Health workers will now ask people who test positive for COVID-19 in Manitoba about their ethnicity to see whether the illness is affecting some groups more than others.
Responses to questions about race, ethnicity and Indigenous identity are voluntary, and the information is held securely, Manitoba Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said at the daily briefing about COVID-19 in Manitoba, where the change was announced.
The information can help make sure the province’s pandemic response doesn’t exclude anyone, she said.
The province has been working toward collecting the data for a while, including consulting with First Nations communities to create an agreement on how it will be done, Siragusa said.
It’s common for contact-tracing staff to ask for that information when looking into transmission of other viruses, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said.
“It’s certainly not unique to COVID,” he said. “It all begins with accurate data collection.”
There are four new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, bringing the total to 279, Roussin said at the news conference.
Only 38 of those cases are considered active, Roussin said.
The new cases are three men in their 30s and a woman in her 70s.
There have been 25 cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba related to health care, and in addition, eight workers were infected by exposure through travel, Siragusa said. Nineteen of those people have recovered, she said.
In the past week, 601 health-care workers have been tested for COVID-19, she said.
Staff are no longer allowed to work in more than one licensed personal care home in the province — a public health restriction announced earlier that’s intended to prevent the spread of the virus among vulnerable people living in those homes.
Health officials said all 127 personal care homes in the province have confirmed they are ready and have staff in place to adjust to the restriction.
More test sites, education coming
Another drive-thru COVID-19 testing site is open in Swan River, Man., at the Manitoba Public Insurance building at 125 Fourth Ave. N. That site will be open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The province also is planning a new testing site at Thunderbird House in downtown Winnipeg. That site will help make sure more people experiencing homelessness or who use shelters in Winnipeg have access to testing, health officials said.
There also will be a new mobile testing service for people with limited mobility available in the next two weeks.
There are currently five people in hospital with COVID-19, none of them in intensive care.
The number of Manitobans with COVID-19 who have died is still six.
On Thursday, 689 tests for COVID-19 were done at the Cadham Provincial Laboratory. That brings the total number of tests done in Manitoba to 25,402.
While Premier Brian Pallister announced this week some restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Manitoba will be lifted starting Monday, health officials said people still need to practise physical distancing and avoid unnecessary travel.
The province is now trying to communicate that message to campers and cottagers by putting portable signs and education stops on certain highway routes in Manitoba, encouraging people to be mindful of the rules and recommendations still in place.
The “COVID careful” campaign will also include materials that can be put up in car and cottage windows and messages on social media.
As some parts of Manitoba start to reopen, the province will stay focused on educating people who break the rules by giving out warnings, Roussin said — but he did not rule out hiring additional inspectors or conservation officers if enforcement needs to be expanded.
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