3 more deaths, 157 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Manitoba, outbreak declared in northern school
'Don't look for ways to skirt the orders,' Dr. Brent Roussin says
There are three more deaths and 157 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba on Friday.
More than half of the new cases are in the province's Northern Health Region, which has 81.
For the second consecutive day, a new outbreak has been declared in the north, this time at Wapanohk Community School in Thompson, which has been moved to the red, or critical, level of the province's pandemic response system.
The Winnipeg health region has 29 new cases, the Prairie Mountain Health region has 24, the Southern Health region has 14 and there are nine new cases in the Interlake-Eastern health region.
The three latest deaths are women from the Winnipeg health region: a woman in her 30s, one in her 50s and one in her 80s. The latter is linked to the outbreak at Concordia Place Personal Care Home.
The total number of deaths in Manitoba due to the coronavirus is now 823.
The five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate continues to fall. There were 2,176 tests completed Thursday, and the five-day average rate is now 7.5 per cent provincially and 4.9 per cent in Winnipeg.
The test positivity rate for the north was 26 per cent earlier in the week, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said.
However, that number fluctuates "quite a bit" due to the varying number of tests being completed, he said.
New health orders
A new public health order kicked in at 12:01 a.m. Friday, requiring most people travelling to Manitoba for non-essential reasons to self-isolate for two weeks.
The restriction is designed to stop non-essential travel, by land or by air, and applies to people visiting the province and returning Manitobans.
"If we limit the amount of importation of this virus and we continue to work on bringing the numbers down that are in our province right now, this is going to help us start to reopen things safely," Roussin said.
The order was primarily made out of an abundance of caution in response to variant strains of the coronavirus showing up in other provinces, officials have said.
Roussin said on Friday that Manitoba is screening about five per cent of its COVID-positive test swabs for new variants but none have shown up yet.
The province is currently targeting samples from patients who have travelled or had contact with someone who travelled, and samples from places where there have been outbreaks and other high levels of transmission, he said.
There are some exemptions to the new quarantine orders. The full explanation, and a copy of the order, can be found here.
"But the spirit of this is to limit the importation of the virus," Roussin said Friday. "We ask Manitobans to follow the spirit of the order, and that is to decrease the amount of contacts we have in general.
"Don't look for ways to skirt the orders."
The federal government on Friday also announced new federal travel restrictions, which Roussin lauded.
"I think it's a great step. We're in a pandemic. This isn't a time for non-essential travel," he said.
"I think these measures [federal rules] really strengthen Manitoba's protection of importing this virus."
Roussin also commented on double-masking, which has become a hot topic, with some infectious disease experts suggesting it's a good idea.
U.S. President Joe Biden was seen wearing two masks as far back as October, during a campaign stop.
But Roussin isn't suggesting anyone take that route … yet.
"We've given messaging before that masks should be at least two to three layers. That would be appropriate and that's our messaging right now," he said.
If a variant shows up, that would be reconsidered, he said.
"Right now the evidence shows that that variant is much more infectious and modelling demonstrates that if that virus took a foothold, we would see an increase in cases," Roussin said.
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Jan. 29, 2021: