3 more COVID-19 deaths, 89 new cases announced in Manitoba Monday
Shoppers in northern Manitoba can buy non-essential items in-store starting 11:59 p.m. CT Monday
As Manitoba health officials celebrate significant progress in decreasing COVID-19 numbers, they're allowing stores in northern Manitoba to sell non-essential items to dissuade more residents from travelling south.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer, announced Monday that the ban on selling non-essential items in-store in the northern region will be lifted starting Tuesday.
Many residents from northern Manitoba were travelling south to buy non-essentials — despite public health orders in place to discourage non-essential travel, officials said.
"We think that lifting that [essential items] list in the north is far less risky than the amount of travel we are seeing," he said, adding that officials could do little else — aside from their safety messaging — to stop people.
The Northern Health Region is currently Manitoba's COVID-19 hot spot, with the provincial data site showing 1,897 known active cases as of Monday.
Stores in northern Manitoba can sell non-essential items in-store, assuming physical distancing is maintained and occupancy is limited to 25 per cent or 250 people (whichever is lower) once the amendment comes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday.
The amendment is set to expire on Feb. 12, and restrictions against household visitors and services such as hair salons remain in effect in the northern region, Roussin said.
The change could be seen as health officials appeasing residents of northern Manitoba who disregard COVID-19 restrictions, but Roussin says that isn't the case.
Virus transmission is one consideration while making the orders, Roussin said.
"But we also have to consider human behaviour and what's realistic as far as what we can enforce."
Lowest single-day spike since October
Meanwhile, public health officials announced 89 new cases Monday — the lowest increase since Oct. 19, when 80 new cases were reported.
Nearly half of the new cases announced Monday — 42 — are in the Northern Health Region. There are 22 new cases in the Interlake-Eastern health region, 18 in the Winnipeg health region, four in the Southern Health region and three in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
There are 3,466 active cases in the province, a news release said, although health officials have said that number is inflated by a data backlog.
The five-day test positivity rate throughout Manitoba is 7.9 per cent. It's 4.2 per cent in Winnipeg.
Three more Manitobans have died from COVID-19.
Two of the deaths — a man in his 70s and another man in his 80s — are linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at the Heritage Life Personal Care Home in Niverville, Man., in the Southern Health region. A woman in her 80s from the Winnipeg health region also died from the illness.
A total of 832 people have now died from COVID-19 in Manitoba.
Hospitalizations lowest since mid-November
There are four fewer people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Manitoba than there were on Sunday. In all, 255 people are in hospital due to COVID-19 — 104 patients are still infectious, while 151 are no longer infectious but still require care.
Of the hospitalizations, 38 patients are in the intensive care unit, a decrease of one from Sunday.
According to Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer of Shared Health, the number of hospitalizations reported Monday is the lowest since Nov. 18, 2020, when 249 patients were in hospital due to COVID-19.
The current numbers also show significant progress from nearly two months ago, when there were 388 hospitalizations, including 129 patients in critical care, due to COVID-19, said Siragusa.
WATCH | Lower COVID-19 numbers in hospitals encouraging, but health-care workers still feel in 'precarious' position, Lanette Siragusa says:
"Knowing that there's light at the end of the tunnel is reassuring and definitely gives some hope," said Siragusa, when asked how health-care workers feel about the progress. "But I would say we still feel a little bit in a precarious situation.
"Not everyone has gone back to their home sites. There are still nurses who are working in the personal care homes. There's still staff who have been redeployed to critical care. So they're anxious to get back. They understand the demands, so it's really a mixture of emotions."
A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Actionmarguerite St. Joseph personal care home in Winnipeg, and the outbreak at Actionmarguerite St. Vital in Winnipeg has been declared over.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, told reporters Monday that data regarding COVID-19 deaths will not be reported Tuesday, as the province undergoes a reset of its data entry.
This reset will implement more vetting when reporting COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba, as well as improve regional data, Roussin said.
Information omitted on Tuesday will be provided Wednesday, he said.
Manitoba plans variant testing
Variants of the original strain of the novel coronavirus, the illness that causes COVID-19, were reported in the United Kingdom and South Africa. The variants are more transmissible than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, and potentially more deadly.
No variant cases have been reported in Manitoba yet, but other Canadian provinces have seen cases, including Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
In anticipation of cases of a variant showing up in Manitoba, Roussin says there are plans coming together to test for variant cases — though he said it's too early to talk about specifics while they're solidifying the details.
Roussin did say, however, that Manitoba is looking at how it can test samples from all travellers coming into the province, as well as people living in areas with high transmission rates.
In the meantime, the province is increasing asymptomatic testing. All returning travellers, regardless of symptoms, should get tested for COVID-19, said Roussin.
That includes people regularly leaving the province, such as truckers, he added.
Returning travellers should be tested when they arrive in Manitoba, then at seven to 10 days later, he said.
First Nations vaccine update
Dr. Marcia Anderson, Indigenous health and public health lead for the Manitoba First Nation pandemic response co-ordination team, and Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba's vaccination implementation task force, announced updates to the vaccine of First Nations people in Manitoba Monday afternoon.
A bulletin issued Friday by the co-ordination team says there were 2,780 known active COVID-19 cases among First Nations people in Manitoba — 2,334 on reserve, 446 off reserve.
As of Wednesday, 3,871 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were put into the arms of First Nations people in Manitoba. Only 27 people had received their second dose, said the weekly bulletin issued by the co-ordination team.
Another 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine are earmarked for First Nations in the province, health officials said.
A shipment of 5,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive by mid-to-late February. Those doses will be used for second doses, officials said.
The vaccine has been distributed to 63 First Nations in order to vaccinate health-care workers in remote and isolated communities, residents and staff at personal care homes or elder care facilities, people at least 60 years old who live in remote or isolated communities and people who are at least 70 who live in "non-remote" communities, according to a news release.
New travel restrictions came into place in Manitoba on Friday. With some exceptions, people travelling to Manitoba must self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival.
Starting Wednesday night, new federal travel restrictions will mean no international passenger, private or charter flights will land in Winnipeg.
Pauingassi First Nation moved to code red
Public health officials, in tandem with chief and council of Pauingassi First Nation, have moved the community into red level, or critical COVID-19 restrictions, Roussin said.
Health officials "continue to see a trend of concerning case numbers," he said, but did not give specific numbers.
The chief and council have prohibited public gatherings and residents are required to stay home, he said.
People should only leave their homes to get a COVID-19 test, seek medical care, or to send one person to get essential supplies. People who work in essential services can leave their home for work.
Non-medical masks must be worn outside the home, Roussin said.
Pauingassi First Nation is a small remote community just over 280 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
WATCH | Manitoba government daily briefing on coronavirus: Feb. 1
With files from Ian Froese and Gavin Boutroy