Manitoba’s five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is now 3.1 per cent, health officials say, the highest proportion of tests that have come back positive since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were 25 new cases confirmed on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases in Manitoba to 408.
The test positivity rate is high because of positive results related to targeted testing in known clusters in Manitoba, the province’s daily news release says.
Among Wednesday’s new cases, there are nine in the Winnipeg health region, eight in the Prairie Mountain Health region and one in the Interlake-Eastern health region, the release says.
There are seven new cases in the Southern Health region, including one linked to the outbreak at the Bethesda Place personal care home in Steinbach, Man., the release says. The province did not say whether the new case affects a resident or a staff member at the care home, where a resident with COVID-19 recently died.
A total of eight people connected to the care home are now confirmed to have contracted the virus, the release says.
Public health officials are still investigating the new cases, and will only give more information if there’s a risk to public health, the release says.
This is the first time the test positivity rate has passed three per cent in Manitoba, which Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin has previously said would suggest significant community-based transmission and could lead the province to bring back restrictions to slow the virus’s spread.
On Monday, Roussin said that’s still on the table — but he downplayed the significance of the record high rate.
“It’s a bit skewed when a huge part of that positive test proportion is related to tight clusters,” he said.
“It’s a bit misleading, that number, when it’s this high.”
There are eight people with COVID-19 in hospital in Manitoba, including one in intensive care, the release says.
Public health officials also announced three more possible COVID-19 exposures: two in Brandon, Man., and one in Wasagaming, Man. The risk of transmission is low, but people are being given the information to assess their own risk, the release says.
One of them was at the GoodLife Fitness gym at 1570 18th St. in Brandon on Aug. 18 and 19 from 8 to 10 p.m. on both days.
Another was at the Coffee Culture Café and Eatery at 510 First St. in Brandon on Aug. 18 from 2 to 8 p.m.
The third location is the Foxtail Café at Highway 10 and Victor Avenue in Wasagaming on Aug. 11, 14 and 17. Times will be put on the province’s website when they are available.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Premier Brian Pallister said he’s not fazed by the province leading the country in per capita active COVID-19 cases.
“I didn’t, as you will all remember, run any victory laps when we were last on COVID numbers, and I’m not going to lose my confidence in our health officials at this point, either,” he said at a news conference.
“What gives me confidence is knowing that we have capable people and smart people in this province that are going to get us back on track.”
Pallister reminded Manitobans to go back to the fundamentals of physical distancing and good hand hygiene, and called on people to stop spreading misinformation that contradicts advice given by public health officials.
He said he’s heard of several instances of people in Manitoba throwing a “temper tantrum” when they’re asked to wear a face mask in public places that require it, and he reiterated the benefits of wearing masks in spaces where distancing isn’t possible.
“We’re not inventing the science. The science is evolving and the research that is happening is advancing our understanding of COVID,” he said.
“I just encourage people who aren’t health experts not [to] position themselves as such. I think that’s dangerous.”
To date, 622 people with COVID-19 in Manitoba have recovered from the illness, and 13 have died.
The latest fatality linked to COVID-19 in the province was the resident at Bethesda Place, a woman in her 90s whose death was announced on Tuesday.
Another four of the province’s COVID-19 fatalities happened in the last two weeks. Before that, a death linked to the illness had not been recorded in Manitoba since July 22.
On Tuesday, 1,206 COVID-19 tests were done in Manitoba, bringing the total number done since early February to 129,409.
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