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Manitoba reached another milestone in the coronavirus pandemic Sunday, after two more Winnipeg seniors died after coming down with COVID-19 bringing the total number of deaths caused by the disease to 40.
Public health officials announced the deaths of a man and a woman, both in their 70s, from the Winnipeg region on Sunday. No other details about the two people, including whether they were residents at a personal care home, were available, a provincial spokeswoman said.
The province reported 44 new cases of COVID-19 as of 9:30 a.m. Sunday. New cases had been identified in the Winnipeg (25), Interlake-Eastern (9), Northern (2), Prairie Mountain (2) and Southern Health (6) health regions.
While the 44 new cases Sunday marked a dip in the record setting week for the province — which saw single day case increases reach an all time high of 173 on Oct. 15 — the five-day test positivity rate for Manitoba was at at 4.7 per cent.
On Saturday, 2,479 coronavirus test swabs were processed at the laboratory, bringing the total number of tests run since February to 225,214.
Twenty-nine people were in hospital Sunday including six in intensive care.
According to the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, as of Friday evening 11 First Nations people were in hospital fighting the disease, including two in intensive care.
The first known COVID-19 death of a First Nations individual in Manitoba was reported on Friday by the secretariat. The person was described as being older than 70s, but no other details were provided for privacy reasons.
A spokeswoman for the province said the death was reported publicly prior to Oct. 16.
"While we grieve, I want to remind all Nations, to keep up with your COVID-19 protocols," Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs grand chief Arlen Dumas said in a statement. "Remind each other that we must stay vigilant in the fight against COVID-19. Wash your hands regularly, stay home when you are ill, wear a mask, stay socially distanced and remember and respect the Northern Travel Ban restrictions."
The province reported 1,675 active cases though that number is skewed due to a backlog in data entry in reporting recoveries.
On Friday, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the number of active cases is likely closer to 1,000. The province said 1,587 people are considered recovered from COVID-19. The total number of cases identified in the province since mid-March is 3,302.
St. Boniface Hospital declared an outbreak of COVID-19 in one of its patient care units Friday after a cluster of cases was discovered at the hospital.
According to the hospital, two patients in unit E6 were found to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 as part of normal surveillance conducted at the facility.
It’s believed the two patients became infected while in the hospital.
Tests were given to all contacts who might have been exposed between Oct. 5 and 16, the hospital noted. The unit is now closed to admissions and visits are restricted according to provincial guidelines.
The unit has also been moved to red (critical) under the provincial pandemic response system though the hospital notes it is still safe for patients and other approved visitors.
All of the patients’ contacts are being traced and told to self-isolate and be tested.
Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is also investigating whether any of its clients were exposed to COVID-19 after a driver for Blueline Taxi was diagnosed with the disease.
According to the province, passengers in a four-door Prius taxi, operated by Blueline, from Oct. 3 through 9 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily, may have come into contact with the virus.
Blueline Taxi is contracted by the health authority to take clients who are otherwise unable to secure transportation to COVID-19 screening sites for testing. The transportation company is also hired to take WRHA clients to adult day programs.
Blueline president Victor Kumar said the driver was not involved in taking passengers to COVID-19 test sites, and company follows precautionary guidelines set out by the provincial government, including mask wearing and directing passengers to sit in the back seat.
"We have a particular number of set vehicles and drivers that are equipped to do those calls," Kumar said.
The company is working with public health on contact tracing and has closed its office for sanitization, he said.
"This pandemic has made it very challenging for us to serve our people but we are taking the proper measures to protect our staff and clients and will continue to do so," Kumar said. "Our drivers are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis for people that need (to) get around to places such as work, hospital appointments and day-to-day life that still needs to go on."
Additional restrictions on gatherings, retail and restaurant operations, bars, sporting events, and entertainment facilities will also go into effect in the Winnipeg metropolitan region Monday at 12:01 a.m.
A public health order is expected to be posted to the provincial government website once signed by Roussin lowering indoor and outdoor gathering sizes from 10 to five, prohibiting restaurants and lounges from seating tables with more than five people, decreasing capacity at restaurants, lounges, retail locations, museums, galleries and libraries to 50 per cent.
Beverage rooms, bars, entertainment facilities, casinos and bingo halls will be closed, according to the province.
The new restrictions will be in effect for at least two weeks.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
Updated on Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 4:18 PM CDT: Adds comments from Blueline spokesman.
4:37 PM: Adds further details from Blueline spokesman.
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