40 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba Friday as Winnipeg's tally continues 'concerning' rise
29 of the coronavirus cases posted Friday are in Winnipeg
Manitoba health officials are warning people in Winnipeg to stick to public health recommendations, as COVID-19 cases in the city continue to rise.
Twenty-nine of the 40 new cases announced in the province on Friday are people who live in the capital city, the province said in a news release.
"There has been a concerning increase in the number of cases in Winnipeg," the release says.
"Recent success in Prairie Mountain Health shows that focusing on the fundamentals can reduce the transmission of COVID-19."
The southwestern Manitoba region was moved down to the yellow caution level on the province's colour-coded pandemic response system on Friday.
The area had been operating at the orange restricted level since Aug. 24, when people there had to start wearing masks in public and keeping gathering sizes smaller than in other parts of the province.
People still need to wear masks when going into health-care facilities in the region, Friday's release says.
The province isn't currently planning to make masks mandatory in Winnipeg, but that could be revisited if the city's situation worsens, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference on Thursday.
On Friday, Premier Brian Pallister said the province will keep taking direction from health officials on whether new restrictions should be brought in.
"The measures we've taken [in terms of the new colour-coded response system] are designed to make sure that we are monitoring effectively, and making adaptive changes, to protect people by zone," he said.
Pallister congratulated and thanked people in southwestern Manitoba for their response to the heightened restrictions put in place there late last month, noting it has helped drop the province's positivity rate.
"I just encourage Manitobans to continue to be diligent. COVID is a sneaky, nefarious and dangerous adversary," he said.
Winnipeg now has nearly three-quarters of the province's active cases, with 239 of 325, according to provincial data. That number is a new record for active cases in the city.
New cases Friday also include four each in the Prairie Mountain Health and Interlake-Eastern health regions, while the remaining three are in the Southern Health region.
Ahead of the weekend, the province reminded people to stay home when they're sick, wash their hands, cover their coughs and physically distance from people they don't live with.
If physical distancing isn't possible, you should wear a mask, the release says. It's also important to avoid enclosed or crowded spaces and close contact with people outside your household.
Health officials in Winnipeg are working on expanding COVID-19 testing capacity, as test sites in the city experience long lineups following a surge in demand this week.
The Donwood Manor Elderly Persons Housing unit has been lowered to the yellow caution pandemic response level, the release says.
There are now 11 people hospitalized with the illness in Manitoba, including three in intensive care.
Manitoba's five-day test positivity rate, a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive, remains at 1.7 per cent.
To date, 1,540 COVID-19 cases have been identified in Manitoba. A total of 16 people in the province have died of COVID-19, and 1,199 have recovered.
Eight of Friday's new cases are people under age 20, according to provincial data.
John Pritchard School in Winnipeg became the first school in the province to move to the orange restricted level on Wednesday. Around 250 students were sent home after the school announced its seventh case of COVID-19.
All seven of the cases at the North Kildonan School have now been linked into a single cluster, Roussin said.
A second member of Sagkeeng First Nation has tested positive for COVID-19, the First Nation's leadership said on Thursday. That person was a close contact of the community's first case of the illness, which was announced earlier this week.
Most of Manitoba's new cases of the illness are close contacts of known COVID-19 cases, Roussin said. Community spread now makes up around one-fifth of new cases, while only a small fraction are linked to travel, he said.
On Thursday, 1,358 more COVID-19 tests were done in Manitoba, bringing the province's total to 161,473 tests done.
With files from Darren Bernhardt