Manitobans can expect to get more details about where new COVID-19 cases are popping up by the end of the week, but it’s not yet clear how specific that information will be.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen said Monday the province will begin releasing more “nuanced” geographical breakdowns of where new cases emerge beginning later this week — a significant shift since the virus arrived in the province five months ago
Up until now, the province has generally only identified the regional health authority of new cases, occasionally offering more pointed information depending on the public health risk in those areas.
Moving forward those regions will be split down into finer zones or districts, said Friesen.
The impetus for the shift is that the province knows more now than it did in March when the coronavirus officially arrived in Manitoba, he said.
“We don’t think there’s any benefit in someone knowing that someone has COVID-19 that lives four blocks down from you or down the street, but it’s this balancing act of providing good information in a timely way to Manitobans and then of course on the other side making sure there isn’t a negative effect from over-identification.”
Another change that’s on the way is linked to hard-hit communities, said Manitoba’s chief public health officer.
Dr. Brent Roussin suggested that if things get out of control, certain communities in particular could see a return to past restrictions.
“As we move forward our approach is to not have widespread restrictions, take a much more surgical approach as any restrictions are required,” said Dr. Brent Roussin.
He said health officials don’t yet have anything too specific in mind. He didn’t share a possible timeline for region-specific restrictions.
But Roussin made the comments Monday after announcing 16 new cases and addressing a cluster in Brandon that has soared to at least 64.
Most of the active cases are in Prairie Mountain and Southern health regions.
There are early signs of community spread in Brandon, which is when health officials are unable to confirm where someone got the virus, but most of the clusters cases have a known source, he said.
That’s why Brandon hasn’t been hit with restrictions — yet.
“We’re certainly talking about Brandon where we see this cluster,” he said. “That area should be taking extra caution.”
Roussin acknowledged increasing enforcement is an option but he would prefer to see businesses, organizations and individual take actions now to prevent that.
“By messaging, by things that Manitobans have learned, this is our opportunity to live with the virus, not shut things down,” he said.
“It shouldn’t be necessary to have to enforce these things to protect the health of Manitobans, but we will.”
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