Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister delivered a blunt message to people who ignore public health orders after officials warned they are seeing too many COVID-19 cases with large numbers of close contacts, putting strain on the province’s health system.
“Thoughtful Manitobans are making sacrifices, tough sacrifices … while other people are doing dumb things, and those dumb things are endangering all of us,” Pallister said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
“Grow up. Stop going out there and giving people COVID.”
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says contact tracers are having trouble identifying close contacts of known cases because many people can’t remember everyone they’ve been in contact with.
“If that would be difficult for you, it probably means you’ve had way too many contacts over that period of time,” Roussin said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Roussin announced 100 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, with 80 people in hospital, a test positivity rate of 7.1 per cent and another death at the Parkview Place Long Term Care Home.
Many of the new cases are linked to social gatherings, including Thanksgiving, he said.
Lack of disclosure, gatherings
In one case, someone went for a medical procedure without disclosing that they had been in close contact with a known COVID-19 case, which meant dozens of health-care workers, including an entire surgical team, had to self-isolate for two weeks.
One person who tested positive had a gathering at their home, exposing many people.
Another person who likely acquired COVID-19 at a faith-based gathering visited a personal care home, beginning an outbreak at the facility, Roussin said.
In another case, a person attended a funeral in Lake Manitoba First Nation on Oct. 12 while they were infectious but did not have symptoms.
“We’re in a pandemic. We have to expect to see cases … but what we shouldn’t expect and what we shouldn’t accept are people having 50 contacts, or people going to work when they’re ill, or people not being forthcoming with health-care providers,” Roussin said.
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Last week, the province had 831 new cases, bringing the total number of cases in Manitoba since the beginning of the pandemic to 4,349, and if that trend continues, the province could reach a total of 5,000 cases by the end of the week, Roussin said.
Strain on hospitals
Roussin’s warning came on a day when he announced a record-setting 80 people with COVID-19 in hospital in Manitoba.
The death announced Monday was a woman in her 80s connected to the outbreak at Parkview Place, which brings the number of deaths at the personal care home to 18.
A total of 55 people have now died from COVID-19 in Manitoba.
The number of Manitobans in hospital with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus has risen sharply, more than doubling over the course of about a week, from what was a record-breaking 29 on Oct. 18.
The number of patients in intensive care nearly doubled over the last few days, from eight on Oct. 22 to 15 on both Sunday and Monday.
Roussin was joined at the news conference by Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, for the first time since Aug. 4.
He called it “disappointing” that she had to return to give updates on the state of the health-care system.
Siragusa said the health system still had capacity in both medical and intensive care units.
“However, if we continue to see increases like this, we will likely need to implement some of the measures that we took in the spring,” such as postponing elective or non-urgent procedures to free up capacity, she said.
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Health-care workers are under increasing stress, Siragusa said.
“It does feel like it’s on the brink,” she said.
Record-high test-positivity rate
The five-day test-positivity rate — a rolling average of the number of tests that come back positive for COVID-19 — has also risen rapidly to hit the 7.1 per cent announced on Monday. The test-positivity rate in the Winnipeg Health region is 8.3 per cent, and in the Northern Health region it is 4.8 per cent.
Nearly three-quarters of the new cases, 73, are in the Winnipeg health region. In the Northern Health region, which moved to the orange, or restricted, level on the province’s pandemic response system on Monday, 10 new cases were confirmed.
There were 11 new cases in the Southern Health region, five in the Interlake-Eastern health region and one in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
The new numbers come as stricter COVID-19 control measures come into effect in Winnipeg schools as well as in northern Manitoba.
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The rules in northern Manitoba are now the same as those in place in the Winnipeg area, including a five-person cap on gatherings.
The strain on the health-care system includes an outbreak at St. Boniface Hospital that spread to a third unit last week. One person connected to the outbreak has died and 31 people — 22 patients and nine workers — have tested positive.
The provincial government also released its latest weekly COVID-19 surveillance report for the week of Oct. 11 to 17 on Monday.
The report says 156 health-care workers had the virus, 27 more than the week before. The new cases included four nurses and eight health-care aides.