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Two more Manitobans have died from COVID-19, 77 new cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed Monday, and the test-positivity rate sits at an all-time high of 3.3 per cent, as the pandemic continues to rage, mostly in Winnipeg.
The two dead are a woman over the age of 100 who was a resident at the Parkview Place long-term care home in Central Park and a man in his forties from Winnipeg who is now the youngest person reported to have died of the virus in Manitoba thus far. The death toll has now reached 34.
As case numbers continue to climb, the province announced several sites of possible exposure to COVID-19 over the weekend.
1. East St. Paul's Bird's Hill School, Sept. 30-Oct. 1
2. St. Pierre-Jolys' Ecole Heritage Immersion, Sept. 29-30
3. Portage la Prairie's North Memorial School, Sept. 28-30, Oct. 1,2 and 5
4. Winnipeg's St. Joseph the Worker School, Oct. 1-2 (8:15 a.m. - 3 p.m.)
5. Winnipeg's Elwick Community School, Sept. 30, Oct. 1-2
6. Winnipeg's Fit4Less gym, 1399 McPhillips St., Oct. 2 (4 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.) and Oct. 3 (3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.)
7. Winnipeg Transit Routes 66 and 78, Portage Ave. and St. Charles to Grant at Cambridge, and from Cambridge at Mathers to Waverley at McGillivray, Oct. 9 (app. 6:20 a.m - 6:47 a.m., and 6:54 a.m. - 7 a.m.)
8. Winnipeg Transit Routes 78 and 22, Waverley at McGillivray to Polo Park, and Polo Park to Portage at St. Charles, Oct. 9 (app. 4:25 p.m. - 4:50 p.m., and 5 p.m. - 5:45 p.m.)
9. Brandon Transit Route 17, from Princess Avenue and 11th Street to 10th Street and Queens Avenue, Oct. 4 and 6 (app. 5:30 p.m.)
An updated list of possible exposure sites can be found at gov.mb.ca/covid19. The COVID-19 Alert app is also now available for download in Manitoba.
Continuing a negative trend for the capital city, the majority (56) of the newly reported cases were reported in the Winnipeg health region, which, at 965 active cases, continues to experience an unprecedented surge in virus spread two weeks after orange-level restrictions were implemented. Of 1,135 cases currently active, nearly nine in 10 are found in the region; the region with the next-highest total of active cases is the Interlake-Eastern, with 86.
At Parkview Place, a 263-bed facility on Edmonton Street, there are currently 43 active cases of COVID-19 among the residents, and the site has been considered an outbreak point since Sept. 17. Seven residents have died, according to a statement from operator Revera Inc.’s chief medical officer, and 57 residents and 17 staff have tested positive to date, with 14 active cases. All staff who have tested positive are self-isolating at home, the statement said.
"The team at Parkview Place is devastated by this loss and offers their deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the person who passed," Dr. Rhonda Collins said Monday of the latest resident to die.
At the centre, signs in the windows announcing the outbreak to passersby. One woman who showed up around 2:30 p.m. for her first shift at the centre, and was met by two screeners in full PPE and yellow smocks; Collins said all staff are screened at the start and end of their shifts. Residents are monitored for symptoms twice daily, and those who test positive are being cohorted on two designated floors to prevent the spread of the virus. All residents are self-isolating in their rooms.
Jan Legaros, the executive director of the Long Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba, called the outbreak at Parkview tragic; nearly all of the residents are impacted by one or more underlying physiological condition, as well as cases of dementia, making them among the most vulnerable groups in the city.
"It’s certainly been very tragic, sad and heartbreaking for family and staff," Legaros said. "Every single resident of Manitoba is affected, and we all need to do our part to follow public health guidelines."
Though the province implemented in the Winnipeg region orange-level restrictions — no gatherings of more than 10 people, and mandatory mask use at all public indoor places — the virus’s spread within the affected area has continued. Over the three-day Thanksgiving weekend, a total of 171 cases were reported in Winnipeg, and 228 provincewide.
Among those 228 were "a small number" of confirmed cases amongst staff at three provincial correctional facilities — Milner Ridge, Headingley and the Winnipeg Remand Centre — a provincial spokesperson said. They couldn’t confirm how many staff or inmates were potentially exposed or were required to quarantine.
In the Winnipeg region, the orange-level restrictions were anticipated to take at least two weeks, or one incubation period, to show significant effects, public health physician Dr. Joss Reimer said on Sunday, making this week a crucial one for the virus’s spread to slow.
While every demographic is at risk, the virus has proven most lethal amongst populations with underlying health conditions, epidemiologist Cynthia Carr said. The active caseload has continued to tick upward in Winnipeg, and with 16 deaths in the last three weeks, as compared to 18 in the first six to seven months of the pandemic, the virus is now reaching those vulnerable groups with greater frequency, she said Saturday.
The province announced Monday that Winnipeg's Shaughessy Park School has been identified as a site of possible exposure, with the affected person attending the school from Sept. 29 through Oct. 5.
Shaughnessy Park, a nursery through Grade 8 program in the Winnipeg School Division, has an enrolment of 471 students. The division's spokesperson said that a total of 44 staff and students have been advised to quarantine while self-monitoring for symptoms.
The spokesperson said the division was informed by public health of the possible exposure Sunday afternoon, at which point a letter was sent to families associated with the school.
The province said in a bulletin that the virus was not believed to have been acquired at school.
The provincial spokesperson didn’t provide any information as to whether the man in his forties had any underlying physiological conditions, but indicated Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, would likely have more information Tuesday.
At Parkview Place, the site is in relative lockdown mode, with temporary barricades erected in front of the door and entrants required to be screened at the door. Dr. Collins said the facility is undergoing enhanced cleaning, and that the company continues to do all it can to keep residents and staff safe.
But the responsibility to protect the vulnerable is also in everyone's hands, Legaros said. It's imperative the public strictly adheres to mandatory guidelines in order to prevent similarly tragic outcomes at other care homes, she said.
"One of the reasons we’re seeing this huge increase in cases at personal care homes is because the caseload in the community is so high," she said. "COVID can’t walk by itself. It has to be carried, and you and I are the carriers."
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
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