September 30, 2020

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Travel key to Manitoba's latest cases of COVID-19

Two of the three latest cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba involved truckers who drove multiple routes through the United States. (Carolyn Kaster / The Associated Press files)

Two of the three latest cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba involved truckers who drove multiple routes through the United States. (Carolyn Kaster / The Associated Press files)

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Manitoba's three latest cases of COVID-19 all involved travel from outside the province, which public health officials regard as the major ongoing risk in spreading the virus.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said two cases reported May 28 involved truckers who drove multiple routes through the United States.

The third case, announced Sunday, involved a temporary foreign worker in the Southern Health authority.

In all cases, Roussin said, recommended procedures were followed and the risk to the general public is minimal.

"It's important to note that these two individuals (the truckers) took all the right actions," he told a news briefing Monday. "They became symptomatic soon after returning. They were self-isolated, were tested, and there is unlikely to be any significant contacts in the community in this regard."

The temporary foreign worker had been in self-isolation, Roussin said. Eighteen other workers from the "same establishment" (Roussin did not say what kind) were also self-isolating. They're all undergoing testing and so far no others have exhibited symptoms.

"From the public health investigation, there is no risk to the public. The reason why we wanted to disclose it is for that reason. As we are beginning Phase 2 (of reopening the economy), we want people to be aware of where the risk is," Roussin said.

"If it's travel-related, if it's controlled, it shouldn't be a concern with the continuation of our reopening plan."

The province announced Monday long-haul truck drivers can now be tested for the novel coronavirus, even if they don't have symptoms.

Manitoba recently quietly began testing people without symptoms for COVID-19, as part of a sentinel surveillance program tracking the circulation of the virus.

Roussin said last week the program is not intended to facilitate widespread asymptomatic testing. Officials are hoping to collect a random sample of swabs from Manitobans who present at health-care facilities and community screening sites.

Patients who are to be admitted to hospital or to long-term care facilities will also be tested.

Roussin said while testing persons with symptoms of COVID-19 is more valuable, asymptomatic testing of truckers will provide "a little more of a risk reduction."

He noted testing of asymptomatic drivers will be purely voluntary and the industry is already taking numerous precautions to contain the virus. He also commended the Manitoba Trucking Association for its co-operation.

Terry Shaw, the association's executive director, said the availability of asymptomatic tests will provide greater reassurance for the industry and the general public.

"We see it as very positive," he said.

Meanwhile, the province is working on a plan to again allow patient visits in hospitals. Details will be released in the coming days.

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer with Shared Health, said Victoria General Hospital in Winnipeg, which has a lot of long-stay patients, will test outdoor visits involving medically stable patients.

This is similar to what is occurring in long-term care homes.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

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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