Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Manitoba's largest COVID-19 outbreak at a personal care home has claimed two more lives, bringing the provincial death toll from the novel coronavirus to 16.
Thirteen cases — six residents and seven staff — have now been identified at Bethesda Place in Steinbach since Aug. 16. Four of the care home's 59 residents have died of the virus.
The two latest deaths were women: one in her 80s; one in her 90s. An obituary posted online identifies one of the COVID-19 victims as Elsie Janzen, who was born in 1934. She died Tuesday.
Cheryl Harrison, executive director of Southern Health, the regional authority that includes Steinbach, said infections have occurred in both wings of the 60-bed personal care home.
Since the outbreak began, the facility has undergone enhanced cleaning, barred visitors, and investigated staff use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
"We are looking at all possible contributing factors," Harrison said Thursday. "Our goal is to contain any further transmission."
Among the issues officials are investigating is whether there were times when staff may have failed to wear PPE.
"We've had some beautiful, hot summer weather. However, you can appreciate that wearing masks and eye protection can become very challenging. So, it's certainly one of the hypotheses that we're looking at," Harrison said. "And we're reinforcing the use of PPE and eye protection as an investigation (continues) to determine what could have resulted in a resident acquiring COVID."
Officials are also examining whether physical distancing has consistently occurred at lunch breaks, when staff remove face coverings to eat. Lunch breaks are staggered to try to minimize crowding, Harrison said.
Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen, who is also the Manitoba minister of education, said the community has pulled together to support the affected families.
"There's a lot of heartbreak. There's a lot of concern. But, more than that, there's a lot of love," he said.
The families have expressed appreciation for staff at both the care home and the attached hospital, where COVID-19 sufferers were cared for in their final days, he added.
Goertzen said it's also been difficult for families who are unable to visit their loved ones in Bethesda, due to the outbreak: "It's hurt that piles on hurt."
There are now seven Manitoba nursing homes with reported outbreaks of COVID-19, including two in Winnipeg. In such high-risk facilities, even if one staff member or one resident is infected with the coronavirus, an outbreak is declared.
Beacon Hill Lodge Long Term Care Home and Fred Douglas Lodge in Winnipeg have each had one staff member confirmed with the coronavirus.
In Brandon, there are outbreaks at four personal care homes — one has had a single staff member test positive, while at the other three homes, two staff members have tested positive.
Meanwhile, at the Assiniboine Centre within Brandon's hospital, there are seven cases of COVID-19, affecting five residents and two staff.
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, announced Thursday 20 new cases had been identified, bringing the Manitoba total to 1,264.
Of the new cases, 13 are in the Winnipeg health region, with six in Prairie Mountain Health, and one in Interlake-Eastern.
There are 12 persons in hospital with COVID-19, including one in intensive care. There are currently 457 active cases of the virus.
The current five-day test positivity rate is continuing to decline. It now stands at 1.3 per cent. A total of 1,339 laboratory tests were completed Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Roussin said the first fine was levied this week under a new provincial health order that requires infected persons to self-isolate for up to two weeks or face a penalty.
He provided few details in the case except to say the scofflaw lives in Prairie Mountain Health region and had been warned before the fine was levied. The fine for failing to self-isolate when ordered to do so can be as high as $486.
Roussin also committed to publicly announcing when a student or staff member at a school tests positive for COVID-19.
"We will be making it public when we have a case in a school," he said Thursday.
Asked if he's looking at mandating the wearing of face masks in all indoor public places, in light of a recent poll showing more than 80 per cent of Manitobans supporting such a move, Roussin was non-committal.
"Really, the only reason to mandate something is to increase adherence to it," he said. "And so if we have 80 per cent of Manitobans who are interested in wearing masks indoors, then we may not have to mandate it."
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.
Updated on Friday, September 4, 2020 at 1:28 PM CDT: Corrects number of care homes with cases
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.