Manitoba’s Prairie Mountain Health region will face more restrictions as it moves to the orange level under the province’s new pandemic response system, Dr. Brent Roussin says.
Starting Monday, gathering sizes in the western Manitoba area will be restricted to 10 and masks will be mandatory in public places, Roussin said at a news conference Thursday.
The group sizes won’t apply to workplaces, retail outlets or other sites already covered under other parts of the province’s reopening plans, Roussin said.
The mask requirement will apply to all indoor and outdoor public gatherings, though there will still be exceptions for medical reasons, he said.
More clusters, a higher test positivity rate and a number of large potential exposures at beaches and parks in Prairie Mountain led to the province raising the region’s level to orange, Roussin said.
More details on the specifics of the new public health orders will come over the next few days, he said.
The province unveiled a new colour-coded system on Wednesday that will allow the government to introduce COVID-19 restrictions that target specific regions, communities or industries in Manitoba.
There were 33 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Manitoba on Thursday, 17 of them in the Prairie Mountain Health region, Roussin said.
The new cases in Prairie Mountain include a boy under 10, and two age 10 to 19, the province said in a news bulletin. The other new cases in the region are a man in his 20s, a woman and three men in their 30s, five women and three men in their 40s and a man in his 50s.
That health region includes Brandon, which has a COVID-19 cluster that has reached 66 known cases, Roussin said.
There are 61 employees at the Maple Leaf Foods pork processing plant in Brandon that have tested positive for the new coronavirus, he said, and 21 of those are also part of the 66-case Brandon cluster.
The Southern Health region reported 10 new cases Thursday: two men in their 20s, a man in his 30s, a woman and a man in their 50s, two women and a man in their 60s, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 80s.
The remaining six new cases are in the Winnipeg health region: a woman and two men in their 30s, a man in his 40s and a woman and a man in their 50s, the bulletin said.
Some of Manitoba’s more recently announced COVID-19 cases have been linked to the kind of large, outdoor events that will be affected by the new health orders starting Monday, Roussin said.
He repeated that people in the province seem to have lost track of the fundamentals of physical distancing that kept Manitoba’s caseload low.
“It’s easy to see why. It’s only human, that we’ve been through a lot — challenging times — and it’s a beautiful Manitoba summer, and people want to get out and do things and see their friends and family,” he said.
“But we know that this is the result, that this virus is spread from close, prolonged contact, and so we need to increase that level of restriction right now, before things get out of hand.”
Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate, a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive, jumped to 1.9 per cent on Thursday from 1.6 per cent on Wednesday.
Thursday’s new cases brought the province’s active caseload to 247, and its total cases to 796.
To date, 537 people in Manitoba have recovered from COVID-19, Roussin said.
The number of people with COVID-19 in the province’s hospitals was not updated on Thursday because of a technical issue, Roussin said. That number will be updated in future news bulletins.
On Wednesday, there were six people in hospital, including two in intensive care.
Public health officials also announced two more possible COVID-19 exposures that happened in the province on Aug. 8. One was at Manipogo Provincial Park, located off Highway 276 on Lake Manitoba, and the other was at a soccer field at 930 First St. in Brandon, Man.
The risk of transmission is considered low, but the information is being provided to help people assess their own risk, the bulletin said.
On Wednesday, officials announced the 12th death in Manitoba linked to the new coronavirus. It was the fourth fatality connected to COVID-19 the province reported in less than a week: two others were announced on Tuesday and one on Saturday. Before that, Manitoba had not recorded a death linked to the illness since mid-July.
Premier Brian Pallister also announced Wednesday that face masks will be mandatory in Manitoba schools for students from grades 4 to 12, taking what was previously only a strong recommendation one step further. Masks will now be required for students in those grades wherever physical distancing isn’t possible.
On Wednesday, 1,596 more COVID-19 tests were completed in Manitoba, bringing the total number done since early February to 119,210.
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