For the first time since the pandemic began, more Manitobans have recovered from COVID-19 than are currently experiencing symptoms, public health officials says.
With no new cases reported Friday, there are now 113 active cases, while 132 have recovered, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said.
“This is thanks to the efforts of Manitobans … staying home [and] practising social distancing. We’ve seen likely some benefits from our collective work,” he said at Friday’s daily provincial COVID-19 briefing, adding he’s “cautiously optimistic.”
The total number of lab-confirmed positive and probable positive cases reported in Manitoba remains at 250, including five people who had the illness who have died.
As of Friday, eight COVID-19 patients in Manitoba are in hospital, four of whom are in intensive care.
Because of the recent flattening of the curve in the province, Roussin says he’s looking into loosening restrictions in the future.
“We’re not going to be back to pre-COVID days for the foreseeable future, but we’re sure not going to look as tight as this,” Roussin said.
The good news doesn’t mean Manitobans can relax on physical distancing measures right now either.
WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin is ‘cautiously optimistic’
“The advice is, for the most part, stay home, stay near your home. Certainly enjoy the outdoors, but try to do whatever you can to ensure you have that physical distancing,” Roussin said.
“We need to be cautious that this does not mean our risk is reduced. The virus is still in Manitoba.”
The newest public health orders, which were announced Thursday, are now in effect until May 1, he said.
They require people who travel anywhere outside the province — including to destinations within Canada — to self-isolate for 14 days when they return. The new orders also restrict travel to northern Manitoba and into remote communities with no summer road access.
Roussin also clarified existing public health orders, saying Friday that appliance stores and furniture stores that sell appliances can stay open to the public, providing physical distancing measures are in place.
He had previously said appliance, electronic and furniture stores shouldn’t be open to the public, except where orders are placed remotely and delivered, or picked up with distancing measures in place.
Meanwhile, Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said Friday that a shipment of personal protective gear earmarked for each health region has left the central warehouse and is en route to the health regions.
Noting that there have been cases of theft of protective equipment and hoarding, she said the province is taking steps to ensure it gets where it needs to go.
“In order to care for our patients, our clients, our residents, we must protect our health-care workers. So we are taking every available and appropriate step to protect our workforce from exposure to COVID-19,” Siragusa said.
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Manitoba may need more personal protective gear down the line in case there are surges in cases, so the supply will be strategically rationed, she said.
She also announced the telecom company Bell MTS has donated 1.5 million N95 masks to the province.
Addressing concerns that health-care workers who work in more than one facility — multiple long-term care homes, for example — may spread the virus, Siragusa said public health officials have had discussions with unions around limiting the number of facilities where people can work. Measures to restrict that are expected to be delivered next week, she said.
“These are not easy discussions and they are not easy to implement operationally, but they are vital to ensuring the protection of our most vulnerable patients,” she said.
The Cadham Provincial Lab performed 508 tests on Thursday, Roussin said. A total of 18,856 tests have been performed since early February.
Other kinds of testing are also being considered, he said. Serological testing, which looks at antibodies in blood to determine the prevalence of the virus in the population, is being considered for use in the province.
It hasn’t yet been approved by Health Canada, but Roussin says other jurisdictions have tested their populations to see how many people were exposed to the virus and how many actually became ill.
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