Cases of COVID-19 identified in Manitoba remain at 20, after previous case ruled out

By | March 23, 2020

The number of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Manitoba remains at 20 as of Monday morning. 

Since Sunday, an additional probable case was identified, but a previous case has since been ruled out, public health officials said during their daily briefing. 

There are now 14 cases that have been confirmed at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, and six that are considered probable cases, Roussin said. 

The newest probable case is a man in his fifties who lives in Winnipeg. Officials say they believe this case is related to travel. 

The case that was ruled out was one that could not be linked to travel or any exposure to the virus, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Monday. After retesting, it has since been determined that it was a false positive, he said.

The initial test results from Cadham Provincial Laboratory indicated the sample was a “very low-level positive,” Roussin said, which officials classified as probable at the time. When public health officials were unable to get confirmation from the next round of testing at Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory, the provincial lab retested the sample and those results came back negative.

“In fact the delay was that we went out and tested that individual again, and that retest came back negative at Cadham Lab. So, based on all of that, we’ve determined that was a not a positive test the first time around,” he said.

Currently, all 20 cases that have been identified have been related to travel, Roussin said. 

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | March 23, 2020:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Monday, March 23, 2020. 53:00

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On Monday, public health officials said Manitobans travelling outside the province, either within Canada or internationally, must self-isolate upon returning to the province. Commercial truckers, and people who live in border communities and travel in and out of the province for work, are exempted, as is personal travel in border communities, including visits to a cottage, Roussin said.

Right now, testing has been limited to those who have travelled internationally and have symptoms of COVID-19. Those who are critically ill will also be tested regardless of travel history, Roussin said. The province cannot expand the testing criteria beyond that right now, because it doesn’t have the capacity to do so, Roussin said. 

“If we had the capacity right now, then we could test as many people as we wanted. We don’t. And so we we need to test people who are highest at risk of this,” he said. 

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief medical officer of health, says right now, the province only has the capacity to test people with the highest risk of contracting and becoming ill from COVID-19. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

By Monday, close to 4,300 coronavirus tests had been completed at the Cadham Provincial Laboratory. Currently, the lab has a backlog of tests, but the hope is it will be running at full capacity later this week, Roussin said. 

The biggest road block to expanding the lab’s testing capacity is the availability of testing chemicals, called reagents, Roussin said. He said the provincial lab is now looking into producing its own reagents in order to increase its testing capacity. 

Officials said Monday that testing is not the province’s only method of surveillance for coronavirus. Roussin said officials are also looking at demand for ICU beds and the number of people who are presenting to hospitals with respiratory illness. 

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, also said the province is currently seeing low volumes for emergency room visits and the number of people needing critical care in Manitoba’s hospitals, which indicates the province is not seeing COVID-19 in its hospitals yet. 

Roussin added that testing is only one component of fighting the spread of COVID-19. 

“Testing alone would not help us against COVID-19. We need all of our strategies working together,” he said. stressing the importance of social distancing and staying home if you are ill, to reduce the chances of the virus spreading. 

As of Monday afternoon, there were more than 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, and more than 20 deaths.  

Worldwide, there are now more than 335,000 cases of COVID-19 confirmed.

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