There are eight more deaths and 133 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba on Thursday, ending a two-day run when new case counts were below 100.
There were 94 new cases on Tuesday and 95 on Wednesday.
Of the 133 cases on Thursday, the Northern Health Region was hit hardest with 61. A new outbreak has also been declared in that region, at St. Paul’s Personal Care Home in The Pas.
That facility has now been moved to the red, or critical, level on the province’s pandemic response system.
The Winnipeg health region has 29 of the latest cases, while there are 19 new ones in the Prairie Mountain Health region, 17 in the Interlake-Eastern health region and seven in the Southern Health region.
All but one of the latest Manitoba deaths — a woman in her 60s from the Winnipeg region — are connected to known outbreaks.
A woman in her 80s, from the Interlake–Eastern health region, is linked to the outbreak at the Beausejour Hospital. Another woman in her 80s, from the Southern Health region, is linked to the outbreak at Heritage Life Personal Care Home.
The other five deaths are from the Winnipeg health region, including two women in their 90s linked to the outbreak at the Charleswood Care Centre. A woman in her 70s is linked to the outbreak at the Southeast Personal Care Home while a woman in her 90s is linked to the outbreak at the St. Norbert Personal Care Home, and another woman in her 90s is linked to the outbreak at the Convalescent Home of Winnipeg.
The province has not had a day when deaths have been in double digits since Jan. 19.
The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Manitoba is now 821.
A total of 2,263 tests were completed Wednesday, leading to a five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate of 8.7 per cent provincially and 5.4 per cent in Winnipeg.
That statistic hasn’t been that low in Winnipeg since October. The last time the province was around 8.7 was the first week of November.
An outbreak has been declared over at the Samaritan House Ministry and Safe and Warm Shelter in Brandon.
Asymptomatic cases at care homes
Meanwhile, a rapid testing program introduced at three personal care homes has turned up three cases in asymptomatic people, Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, said Thursday
Staff at Winnipeg’s Donwood Manor and Deer Lodge Centre, as well as those at Country Meadows Personal Care Home in Neepawa, have been offered voluntary access to the tests since late December.
It’s part of a pilot program to broaden surveillance testing for COVID-19.
As of Jan. 21, a total of 1,422 tests have been taken and three positive cases have turned up, Siragusa said.
It’s difficult to speculate what potential outcome was avoided by detecting those cases, she said.
“That’s the funny thing about public health — if you prevent something, and it works, then you don’t actually see what you prevented,” Siragusa said. “But sure, these outbreaks could have caused a greater outbreak and impacted residents. And of course, these are one of our most vulnerable populations.
“It’s such a contagious virus. The fact that we caught three is good … it’s a good news story, for sure.”
The province is currently reviewing where it wants to go from here with the pilot program, as well as speaking to the operators of Manitoba’s 125 personal care homes about the risks and benefits and resource implications of having rapid testing on site.
“It’s been really busy in the PCHs and we don’t want to take away from patient care, but we do also want to make sure that we provide that extra layer of safety for them,” Siragusa said.
“So we’re just having those conversations now and I expect we’ll be making an announcement in the very near future about the next steps of that plan.”
‘Leave-no-trace’: new quarantine order
A new mandatory quarantine order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, requiring people to spend 14 days in isolation at home, a hotel or elsewhere after showing up in Manitoba.
The travel restriction is designed to stop non-essential travel, by land or by air, and applies to people visiting the province and returning Manitobans, he said.
The measure was prompted out of an abundance of caution in response to variant strains of the coronavirus showing up in other provinces, he said.
Premier Brian Pallister announced the order two days ago but the exact wording, and exemptions, weren’t released until Thursday afternoon.
On Thursday, Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, clarified the new rules will not apply to Manitobans returning from visiting cottages just on the other side of the Ontario border. But they must go and come back without interacting with other people, he said.
“It’ll follow similarly to what we had in the spring. Call it kind of a leave-no-trace approach,” Atwal said.
Manitobans must also observe all Ontario public health rules and avoid using local services while there, he said.
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