time tracker

We've built a crowd-sourced tracker to help Winnipeggers find out how long they're likely to wait in line for a COVID-19 test.

We've built a crowd-sourced tracker to help Winnipeggers find out how long they're likely to wait in line for a COVID-19 test.

If you’re in line for a test, share your estimated wait using our easy form at wfp.to/covidwaits.

If you’re planning to go for a test, visit wfp.to/covidwaits to see wait times fellow Winnipeggers have reported.

Just 1,677 laboratory tests were completed Sunday, well-below the province’s goal of 2,500-3,000 a day.

Roussin said demand for testing continues to vary from day to day.

"We usually see a high demand for the tests in the early parts of the week, we see that diminishes as the week goes on, to usually the lowest testing day is Sunday or long weekends," he said.

However, Roussin reported 80 new cases of COVID-19 — and a stubbornly high provincial five-day test-positivity rate of 4.2 per cent. Twenty-eight people were in hospital, including six in intensive care.

New cases in Manitoba were reported in all health regions, including 51 in Winnipeg, four in Interlake-Eastern, five in Northern Health, six in Prairie Mountain, and 14 in Southern Health.

Chart showing rate of new cases in the previous 14 days per 100,000 people.

Roussin said two more Manitoba seniors — a man in his 70s and a woman in her 80s, both residents of Heritage Lodge long-term care home in west Winnipeg — have died due to COVID-19, bringing the provincial pandemic death total to 42.

Four Heritage Lodge residents have died from COVID-19 since early October. The outbreak at that facility includes one staff member and 14 residents, Roussin said.

A death reported Sunday, a woman in her 70s, was a resident at Parkview Place long-term care home, Roussin confirmed. Ten residents of the Winnipeg facility, which is dealing with a large COVID-19 outbreak, have died from the disease.

An outbreak has been declared at Misericordia Place in Winnipeg, after a resident tested positive and a second resident was exhibiting symptoms, a letter to families dated Oct. 17 stated.

Meanwhile, the province has also ironed out details to bring COVID-19 swabbing into physicians’ offices throughout Manitoba. Participating doctors can now offer a test to clients at their community clinic.

Dr. Cory Baillie, president of Doctors Manitoba, said the Dakota Medical Centre (17-845 Dakota St.) will be the first clinic in Winnipeg to offer COVID-19 testing by appointment only, starting Tuesday evening.

Chart showing daily cumulative counts of positive COVID-19 cases

"It will operate Monday to Friday from 6 to 10 p.m., and they are hoping to expand to weekends in the near future," Baillie said Monday. "Manitobans will be able to book appointments online."

Baillie said the clinic, and others to follow in the coming days and weeks, are either offering the appointments after regular hours or, if they have the space to keep people wanting tests away from regular patients, while the clinic is running.

He said Dakota is operating its testing clinic after-hours because, "They’re keeping their clinics open for their regular patients so Manitobans don’t put their health on hold."

While the province is adding additional sites and doctors offices to collect swabs, Roussin said lab capacity to process the tests hasn’t changed. Presently, the two labs the province relies on can in theory process up to a combined 3,000 samples a day, but are only able to handle about 2,500.

"We’re still looking at a number of ways to improve that capacity," Roussin said, adding the total media test turnaround time to receive a result is 60 hours.

In a release Monday, Health Minister Cameron Friesen said positive COVID-19 test results will be available on the Shared Health online portal later this week.

Previously, people who tested positive for the disease would only learn of the diagnosis in a call from a public health nurse.

Public health officials continue to contact individuals who test positive to begin contact tracing, the province said, and the portal will provide guidance on isolation while they wait to be contacted.

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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