As Manitoba cases jump by 25 in a day, top doctor says ‘it’s not too late’ to slow the spread of COVID-19

By | March 28, 2020

On Saturday, Manitoba saw its biggest jump in COVID-19 cases since the virus was first detected in the province just over two weeks ago.

The 25 new cases, which bring Manitoba’s total to 64, represent the kind of shift the province’s top doctor has been warning about — and the kind of shift that increases the chance the coronavirus will start spreading from person to person across communities.

“We know that, as more and more of this virus is introduced into the province, the more likely it is that we’re going to start seeing that community transmission,” chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference Saturday morning.

Roussin also announced that another COVID-19 patient has landed in the intensive care unit.

The case marks the province’s second hospitalization for the virus. The first was a Winnipeg woman in her 60s, who died Friday after she was admitted to an intensive care unit in critical condition the previous week. 

As of Saturday morning, the total number of deaths in the province related to the coronavirus remains at one.

WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin talks about staying connected while social distancing:

Manitoba chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says people need to stay away from large gatherings like worship services and find other ways to stay connected with their communities. 0:42

Roussin said the new cases aren’t anything to panic about.

“These are numbers that we’ve been planning, all along, to see,” he said. “It’s what we’ve been preparing for.”

The province is still looking into how the new patients got the virus, and whether they could have spread it to anyone else.

On Friday, a record 919 tests were completed in Manitoba, bringing the provincial total to 7,147.

Roussin said some of the COVID-19 patients in Manitoba have already recovered, though he did not have specific numbers on Saturday. He said the province is going to be able to start publicly reporting on recovered cases soon.

No community spread yet

Roussin said all the cases of COVID-19 the province has investigated are directly connected to travel or contact with known cases of COVID-19, though officials are still investigating many of the most recent cases.

He said while there’s no evidence of “pop-up” community transmission in the province yet, Manitobans should be arming themselves with knowledge and staying home if they can to get ahead of the virus.

“It’s time for action. And so if you haven’t been able to implement those social distancing strategies yet, start today. It’s not too late,” he said.

“We can make a substantial difference in the transmission dynamics, but we need everyone to act.”

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Roussin said part of the reason for the significant jump in cases is that the province made the switch to only announce new cases once a day, when it previously made one announcement in the morning and another later in the day — so some of the cases announced Saturday morning had already been identified Friday night.

Manitoba Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said as more people are heeding provincial warnings to stay at home, health-care workers are noticing a side effect of all that free time.

WATCH | Lanette Siragusa says to be careful while working on projects in self-isolation:

Manitoba Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa says finding new ways to spend your time at home is good, but you need to be careful if you’re using tools you don’t have experience with. 0:51

She said health officials heard from a Manitoba surgeon that more people are taking on projects that involve power tools, and not all of them have the skills required to operate them safely.

“There’s some injuries happening,” Siragusa said. “We’re not telling you how to live your life, because we’ve kind of put enough orders in place, but just be mindful and careful and take care of yourselves.”

New restrictions starting Monday

Roussin reiterated that the measures the province has taken under the Public Health Act will come into effect on Monday, including limiting public gatherings to 10 people and requiring retail businesses like grocery stores to make sure people are one to two metres apart.

This new measure bolsters what was previously only a recommendation.

He said it’s important for people to stay away from large gatherings like worship services to slow the virus’s spread.

Watch the full news conference here:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Saturday, March 28, 2020. 40:48

Hours after announcing the new measures on Friday, the province said it has also introduced five provincial border checkpoints, where travellers will be informed about the risk of COVID-19 and the need for self-isolation. The campaign will also include signs at the Winnipeg and Brandon airports.

Earlier Friday, the province announced it’s launching an online counselling program for people dealing with anxiety related to the pandemic. The resource, which is expected to be available in two weeks, will pair people with a therapist for a 12-week cognitive behavioural therapy curriculum to help ease their symptoms.

New community testing sites in Portage and Eriksdale opened yesterday, and tested 19 and six people respectively.

National roundup:

A community testing site will officially open Monday in Pine Falls on Monday at École Powerview School, and will be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. That site had an unofficial launch on Friday, and tested 18 people.

Lab staff from Dynacare have been brought in to help address the backlog of people waiting for negative test COVID-19 test results. They called about 800 people on this list on Friday, and will continue on Monday.

The province has been giving daily updates on the virus since the first case was detected in Manitoba on March 12.

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