Manitoba’s top doctor to speak as COVID-19 outbreaks grow in high-risk settings across province

Manitoba’s chief public health officer is set to give his twice-weekly COVID-19 update on Thursday afternoon.

CBC News will live stream Dr. Brent Roussin’s news conference here at 12:30 p.m.

The update comes amid growing COVID-19 case numbers in several high-risk settings in Manitoba.

As of Wednesday, 27 employees at the province’s largest poultry plant had tested positive for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. A spokesperson for the province said the cases at the Blumenort, Man., plant appear to be the result of community transmission.

A representative for Exceldor Cooperative, the company that runs the plant formerly known as Granny’s Poultry, said many of the site’s employees carpool to work together.

A COVID-19 outbreak at St. Boniface Hospital had closed two units as of Thursday; 11 patients and five staff had contracted the illness. That outbreak is linked to the site’s E5 and E6 medical units, where no new patients and no visitors will be allowed for now. The rest of the hospital is still open, with clinics and procedures continuing.

An 11th death linked to the outbreak at Winnipeg’s Parkview Place personal care home was also announced on Wednesday, as the site struggles with the province’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak to date. A review done this weekend by a team of health officials found changes are needed immediately at the care home.

That inspection came after CBC News reported that the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, which provides funds and oversight to the care home, had not sent a staff member inside the privately owned, for-profit site since March.

The review also followed a CBC report on Monday that found the latest provincial inspection of Parkview Place identified major concerns linked to cleanliness and infection control — including evidence of cockroaches and dirty washrooms that smelled of urine.

Another two deaths announced on Monday were linked to Winnipeg’s Heritage Lodge personal care home.

Meanwhile, a COVID-19 outbreak at Headingley Correctional Centre had spread to 29 inmates and three staff as of Wednesday, a provincial spokesperson confirmed. There was also a positive case identified at the Manitoba Youth Centre in Winnipeg, the spokesperson said.

Manitoba health officials are also dealing with a backlog in contact tracing that has left some Winnipeggers waiting days to hear from contact tracers after testing positive for COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Manitoba also ramped up its fines for people violating COVID-19 orders, more than doubling individual fines from $486 to $1,296. Businesses flouting public health rules can now be fined $5,000, up from $2,542.

Manitoba marked its third-highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, three-quarters of them in the Winnipeg health region. The new cases came just over a week after the Thanksgiving long weekend — which Roussin said on Monday marks the period when any cases linked to holiday gatherings would appear.

The province also announced its second COVID-19 outbreak at a school on Tuesday, after five cases were identified at Bird’s Hill School in East St. Paul. The site was moved to the orange, or restricted, level in the pandemic response system.