Manitoba

1 patient hospitalized with COVID-19 in Manitoba, public health officials say

One case of COVID-19 in Manitoba is a patient who is in hospital in stable condition, health officials say, but no new cases have been identified Thursday morning.

30-bed isolation unit to be created in former women's pavilion at Health Sciences Centre

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, gives an update Thursday morning about COVID-19 response efforts in Manitoba. (CBC)

One COVID-19 patient in Manitoba is in hospital in stable condition, health officials say, but no new cases have been identified.

There are 17 known presumptive and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba as of Thursday morning.

Nine of those cases have been confirmed by the national laboratory, said Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer. One announced Wednesday hasn't yet been linked to travel, but Roussin said there are still no known cases of community transmission yet in Manitoba.

The one person who's in hospital has mild symptoms, Roussin said at a Thursday morning news conference about coronavirus in Manitoba.

Changes are coming to Health Sciences Centre. An existing medical unit in the main hospital space will move into the former women's hospital area, freeing up space for a potential 30-bed COVID-19 isolation unit, said WRHA spokesperson Paul Turenne.

The plans are proactive and follow the lead of other jurisdictions to ensure capacity is there if required, Friesen said.

That development is one of several changes across the province. 

Some doctor's appointments are being done remotely using digital services, Friesen said, and agencies that offer day programs through community living disability services for adults are being asked to limit services.

The province also has added ventilators to help those with respiratory issues: the provincial total is 266 ventilators after 23 were received this week, and several more are on order, Friesen said.

Schools and daycares are all facing impending closures or restrictions, as are visits to personal care homes and acute-care hospitals.

Strain on testing

As of Thursday, there are currently nine coronavirus test sites in the province: four in Winnipeg and one each in Brandon, Selkirk, Thompson, Flin Flon and The Pas.

Vehicles line up Thursday at the COVID-19 drive-thru test site in Selkirk, Man. (Ron Boileau/Radio-Canada )

The site in Selkirk opened Wednesday and is the first drive-thru site; a similar site is being prepared at a converted MPI service centre at the intersection of Barnes Street and Bison Drive in Winnipeg.

A drive-thru site also is coming to Steinbach Friday and will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Almost all COVID-19 cases in Manitoba have been shown to be related to international travel, Roussin said. 

All international travellers must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Winnipeg. Some health-care workers who have recently returned from travel may be allowed back to work if they pass an assessment.

It's been one week since the first presumptive case of COVID-19 was detected in Manitoba, and already there's been a strain on lab testing in the province that mimics what's going on in other jurisdictions, Friesen said.

Watch the full daily provincial COVID-19 update:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Thursday, March 19, 2020. 57:48

The testing priority is people who have returned from travel, in-patients, health-care workers, samples from personal care homes and First Nations.

Roussin said there are delays in both testing the samples and getting back to patients.

People not showing symptoms should not go to testing facilities. The province released a digital screening tool that people can use from home.

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, said the Health Links telephone line received 2,100 calls on Wednesday alone. The average wait time was 90 minutes on Wednesday, she said.

The service has quadrupled staffing and expanded the number of phone lines from 35 to more than 100, Friesen said, but wait times for Health Links are still around two hours..

'No visitors to acute care'

Another change will impact who can visit loved ones in hospital.

Siragusa said visitors are no longer allowed at acute care sites across Manitoba. Exceptions include visitors to obstetrics, neonatal intensive care, pediatric care or in an emergency or trauma situation, she said.

"Overall we're saying no visitors to acute care hospital facilities."

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, says no visitors are allowed in acute care hospitals, with a few exceptions. (CBC)

The general public should not be wearing masks, she said. Those should be reserved for health-care workers and people who are ill.

As for what's next, Friesen said the option of declaring a state of emergency in Manitoba is on the table.

Watch Health Minister Friesen discuss how Manitoba is 'ahead of the game':

Cameron Friesen updates the media on COVID-19 preparations in Manitoba 0:40

For now the province is "ahead of the game" compared to some other jurisdictions that have resorted to that measure, he said.

Echoing a note he has hit repeatedly in recent days, Roussin stressed the importance of social distancing.

You shouldn't be going out to places with large numbers of people, including bars and restaurants, to "interrupt the transmission of virus in our communities," he said.

Manitobans should avoid gatherings of more than 50 people and stay home where possible, he said.

Places of worship should no longer be having big gatherings, he said, and people should not arrange play dates for children.

Roussin lauded the efforts of people who are practising social distancing, postponing travel plans and more. 

"This is a time for action. If we haven't changed how we're living day to day, then we haven't implemented these social distancing strategies."

He urged people to consult credible sources of information, including the provincial government website.

"There is no effective, proven therapy for COVID-19 right now," Roussin said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that social distancing, closures and other measures could be in place for weeks.

About the Author

Bryce Hoye

Reporter

Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology and interests in courts, social justice, health and more. He is the Prairie rep for OutCBC. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.

- With files from Bartley Kives