The COVID-19 case count jumped Tuesday in Manitoba, with 110 new positive tests, and outbreaks declared at an elementary school and three Winnipeg-region care homes.
Bird’s Hill School in East St. Paul has been moved to orange, restricted on the province's pandemic response system. Two classes are going to remote learning, while work is underway to ensure two metres of distance between students still attending class, officials said.
Cheryl Moore, communications co-ordinator with River East Transcona School Division, said five cases of COVID-19 had been identified within two classrooms at the grades 2 and 3 levels. On Oct. 11, public health said a person attended the school Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and 2, when they might have been infectious.
"We are moving furniture to ensure the two-metre distancing is done. Deep cleaning has been done to the affected classrooms and commonly touched surfaces, and staff are ensuring that students follow protocols regarding handwashing, mask-wearing (when required), and social distancing," Moore said.
Parents will be receiving information for optional remote learning while the risk level is elevated.
The spike Tuesday came after reported cases had dipped to double-digits over the weekend: Winnipeg led with 88 new confirmed infections; Northern Health at 11; Southern Health had seven; Prairie Mountain logged two; and Interlake–Eastern had two. The province's five-day test positivity rate was 4.3 per cent.
Public health officials said 2,149 lab tests were completed Monday, and the active case load was 1,746. Officials, however have noted a substantial backlog in reporting recoveries to the public health information system.
The number of Manitoba deaths due to COVID-19 remained at 42.
Meanwhile, public health declared outbreaks at Golden West Centennial Lodge (811 School Rd.), Misericordia Place (44 Furby St.) and Middlechurch Home of Winnipeg (280 Balderstone Rd. in West St. Paul).
The province was unable to provide the Free Press with details about the number of residents and staff infected at each site by deadline.
However, in a letter to residents, Misericordia Place long-term care director Jennifer Taylor said three residents were diagnosed with the disease, and no staff had tested positive.
In a notice posted to the care home website Monday, Golden West Centennial executive director Joyce Kristjansson said someone closely associated with the facility was diagnosed, and the site’s pandemic plan has been put into place. The home is operated by the Salvation Army and has 116 beds.
"As of today, there is no sign of any spread beyond our initial case. We are working with (Winnipeg Regional Health Authority) and Shared Health to review and ensure that all necessary precautions are in place," the statement says.
Middlechurch Home reported one staff member was diagnosed with COVID-19, and had last worked Oct. 9. The 197-bed home is run by the WRHA.
Operators are struggling to staff facilities as employees are in isolation or recovering from the novel coronavirus, said Jan Legeros, executive director of the Long Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba.
"We do have shortages throughout the province in the system," Legeros said Tuesday.
Across Winnipeg, COVID-19 outbreaks are currently active at 10 personal care homes; since mid-September, 14 residents have died after coming down with the disease. The latest epidemiology report from the province noted 34 health-care workers were infected with the virus and off work, as of Oct. 10.
All personal care homes in the Winnipeg metropolitan region have been under the critical (red) designation on the province’s pandemic response system since Oct. 15.
The latest updates on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.
The association has asked the province if it would consider implementing asymptomatic testing of personal care home staff as another way to reduce the risk of bringing the virus into facilities, Legeros said.
"I think that’s something we’ll continue to discuss and continue to raise, but right now, there’s so many challenges, so we can’t expect Shared Health and government to address every single one at the same time," he said.
On Monday, Shared Health launched a hiring campaign with postings for more than 20 casual and temporary positions, including contact tracing and personal care home nurses.
Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said she is so far disappointed by the efforts of Shared Health to recruit and retain nurses and health-care providers into the system, and called the hiring campaign a "platitude."
"There’s nothing new here. If you’re going to recruit nurses, you have to put something out there that make nurses want to come into health care," Jackson said.
Danielle Da Silva Reporter
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
Day 1 of Manitoba's new appointment-based COVID-19 system drew more than 300 bookings.
According to the province, by 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the system had received 369 COVID-19 test requests for appointments at three Winnipeg screening sites.
Approximately 700 appointments are available each day across the sites at 604 St. Mary’s Rd., 2735 Pembina Hwy. and 1181 Portage Ave. (1-855-268-4318 or using an online portal at www.manitoba.ca).
Of the tests booked Tuesday, more than 60 per cent were made online. Appointments can be booked into the future, though the majority of appointments made Tuesday were for the same day.
Appointments have been booked each day until Friday, the province noted.
First Nations community case numbers rise
According to the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team, as of Oct. 19, there were 290 active cases of COVID-19 among the province's First Nations.
Over the weekend, the active case count grew by 42, bringing the total number diagnosed to 339. There were 212 cases off-reserve and 127 cases on-reserve. Forty-six people have recovered, officials said.
The response team noted eight First Nations people were in hospital as of Monday, accounting for more than one-quarter of the province's total COVID-19 hospitalizations.