'We're not out of the woods,' Dr. Brent Roussin says as Manitoba COVID-19 numbers drop
5-day test positivity rate hovers around 10% in Manitoba and drops to 8.8% in Winnipeg
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin urged Manitobans to persevere with the strict months-long lockdown as he announced 133 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths on Monday.
"We're certainly not back to normal, we're not out of the woods, but we are seeing the trajectory that we were wanting to see," he said at a news conference.
"We need to continue to have Manitobans still put in that hard work to limit the transmission of this virus."
That hard work needs to be kept up following the holiday season, Roussin said, standing by his decision last week to extend code red restrictions until at least Jan. 22.
There are currently 538 cases of COVID-19 linked to in-person holiday gatherings, and these cases had 2,879 close contacts, he said.
"These high numbers — nearly 3,000 people — just from those gatherings are now in self-isolation, a certain proportion of which will become cases. This is why we needed to extend the restrictions we had in place," he said.
Public health orders will be relaxed gradually, when it is safe to do so, he said.
"We have to still see what the impacts of this holiday gathering was."
Grades 7-12 students are set to return to school next Monday after a mandatory two-week remote learning period following the holiday break.
Roussin says he isn't considering extending the remote learning period at this point.
As of Monday, Manitoba has had 741 deaths related to the novel coronavirus.
Of the deaths, two are linked to known outbreaks in health-care facilities — a man in his 80s linked to the McCreary/Alonsa Health Centre outbreak and a woman in her 80s from Bethania Mennonite Personal Care Home in Winnipeg.
A man in his 60s from the Northern Health Region also died.
Of the new cases, 47 are in the Winnipeg health region, 34 are in the Northern Health Region, 28 are in the Prairie Mountain Health region, 13 are in the Southern Health region and 11 are in the Interlake-Eastern health region.
The five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the percentage of tests that come back positive — hovered at 10 per cent provincially on Monday and dropped to 8.8 per cent in Winnipeg.
A total of 26,450 cases has been identified in Manitoba, with 22,295 considered recovered and 3,414 still deemed active, though provincial officials have said the latter number is inflated because of a data entry backlog.
Manitoba's opposition leader Wab Kinew says public health restrictions are a balancing act.
"We have to stop this deadly disease, but at the same time, we have to keep an eye on people's mental health and other issues, somewhat related issues like addictions, too," he said in a press conference Monday afternoon.
"It's tough to be optimistic while people are still passing away as a result of COVID-19, but I do want to encourage Manitobans to stay positive, do what you can to look after your mental health."
Siragusa is 'cautiously optimistic'
The number of people in hospital with the virus also dropped. As of Monday morning, there are 316 people in hospital, said Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health chief nursing officer.
There are 37 people in intensive care because of COVID-19.
Siragusa also reinforced that, though those over 60 are hardest hit by the virus, 35 patients in hospital are under 40, and of those, five are under 20.
In addition, more than half of intensive care patients are under 60.
However, there is some good news.
"We're cautiously optimistic that the numbers have stabilized and that they're slowly and steadily going to go down," Siragusa said.
Some elective surgeries will resume this week in Winnipeg, while others will resume next week at Boundary Trails, Carman and Portage la Prairie hospitals, she said.
Meanwhile, the first vaccinations of long-term care home residents in Manitoba started Monday morning, with residents of Oakview Place first in Winnipeg to get the shots.
Way to go Margaret! Thank you for being our first!! <a href="https://t.co/QAFblyPlp4">pic.twitter.com/QAFblyPlp4</a>—@WinnipegRHA
Over the weekend, the Manitoba government expanded the COVID-19 immunization eligibility criteria to include some home care workers and first responders, and outlined its plans to establish a supersite for vaccinations in Brandon.
WATCH | Roussin calls on all Manitobans to get COVID-19 vaccine:
Although a partial lockdown is continuing for at least another week in Manitoba, the NHL has been given the green light to start its season starting Wednesday, with strict measures in place.
That's drawn some criticism from Manitobans who want to get involved with sports again.
But Roussin says that's not advisable right now because other levels of sports don't have the same safeguards in place.
"We won't have parents and and children only going to the rink and home. They'll be out to to work or to school, amongst other things, and certainly wouldn't have the ability to privately contract testing every single day," he said.
The NHL's 31 clubs will only play against six or seven opponents in realigned divisions to cut down on travel and potential exposure, while time on the road will either be spent at the hotel or arena to protect players, coaches, staff and the public.
The newly formed North Division — consisting of the league's seven Canadian teams — won't cross the border because of the 14-day quarantine requirements for non-essential travelers, and no U.S.-based franchise will be coming the other way.
"So while it's disappointing there, there is a reason why we've decided that this has very little risk to the public and allowed to go ahead," Roussin said.
Another outbreak has been declared at the Headingley Correctional Centre. The province has moved it to orange, or restricted, on the colour-coded Manitoba pandemic response system.
The outbreak at the Benito Health Centre is now over.
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Jan. 11, 2021:
- A previous version of this story stated 738 COVID-19 cases had been linked to holiday gatherings. In fact, 528 cases have been linked to gatherings.Jan 11, 2021 3:19 PM CT