After 10 days of heightened restrictions in the Winnipeg region, the city reported its greatest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
On Thursday, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said 57 new cases had been identified in Winnipeg and the five-day test positivity rate within the city was 3.3 per cent (the national rate is 2.1 per cent).
"Make careful choice of who you spend time with and limit your amount of contacts," Roussin said, imploring the public to avoid crowded indoor spaces and to reconsider gatherings that bring together more than one household. Winnipeg and surrounding communities are "restricted" under the provincial pandemic response system, and public gatherings are limited to 10 people.
"We want people to keep focused on this, especially with this Thanksgiving weekend coming up, and we’re likely to start seeing those numbers come down if we maintain our focus," Roussin said.
In all of Manitoba, 67 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Thursday, including one in Prairie Mountain, six in Southern Health, and three in the Interlake-Eastern health region. The provincewide test positivity rate is three per cent and 2,736 tests were completed Wednesday, for a total of 200,710 since February.
“We want people to keep focused on this, especially with this Thanksgiving weekend coming up, and we’re likely to start seeing those numbers come down if we maintain our focus." — Dr. Brent Roussin
The active caseload was 863 as of Thursday after the province removed a previously reported case. Roussin cautioned that the number of active cases may be inflated as public health works through a backlog of reporting recoveries.
Twenty-five people were in hospital Thursday, including six in intensive care. Twenty-seven Manitobans have died from COVID-19.
Roussin couldn’t say what is driving the spike in cases — the previous one-day record of 56 was reported nearly two weeks ago on Sept. 25 — but noted the "vast majority" of people diagnosed with COVID-19 pick up the virus from someone they were in contact with.
"So a lot of those are households," he said. "We have certainly seen clusters or outbreaks in personal care homes, we’ve seen those related to certain bars in the past, but I don’t have any new specific ones to list."
Roussin said just seven cases in the past seven days have been considered community transmission.
With the number of hospitalizations inching upward, Roussin said the province has opened units tailored to treat COVID-19 patients, and at the moment, the health care system is able to meet demand.
"One of the biggest goals of a pandemic response is to not overwhelm your health-care systems. We’re certainly not there with these numbers, but the climb in them makes us very aware that we need to act now to prevent that," he said.
"We know that the majority of people who contract COVID-19 recover, but we know there is a relatively predictable amount of individuals that will have severe outcomes, including death," Roussin said. "So the more cases we see, we’ll see more hospitalization, we’ll see more (intensive care unit) admissions, and unfortunately we’ll see more deaths."
A troubling COVID-19 outbreak at Parkview Place Long Term Care Home in downtown Winnipeg increased by five cases Thursday. Thirty-one residents of the 277-bed facility have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the outbreak was declared on Sept. 15. Four residents have died.
Care home operator Revera Inc. said 20 residents are currently sick with COVID-19 and cases have been reported in 13 staff members (three have recovered).
"As of today, residents on all floors are also required to isolate in their rooms to help prevent any further transmission of COVID-19," Revera chief medical officer Dr. Rhonda Collins said in a statement Thursday. "Residents who have tested positive are being cohorted on two floors, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus."
Roussin said public health is in daily contact with the for-profit care home operator to ensure outbreak protocols at Parkview Place are being followed, but there’s no "specific criteria" that would trigger a visit by public health to the home. He noted typical infection prevention and control measures are in place at the facility.
"Whether they’re effective, it’s going to be time, to tell us," Roussin said. "We know that the transmission events occurred likely seven to 10 days ago, so you know we’re seeing new cases now. It’s not reflective of what they’re doing there right now.
"We’ll have to monitor that very closely but we’ve reviewed all those things that they’ve put in place, and they are satisfactory right now," he said.
Provincewide, outbreaks have been declared at 10 care homes. Roussin said the best way to prevent COVID-19 from getting into long term care facilities is for people to stem the spread of the virus in the community.
"People who are either themselves higher risk, or those people who work in high-risk activities, need to take extra caution to limit their contacts with others, because we’re all counting on them to limit that," Roussin said.
"We saw a lot of transmission in that 20- to 29-year-old group, but that risk isn’t their own. Those 20 to 29s have grandparents, have parents. They may work in the personal care homes and things," he said. "No one can claim they are only putting themselves at risk."
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.