Outdoor mask mandate, tighter restrictions on indoor activities considered as Manitoba COVID-19 numbers rise
More people getting COVID-19 at indoor private gatherings, top doctor says
Manitoba is considering mandatory masks outdoors and a renewed clampdown on indoor activities as daily COVID-19 case tallies continue to hit triple digits.
Manitoba announced 114 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths on Monday and the province's top doctor hinted more restrictions may soon come into effect.
"This is a third wave," said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial health officer. "If we don't act now, we will be right back into stricter restrictions very soon."
The latest data shows close contacts of positive cases have been increasing, and more cases are being tied to private gatherings, Roussin said.
More young people age 10 to 19 appear to be contracting the virus outside of school settings, he said.
The provincial test positivity rate is up to 6.2 per cent, up from 5.7 per cent on Sunday, and 5.6 per cent in Winnipeg.
The number of people in hospital dropped from 141 on Sunday to 135 on Monday.
An outbreak has been declared at Emerson Health Centre in Emerson.
The province also announced a new "fast pass" testing site opened in Winkler Monday at the existing drive-thru test location at 485 George Ave. It is for school staff and people working in licensed child-care centres.
Of the new cases, 62 are in Winnipeg and 32 are in the Northern Health Region. Nine cases were found in Prairie Mountain Health, four in Southern Health and three in Interlake-Eastern health region.
The seven-day average for daily cases has increased from about 75 one month ago to 121 Monday, after the province gradually relaxed restrictions starting in January.
The average number of close contacts of positive cases is rising, and there have been recent cases linked to house parties, play dates and faith-based gatherings, Roussin said.
He suggested officials are mulling the possibility of an outdoor mask mandate.
In the meantime, he urges people to avoid non-essential gatherings.
No new cases of variants were announced Monday, because the province only updates its variant tracking web page from Tuesday to Saturday. As of Saturday, 412 such cases have been detected in Manitoba.
So far, 949 Manitobans have died due to COVID-19.
1 in 5 at least partly vaccinated
As of Monday, 20.1 per cent of Manitoba adults had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Heath Minister Heather Stefanson touted that as a milestone, while repeating Manitoba's main limiting factor is the supply of doses coming from the federal government.
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine rollout, said officials are prepared to adapt their approach to vaccination if science backs a switch.
Saskatchewan has a slightly different approach from Manitoba. Anyone age 50 to 54 is now eligible to get vaccinated at drive-thru sites in Saskatchewan, a method that isn't in use in Manitoba.
Eligibility at supersites and temporary vaccination clinics in Manitoba is currently 60 and up, or 40 and up for First Nations, who can also book appointments for the AstraZeneca vaccine at doctors' offices and pharmacies.
Reimer said drive-thrus aren't off the table, but she suggested they fall somewhere between supersites and temporary clinics in terms of efficiency.
Temporary sites, also called pop-ups, have largely been used in rural communities in Manitoba, and mobile immunization teams have visited congregate living settings with at-risk people. Neither get doses into arms as quickly as supersites, but they do offer convenient access to people outside of hubs like Winnipeg.
"We can go extremely fast through the supersites," Reimer told Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on Monday.
"We're hearing from Manitobans right now that they want fast over convenient, so we can always move some of the doses away from the pop-ups if that's what Manitobans are telling us … but it does always come at a cost."
Stefanson said it was possible supersites could become more of a focus in Manitoba's strategy if that's what the task force decides.
"If speed is going to be more of the emphasis, then they'll go that way. If they believe that we want sort of a balanced approach, which is what we have taken to date, then we'll continue along that path."
Bus, liquor mart exposures
Meanwhile, two Liquor Mart employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
One last worked at the Spring Meadows location at 1783 Plessis Rd. on April 6, between 4 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., while not experiencing any symptoms, the province said. The other employee developed symptoms one day after their last shift at the Liquor Mart inside the Superstore at 213 St. Anne's Rd. on April 6, from 4 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The province also released the following Winnipeg Transit routes and times for potential exposures to the B117 coronavirus variant:
- April 2 from 3:30 p.m. at Graham Avenue and Fort Street to 4 p.m. at the Chancellor Blueline Station.
- April 3 from 1:30 p.m. at Mackenzie Street and Boyd Avenue to 1:45 p.m. at Portage Avenue and Donald Street.
- April 3 from 4:30 p.m. at Ellice Avenue and Empress Street to 5:10 p.m. at Mackenzie Street and Boyd Avenue.
- April 6 from 9:10 a.m. at McGregor Street and Boyd Avenue to 9:30 a.m. at Graham Avenue and Fort Street.
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | April 12, 2021: