Manitoba has identified its 19th COVID-19 case, the province said late Saturday afternoon.
The patient is a woman in her 30s who lives in Winnipeg, the province said in its latest bulletin. It’s believed the case is travel-related.
At a news conference earlier Saturday, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief medical health officer, said the province had identified its 18th case, which involves a woman in her 50s who lives in Winnipeg. The case was identified March 19 and also appears to be related to travel.
All of the 19 cases in province to date are believed to be related to travel, with the exception of one case that Roussin said is still being investigated.
“There’s a lot of aspects to that case that are not concerning to me [in regards to] community transmission,” Roussin said. “We’ll let the public know as soon as we have any information, but I’m not concerned about community-based transmission at this point.”
Roussin cautioned against reading too much into the low number of new cases over the past couple of days. No new cases were announced Thursday or Friday in Manitoba.
“We can’t look at the day-to-day numbers and make anything of that,” Roussin said. “Obviously, we like to see days with no cases. But seeing this, we can’t make any judgment based on just having a couple days without a case.”
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | March 21, 2020:
The province’s Cadham Provincial Laboratory has completed more than 3,300 tests for COVID-19, Roussin said on Saturday. More than 300 of those tests were completed on Friday, all of which came back negative.
Winnipeg’s first community screening drive-thru site has now opened at the Manitoba Public Insurance Bison Drive Service Centre at 15 Barnes St. Employees cleared the site earlier this week to make way for the testing site.
The site is the province’s 11th testing location and third drive-thru. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Winnipeg has four other dedicated testing sites. There are also sites in Brandon, Selkirk, Steinbach, Thompson, The Pas and Flin Flon. Their specific locations can be found on the Shared Health website.
More than 3,400 people have visited the sites since they opened, including 403 on Friday alone.
The sites are by referral only, Roussin said. Only Manitobans who have respiratory symptoms and have travelled internationally, or have been advised they’re close contacts to known cases, will get referred by Health Links for a test, Roussin said.
Public health order doesn’t apply to workplaces
A new, interactive voice response tool is up and running for Manitobans to self-screen before calling Health Links, said Lanette Siragusa, the province’s chief nursing officer.
The tool is not replacement for Health Links, but Manitobans can use it as an alternative to the province’s online self-assessment tool to determine if they need to call Health Links, Siragusa said.
You can reach the interactive voice response self-screening tool at 1-877-308-9038.
Health Links received more than 2,200 calls on Friday, and the average wait time for the service was about 49 minutes, Siragusa said — down from more than two hours earlier this week. The province’s online self-assessment tool has seen 206,000 hits since its launch, she said.
The province declared a state of emergency to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday. Under the public health order, public gatherings over 50 people are banned, which means places like gyms, bingo halls and fitness centres must be closed.
It also imposes a 50-person limit on any shopping centres, groceries, pharmacies or retailers that remain open — provided they keep people one to two metres apart — and restricts bars and live performance venues to 50 people or half capacity, whatever is lower.
On Saturday, Roussin clarified the order does not currently apply to workplaces, except for ones that were explicitly told to close like gyms or fitness centres.
He said public health officials are constantly assessing and re-assessing the need for further restrictions every day.
“Putting these immediate restrictions on workplaces could result in job loss, layoffs and things. So all of these things need to be considered,” Roussin said.
“Right now, based on the dynamics we’re seeing in Manitoba, this is what we feel is the best way to protect Manitobans.”
Siragusa took time to thank students at Brandon’s King George School who made cards for health-care workers responding to the pandemic. Grade 7 and 8 students in the Youth Revolution Group made the artwork for the cards earlier this week, she said.
“It’s these kind of gestures that help inspire front-line staff working long hours to keep going,” said Siragusa.
Health-care workers across the province are feeling the impact of COVID-19 and preparing for what comes next, she said. The province is doing what it can to support them, she said.
“We certainly want to make sure that when we’re ramping up services, that we make sure we provide the adequate support to increase the volumes,” she said.
The province monitors sick time and overtime, she said.
“This is a lot of work that they are being put under,” she said. “We’re very proud of the work that they’re doing.”
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