New restrictions placed on Winnipeg schools, Northern Health as 4 COVID-19 deaths announced in Manitoba

Schools in the Winnipeg area and people in northern Manitoba will soon face further restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, Manitoba’s chief public health officer says.

Starting Monday, the Northern Health region and Churchill, Man., will see new public health orders come into effect for at least two weeks.

The new rules will be the same as those currently in place in the Winnipeg metropolitan region, which is at the orange, or restricted, level on the pandemic response system.

Schools in the Winnipeg region and Northern Health region will also see new measures in place starting Monday, which may include more learning at home.

Four more people have died of COVID-19 in Manitoba and there were 147 new cases of the illness announced on Thursday — the second-highest one-day increase in new cases.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is now 5.6 per cent, the highest it’s been in the province.

The restrictions that will come into effect in the north include the following measures:

  • Reduced gathering sizes.

  • Casinos, bingo halls and entertainment facilities (that have a licence that requires live entertainment) must close, with the exception of providing food take-out or delivery service.

  • Occupancy limits of 50 per cent at other licensed businesses, retail stores and restaurants

  • Occupancy limits for personal service businesses of 50 per cent or one person per 10 square metres (whichever is lower).

  • Sites including restaurants or licensed premises, theatres, museums, galleries, libraries, personal service businesses, concert halls and fitness facilities need to keep contact information from people for 21 days to support contract tracing.

The rules that will apply to schools include the following measures:

  • Two-metre physical distancing will be required to the greatest extent possible.

  • Extracurricular activities will only be allowed if all learning and distancing requirements have been met.

  • Staff who move between different cohorts (including substitute teachers) will need to wear medical-grade disposable masks, which have been given to all schools.

  • Indoor choir and wind instruments will not be allowed. 

  • All field trips must be postponed or cancelled.

  • Blended in-class and online learning for grades 9 to 12 where distancing isn’t possible will continue as it has been.

  • Students from kindergarten to Grade 8 may be offered temporary remote learning options.

All other public health measures will stay in effect.

More to come

Read previous story below.

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.

A third Manitoba school has been elevated to the orange, or restricted, level in the pandemic response system because of the possibility COVID-19 is spreading within its walls. The outbreak at Arborgate School in La Broquerie, Man., now includes three people, Seine River School Division Supt. Mike Borgfjord said on Thursday.

The province previously 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 also moved to the orange level in the pandemic response system.

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.