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A new public health order that takes effect Friday will allow the province to levy fines of up to $486 per day against anyone infected with COVID-19 — or their close contacts — who do not self-isolate for 14 days, as directed.
Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the order follows reports that people testing positive for the coronavirus had attended large gatherings in Brandon, where some of Manitoba's largest case clusters are located.
"We developed this order in response to some isolated situations where we determined individuals were not self-isolating as appropriate," Roussin told a news conference Thursday. "The new order provides a streamlined approach to that."
Until now, health officials have lacked the power to take swift action against those who flouted health advice. If someone did not self-isolate as directed, the province could issue a communicable disease order, wait for the person to violate the order and then apply for a further order to detain the scofflaw.
"We didn't have the ability to fine anyone," Roussin said. "So rather than having to actually detain somebody, we could just use (the new order) as a lever to say, 'You can be fined if you don't (comply).'"
Manitoba reported its 14th COVID-19 death Thursday as a second resident of the Bethesda Place personal-care home in Steinbach — a woman in her 90s — succumbed to the virus. Eight people, including five staff members, at the nursing home have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The province also reported that a staff member at the Rideau Park Personal Care Home in Brandon has tested positive.
"This individual wore personal protective equipment at all times at work and is currently self-isolating," Roussin said. Close contacts have been identified and the investigation is continuing, he added.
Health officials reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba Thursday, including nine in Prairie Mountain Health region, six in Southern Health, four in Winnipeg health region and three in the Interlake-Eastern region.
The total number of confirmed cases in Manitoba rose to 1,064. (A case previously reported on Aug. 15 was removed from the totals.) There are 407 active cases.
There are currently six patients in Manitoba hospitals with the virus, including one in intensive care.
The current five-day test positivity rate fell slightly to three per cent, from 3.1 per cent the previous day. A total of 1,429 laboratory tests were completed on Wednesday.
Effective Friday, public health orders will require Manitobans to self-isolate for 14 days if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or they have been exposed to COVID-19 by close contact. Individuals will be notified by a public health official if they must self-isolate.
Once notified, the person must stay home or in an approved self-isolation space and remain there for 14 days or until otherwise directed by a public health official. Exceptions will be made for appointments with health-care providers.
Roussin could not say what impact the refusal by some to self-isolate has had on the troublesome outbreak in Brandon. Nor could he say how often it may have occurred.
"It was an important enough trend in this specific cluster that we saw that we just wanted to make sure that we had something in place," he said referring to the new order.
Fines will be levied at the discretion of a medical officer of health, he said. Public education is still the province's main approach in encouraging compliance, he added.
Prairie Mountain Health region, which includes Brandon, has more than half the province's active cases, with 212. The Wheat City itself is home to 126 of those active cases. A further 111 have recovered from COVID-19 in Brandon.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
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