4 more deaths, 118 cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba as Roussin hints at easing restrictions
Dr. Brent Roussin suggests 'some loosening' of public health orders is coming
Manitoba announced 118 cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths on Monday, the 11th consecutive day the province has recorded single-digit deaths.
The latest deaths are connected to current outbreaks, including a man in his 80s at the Rod McGillivary Memorial Care Home in Opaskwayak Cree Nation in the Northern Health Region.
The other three deaths are in the Winnipeg health region — a man in his 60s linked to the outbreak at the Southeast Personal Care Home, a woman in her 70s linked to the outbreak at Concordia Place and a woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at Health Sciences Centre WRS3.
Of the 118 cases, 46 are in the northern region, which has been the location of many of the new cases in the past week.
The Winnipeg Health Region is nearly equal with 45.
There are 11 cases in the Interlake-Eastern health region, nine in the Southern Health region and seven in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 10.6 per cent provincially and 7.3 per cent in Winnipeg.
"The actions and hard work by Manitobans continues to make a difference. We see our numbers having some way of fluctuating over the days, but we see they're headed in a good direction," said Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin.
"Today's numbers continue to be encouraging [but] we're definitely not out of the woods. We certainly still have a long way to go before we can return to normal."
WATCH | Manitoba 'many months away' from return to normal: Dr. Roussin
New outbreaks have been declared at Golden Door Geriatric Centre and Golden West Centennial Lodge in Winnipeg. Both sites have been moved to the critical (red) level on the province's pandemic response system.
Meanwhile, outbreaks are now declared over at Heritage Lodge personal care home and Calvary Place Personal Care Home, both in Winnipeg.
There are 3,108 active cases in the province (officials have said that number is inflated due to a data entry backlog) and 289 people are in hospital with COVID-19 — a drop of three from Sunday.
The number in intensive care has dropped to 35 on Monday from 39 on Sunday.
The total number of deaths in Manitoba due to COVID-19 is now 773.
Roussin was asked if the decrease in hospitalizations was enough to begin easing the current code red public health orders.
While the numbers are trending in the right direction, there are still many reasons to remain cautious, he said.
"There is still that demand on our health-care system. It is just now getting back to some of those elective procedures [which had been suspended]," Roussin said.
"So we do have to be cautious, but we do think that we're in a position to start with some loosening of the restrictions.
"We'll have some more details on that as the week goes on."
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The existing orders expire Friday night.
Last week, the province launched an online survey to gauge public perspective on the risk of contracting COVID-19 and how comfortable people are with easing some restrictions.
Roussin couldn't say on Monday how many people have filled it out but "from initial reports, Manitobans were highly engaged."
He expects more details to be released tomorrow or soon after and said he would give businesses notice as early as possible of any changes that affect them.
Roussin was asked if the new orders might include an increase in faith gatherings but said he didn't want to speculate on the specifics.
Regardless of what changes are made "we are many months away from a place where we can start thinking about getting back to anything resembling being normal," he said.
Don't relax yet: Lamont
Manitoba Liberal Party leader Dougald Lamont said he was a little worried with the tone coming from Monday's announcement, which suggested things are vastly improving.
It's not so if you look a little closer, he said.
For instance, the outbreak in the north — specifically Lynn Lake — is concerning because "the hospital is on the verge of being overwhelmed," he said.
And that is also bad news for Winnipeg because the majority of intensive care units in the province are located in the capital city.
"So we shouldn't relax or let down our guard at all … because all of those people, ultimately, have to be treated here," Lamont said, and that could still put strain on the health-care system.
He also expressed "extreme" concern about the low number of daily COVID-19 tests being conducted — just 1,322 on Sunday.
"We really don't understand it. Months and months ago we were promised 3,000 tests a day and that is not happening," he said.
Roussin mentioned Monday that Manitoba has not yet detected any cases of either the South African or U.K. coronavirus variants, "but we're watching quite closely."
Lamont said that wait-and-see approach has been a problematic one, which left Manitoba scrambling when the second wave hit in the fall.
He wants to see the province step up and start preparing for the variants rather than reacting only once they arrive.
"We need to be vigilant," he said. "We need to be testing people for the COVID variant at airports and even at truck stops, if possible.
"Over and over again this has been the gang that can't shoot straight when it comes to planning," Lamont added, noting the Tories have still not released a vaccination rollout plan to the public.