A truck driver who travelled outside the province and one of his close household contacts are the two new cases of COVID-19 announced in Manitoba on Friday.
Both men — one in his 20s and the other in his 30s — are in the Winnipeg health region, provincial data shows.
Public health officials are still looking into both cases. Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin could not say whether there were possibly other people exposed.
The update means three of the last four cases identified in the Winnipeg region have been truck drivers. Last week, two other truck drivers tested positive for COVID-19.
In May, there was also an outbreak of the illness at a Brandon trucking company, Paul’s Hauling, though the company said none of the people infected were drivers. In total, 11 people connected with that workplace got COVID-19.
Health officials are working closely with the Manitoba Trucking Association and have offered drivers who leave the province regularly the option to be tested even if they don’t show symptoms of the virus.
However, they will not be forced to be tested, Roussin said at a news conference Friday.
“They’re doing everything correct: watching for symptoms very closely, getting tested as soon as any symptoms develop and limiting those contacts,” he said.
“We know [trucking is] necessary for the transportation of goods. We need that. And so we need to accept some level of risk for it, but from all of these indicators, things are being done right.”
WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin talks about risk of truckers getting COVID-19:
All COVID-19 tests for people in another cluster involving temporary foreign workers in the Southern Health region have been completed, Roussin said. None of those people went to work during their self-isolation period, and the number of cases connected with that outbreak is still four, he said.
The update on Friday brings the total number of cases in the province to 300, nine of which are active and 284 of which have recovered.
Roussin said people who don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19 still aren’t being encouraged to get tested for the virus. The value of testing people who aren’t symptomatic is low, especially because Manitoba’s positive test rate in the past week was about 0.2 per cent, he said.
On Thursday, 671 COVID-19 tests were done, bringing the total number of tests completed in Manitoba to 47,372.
Roussin also gave details on plans to determine how many Manitobans may have had COVID-19 without knowing it.
Manitoba’s initial round of seroprevalence testing for antibodies will likely focus on a sample of people who are already having blood work done for other reasons, Roussin said, although he still doesn’t know how soon those tests might happen.
Those samples will be used as indicators to give the province a better idea of how many Manitobans have had the virus.
More hospital visits, fewer test site hours
Starting Friday, some hospitals in Manitoba loosened restrictions around allowing visitors, said Manitoba Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa. Visits apply to those in inpatient care (people staying in hospital long-term), not outpatient care (people coming for tests and other short-term stays).
Other facilities will loosen those restrictions starting Monday, so people should check with facilities before showing up, she said. The relaxed restrictions do not yet apply to personal care homes in the province.
Siragusa said 117 people have stayed in the province’s self-isolation shelter program for people experiencing homelessness since it launched on April 10. She said 10 new people started self-isolating there last week, and seven people are staying there right now.
The province’s hotel program for people who can’t safely self-isolate at home has been used by 31 people since it launched on April 4, Siragusa said. One new person has gone there in the past week, and a total of 13 people are self-isolating there now.
On average, the self-isolation centres have about seven people staying in them every day, she said.
The chief nursing officer also noted that some COVID-19 testing sites would be closed on Sundays due to low numbers, including those in Portage la Prairie, Steinbach and Winkler plus the site at Thunderbird House in Winnipeg.
Roussin stressed the need for people to stay home if they show any symptoms of the virus.
He also encouraged employers to examine their sick leave policies to make it easy for people to stay home from work if they start showing symptoms.
“The alternative is that they come to work when they should be self-isolating,” he said.
Roussin also said it’s a “good option,” though not mandated, to wear a face mask in places like transit buses where it can be difficult to practise physical distancing.
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