Manitoba

3 more presumptive cases of COVID-19 identified in Manitoba are travel related: province

Health officials announced a new testing site in Thompson, Man., new advisories for people who have recently travelled internationally, new protocols for patients with cancer and kidney disease and new screening procedures for healthcare facilities at a news conference Sunday morning.

Dedicated coronavirus test site opening Monday in Thompson, Man., health officials say

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, and Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, announce the new presumptive cases of COVID-19 at a news conference Sunday morning. (Radja Mahamba/CBC)

Three new presumptive cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Manitoba, health officials announced at a news conference Sunday morning.

The update brings the number of cases identified in the province to seven.

A bulletin issued by the province Sunday afternoon indicates all cases are travel-related.

The fifth case is a man in his 70s from Winnipeg. The sixth case is a woman in her 70s who lives in the Interlake region. The seventh case is a woman in Winnipeg who is in her 50s, according to the latest update.

Manitoba's top public health officials, Dr. Brent Roussin and Lanette Siragusa, explain the process. 1:34

"We made a commitment to announce new cases as soon as we found out, so that's going to mean that sometimes I'm not going to have all the information right away," chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said.

He said there is no indication any of the patients are hospitalized.

Patient contact and public health investigations are ongoing.

New test sites, resources

Starting Monday, a dedicated COVID-19 testing centre will be open weekdays in Thompson, Man., said Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health.

The new centre in the Thompson Clinic's Plaza Mall will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Siragusa said more centres in rural and northern parts of the province, including Flin Flon and The Pas, are set to open early next week.

Winnipeg's four dedicated testing sites for COVID-19 have seen 900 patients in the past three days, including 268 on Saturday.

Health Links, meanwhile, received more than 1,000 calls on Saturday, and more staff members are still being added to help deal with the spike in calls.

Siragusa said an online self-assessment tool people can use instead of calling Health Links should be ready to use for COVID-19 screening within the next couple of days.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | March 15, 2020:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Sunday, March 15, 2020. 41:01

More resources, travel advisories

Roussin said health officials are now urging Manitobans not to leave the country.

"By cancelling or postponing our international travel plans, we're limiting the importation of this virus back into Manitoba," he said.

People who have returned from international travel in the past 14 days — including those travelling from the U.S. — are now being advised to self-isolate for 14 days. If they start having symptoms of COVID-19 in that time, they should call Health Links to be assessed, Roussin said.

"We know in Canada, the vast majority of COVID-19 cases are travel-related," he said. 

Starting Sunday, people will be screened as they enter Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre campus, said Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health. There is also a new COVID-19 and flu testing clinic in its William Avenue mall. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Roussin said while health officials have already advised people against going to gatherings of more than 250 people, they're not planning to ban them outright — though he said that could be a next step.

"I don't think we're going to necessarily need to be to a point where we have to ban things," he said. "I think Manitobans are starting to make good choices with this."

He said while there have been discussions about what to do about daycares in the province, the decision to close them hasn't been made yet.

Roussin has advised employers to forego requiring sick notes, and is urging workers not to visit doctors for sick notes to avoid clogging up the health care system.

Siragusa said there are isolation rooms across the province that can be used to treat patients with COVID-19, and that health officials have the option to designate an entire ward to treating people with the virus if the confirmed cases continue to climb.

"We anticipate we will have to do that, so plans are underway," she said.

Changes at healthcare facilities

Starting Sunday, public entrances at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre were restricted so all visitors will be screened for COVID-19, Siragusa said. Patients are also now only allowed one visitor at a time, though exceptions can be made.

Because people being treated for cancer are at a higher risk of infection, Siragusa said, patients at CancerCare Manitoba are advised to call the clinic to check on any scheduled appointments or tests they have.

That way, staff will have time to make a plan to treat them in a way that keeps the possibility of exposure to COVID-19 to a minimum.

Appointments may be changed if they're not urgent and if the patient is not on active treatment.

Dr. Brent Roussin advised Manitobans to cancel or postpone upcoming international travel. (CBC)

Patients being treated for kidney disease, who are also at a high risk for infection, should call Health Links to get an assessment — if they have flu-like symptoms and have travelled in the last 14 days — before arriving for any appointments, Siragusa said.

Patients who are not experiencing any symptoms can still go for scheduled dialysis.

Siragusa said all sites across the healthcare system, including personal care homes, are being screened to make sure anyone who is ill or who has travelled internationally in the last 14 days will not be allowed to visit patients.

At some sites, that might only include signs being posted on doors with screening questions, she said. Right now, there is no limit on visitors at these homes.

"We're pacing ourselves and escalating as we need to," Siragusa said.

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