Manitoba

Mask mandate lifted, gathering restrictions eased in Prairie Mountain Health region starting Friday

Prairie Mountain Health region will be lowered from orange to the yellow caution level under Manitoba's colour-coded pandemic response system starting Friday, health officials say.

11 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba on Thursday, including 8 in Winnipeg

A person is tested for COVID-19 at Brandon Town Centre in August. Starting Sept. 18, the Prairie Mountain Health region will be downgraded to the caution level on the province's pandemic response system. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Prairie Mountain Health region will be lowered from orange to the yellow caution level under Manitoba's colour-coded pandemic response system starting Friday, health officials say.

Masks will still be strongly recommended in public places in that region, but will no longer be required, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference on Thursday.

Gathering sizes will be bumped back up to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors, the same as the rest of the province's health regions.

"Manitobans in [the] Prairie Mountain Health region really stepped up in August and until now to really flatten that curve," Roussin said.

The health region was moved up to the restricted, or orange, level on Aug. 24 after a spike in cases in the area. Many were linked to large gatherings, health officials said.

There are 11 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba on Thursday, including eight in Winnipeg.

None of the new cases are linked to the city's John Pritchard School in North Kildonan, Roussin said, where roughly 250 students were sent home after the school announced its seventh case of the illness on Wednesday.

The school became the first in Manitoba to be moved to the restricted orange level under the province's colour-coded pandemic response system.

One case at the school announced earlier this week, for which health officials previously could not determine a source, has now been linked to the same cohort as the other six, he said.

None of the new cases announced on Thursday in Manitoba are school-aged children. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

There were 11 cases of COVID-19 linked to schools in Manitoba in the week since students returned to class on Sept. 8, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The first of those was announced on the second day of school, when a student at Churchill High School was diagnosed with the illness.

No mask mandate

Mandatory masks aren't being considered in Winnipeg, though the city now has 209 of the province's 293 active COVID-19 cases.

But that step hasn't been ruled out, Roussin said.

"Certainly, the trend right now in Winnipeg is not what we're looking for," he said. "If we see that trend persist, then we may need to look at ways to limit that spread."

The other new cases are two in the Southern Health region and one in the Prairie Mountain Health region, Roussin said.

Most new cases of the illness in Manitoba are close contacts of known COVID-19 cases, Roussin said.

Community spread accounts for around one-fifth of new cases, while travel is responsible for almost none. In the last week, only two new cases were related to travel, he said.

WATCH | Restrictions in western Manitoba are about to loosen:

Prairie Mountain Health region will be lowered from orange to the yellow caution level under Manitoba's colour-coded pandemic response system starting Friday, health officials say. 1:35

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Maple Leaf Foods pork processing plant in Brandon, Man., is now down to four active cases, Roussin said. There's still no evidence the illness was spread within the workplace, he said.

There are now 14 COVID-19 cases linked to the Bethesda Place care home in Steinbach, Man. An eighth staff member has been diagnosed with the illness, Roussin said.

Manitoba's five-day test positivity rate, a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive, is up to 1.7 per cent.

Most of Manitoba's active COVID-19 cases are now in Winnipeg. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

There are 10 people hospitalized with the illness in Manitoba, including two in intensive care.

There have been 1,500 cases of the illness identified in Manitoba, 293 of which are still active, Roussin said. To date, 1,191 people in the province have recovered from COVID-19 and 16 have died.

Meanwhile, health officials are working to expand COVID-19 testing capacity in Winnipeg after many sites in the city experienced long lines in recent days.

On Wednesday, 1,403 more COVID-19 tests were done in Manitoba, bringing the total number completed since early February to 160,109.

Fisher River Cree Nation announced on Wednesday it is suspending in-class learning until 2021 because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in the Interlake community.

That announcement came after someone on the First Nation tested positive for the illness last week.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Sept. 17, 2020:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Thursday, September 17, 2020. 51:02

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