Manitoba

While Manitoba hits record streak with no new COVID-19 cases, use of face masks may become necessary: Roussin

Dr. Brent Roussin says Manitobans should prepare for a time when face masks could be part of their daily lives, even as he reported a record ninth straight day with no new cases in the province.

No new cases announced, only 4 active cases in province as of Thursday, chief public health officer says

Despite Manitoba's low COVID-19 caseload, the province's top doctor says people should prepare for face masks to become a bigger part of their everyday lives. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Dr. Brent Roussin says Manitobans should prepare for a time when face masks could be part of their daily lives, even as he reported a ninth straight day with no new COVID-19 cases — a new record in the province.

It could be difficult to tell the difference between symptoms of the illness caused by the new coronavirus and those of influenza come flu season this fall and winter, the province's chief public health officer cautioned.

That challenge may prompt a change in messaging on the use of face masks in Manitoba, as more people start showing signs of both illnesses.

Mask use is "probably going to become more and more of an approach we have here," Roussin said during a news conference Thursday to provide the province's latest COVID-19 update.

"But the big take-home message is that, for the most part, masks shouldn't be seen as a substitute for other precautions that we have."

Still, Roussin said the province has not ruled out eventually mandating the use of face masks under a public health order, though he doesn't foresee it happening right now.

"We've never excluded any approach that we thought was going to be fitting with our best interests, so it's certainly not excluded," Roussin said. "We need to learn to live with the virus."

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said while the province has not ruled out eventually mandating the use of face masks under a public health order, he doesn't foresee it happening right now. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

In the meantime, the province is working on a "robust" plan for dealing with the upcoming flu season during the pandemic — an approach that will include trying to increase the number of people who get the influenza vaccine.

"We're going to have to treat it as a COVID virus season, because we're not going to know whether COVID has made a return or not until it's really over," Roussin said.

"Even if we see [influenza] A activity in November, and not COVID, we don't know that COVID won't be here in December or January."

'Prepare to see an increase'

With no new cases announced Thursday, the total number of cases identified in the province is still 325, including four that are considered active, Roussin said.

There is still no one in hospital with COVID-19 in Manitoba, Roussin said. Seven people with the illness caused by the new coronavirus have died, while 314 have recovered.

To date, 68,015 tests have been completed, including an additional 379 tests done on Wednesday.

The province hasn't reported a new COVID-19 case since June 30, but Roussin said while the province's numbers are favourable right now, people still need to be vigilant.

"We certainly expect COVID-19 to continue to be around, and we expect to see COVID-19 again here in Manitoba," he said.

"We need to prepare to see an increase in cases in the fall, higher than even in our first wave, possibly."

On top of adhering to good hand hygiene and physical distancing, one of the most important things people will need to do is stay home when they're sick, Roussin said.

"This is going to be vital to our success," he said.

"We can't have people with symptoms of respiratory illness going to work or to school. We need to ensure we're protecting everyone."

Anyone with symptoms, including fever, cough, aches, runny nose, fatigue or loss of taste or smell, should be tested for COVID-19, he said.

Watch full news conference here | Thursday, July 9, 2020:

Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer gives update on COVID-19 pandemic: Thursday, July 9, 2020. 22:01

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