‘Way too many contacts’ strain Manitoba health care as hospitalizations hit new record: top doctor

Many Manitobans need to drastically scale back their contacts outside their households if the province is going to get a grip on rapidly rising COVID-19 numbers that are putting strain on the health-care system, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says.

“If public health contacted you, would you be able to tell them who all your contacts were in the last week, or even over the weekend? 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, leading to large numbers of people being exposed to the virus, he said.

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.

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 know this is a hard time for people. Not being able to grieve in the way we normally do is very challenging, but these restrictions are in place because we know how this virus is transmitted,” Roussin said.

“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.

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 was “disappointing” that she had to return to give updates on the state of the health-care system.

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.

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.

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.