‘We need to be concerned now’: Virologist says more needs to be done to curb soaring COVID cases in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG — Winnipeg has become the hotspot for COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, with more than 2,400 cases reported since March. Now the city’s test positivity rate is soaring, and experts say it is cause for concern.

On Friday, provincial health officials announced 128 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Winnipeg, bringing the total number of active cases in the city to 1,518.

The five-day test positivity rate in Winnipeg has far exceeded the rate the rest of the province is seeing – reaching 7.2 on Friday.

“This is the point where if we haven’t been concerned before, we need to be concerned now,” virologist Jason Kindrachuk told CTV News.

Hospitalizations within the city have increased, reaching 39 on Friday – including six people in intensive care.

The city also holds the grim record for the highest number of deaths due to COVID, with 29 people dead due to the disease as of Friday.

“We need to appreciate that at this point in the pandemic, considering the positivity rate, the number of cases, the number of hospitalizations, the number of fatalities – with all those things increasing, what we’re doing at our individual level and local level is not working,” Kindrachuk said.

Winnipeg-based epidemiologist Cynthia Carr, founder of EPI Research, said while Winnipeg’s cases are increasing, people need to be careful about drawing conclusions based on the daily numbers.

“It is not ideal to react to daily rates – rates go up and down, they fluctuate,” she said.

Winnipeg is not alone in its high rates. Carr said areas in Toronto have seen test positivity rates higher than 10 per cent.

“There have been challenges across Canada,” she said.

“Even though we are clear about the science of the disease, it is now – what are appropriate approaches given that there seems to be consistent different areas being challenged.”

The Winnipeg Metropolitan Region has been under the orange or restricted level on the province’s pandemic response system since Sept. 28, with further restrictions being placed on the area on Oct. 19.

Provincial officials have been reminding Manitobans to follow the fundamentals, cut down on close contacts outside the home, and stay home when ill. But Kindrachuk said more needs to be done.

“We are beyond the point of very simple solutions because the problem has become complex. The virus has spread like a wildfire. It is burning in different areas of the city and all around the city. We can’t just throw a pail of water on it and get it to go back down,” he said.

He said one of the big things that needs to change is the individual choices of Winnipeggers and Manitobans.

“We have certainly been able to curb transmission across Manitoba, as we saw in the springtime. So we may actually be able to do that again,” Kindrachuk said.

“I think we can still do it. The problem is, it is going to take a much larger push.”

Kindrachuk said a collective effort between provincial health, local health authorities, and individual Winnipeggers is needed to curb the spread.

The province continues to remind Manitobans to:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Wash/sanitize your hands and cover your cough.
  • Physically distance when you are with people outside your household.
  • If you cannot physically distance, wear a mask to help reduce the risk to others or as required by public health orders.

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