20 health-care workers test positive for COVID-19, while number of active cases in Manitoba drops

Eighteen health-care workers in the Winnipeg health region and two in the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority have tested positive for COVID-19, Shared Health's chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said Wednesday.

4 new cases reported Wednesday, but 'not the time to let our guards down,' says chief public health officer

Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health's chief nursing officer, and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, delivered an update on COVID-19 in Manitoba on Wednesday. There are now 149 active cases — those where people are still experiencing symptoms of the illness — in the province, down from 193 on Tuesday. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Eighteen health-care workers in the Winnipeg health region and two in Manitoba's Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority have tested positive for COVID-19, public health officials said Wednesday.

Of the 18 in Winnipeg, 10 are health-care workers from the Health Sciences Centre who were exposed to an outbreak that was announced at Tuesday's news conference, confirmed Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health's chief nursing officer.

Four patients also tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed in the hospital, she added.

"This outbreak is obviously very concerning to all of us, and protecting our staff and our patients is [of] utmost importance to us," Siragusa said at Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing.

On Tuesday, that outbreak was classified as a respiratory illness, and officials said they were testing people exposed for COVID-19.

In addition, four more people in Manitoba have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the total of presumed and lab-confirmed cases in the province up to 221, said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer.

The total number of probable and lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba stayed at 246 on Wednesday. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

Three people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the province have died so far, and 69 people have recovered from the virus, he said.

That leaves the current number of active cases — those where people are still experiencing symptoms of the illness — at 149, down from 193 on Tuesday.

But that doesn't mean Manitobans can expect life to return to normal any time soon.

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"Manitobans should not interpret the current case numbers to mean that our risk is reduced," Roussin said.

Twelve people remain in hospital with the illness, including six people in intensive care.

As of Wednesday, nine people were in hospital with COVID-19, including four people in intensive care. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

Roussin says the low number of new cases may reflect the effect strict physical distancing measures have had, but he doubled down on the message that those measures must continue and that Manitoba hasn't yet flattened the curve.

"I need to make this clear now is not the time to let our guards down. These next few weeks are critical in Manitobans' response," he said.

In fact, Roussin says Manitobans should expect to see continuing public health protection strategies in some form until at least August.

"It's really difficult to predict what we're going to look like in July and August," he said, but "certainly we're going to have some sort of physical distancing strategies in place at that time."

Manitoba has completed COVID-19 tests for 14,708 people, including 477 on Tuesday. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

Roussin also had a word of caution for people in rural or remote areas that have so far not seen any identified cases of COVID-19.

"Right now, Manitobans should be staying home, whether there's a case in your region or not," he said.

"We're all at risk right now.… You need to assume the virus is around and you need to stay home."

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Also at risk are health-care workers.

Siragusa said Wednesday that Manitoba has only received "a fraction" of the millions of dollars worth of personal protective equipment it has ordered, due to the disruption with the medical supplier 3M.

She added the equipment is in Canada — it's just a matter of getting it to Manitoba and into the hands of those who needed it.

Another addition in the COVID-19 fight is a community testing and assessment clinic that opened Wednesday at the St. James-Assiniboia Centennial Pool and Fitness Centre at 644 Parkdale St., Siragusa said. 

The clinic offers primary care services on an appointment basis for anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or has respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, in an effort to keep these people away from the general public.

On Tuesday, the Cadham Provincial Lab performed 477 tests. A total of 14,708 tests have been performed since early February.