5 new cases of COVID-19 announced on Manitoba Hutterite colony
2 men and 3 women on a colony in the Interlake-Eastern Health region have tested positive for illness
Five new cases of COVID-19 have been identified on a Manitoba Hutterite colony in the Interlake-Eastern Health region.
The new cases are a man and a woman in their 60s, a man and a woman in their 30s and a woman in her 20s, the province said in its daily news bulletin Friday.
The investigation into where these people contracted COVID-19 is ongoing, the bulletin said. Additional information will only be provided if any public health risks are identified.
The update on Friday brings the total number of cases identified in the province to 336.
There are now 11 active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba — all of which were announced this week, after the province went 13 days without reporting a new case of the illness.
There is still no one in hospital with the illness caused by the novel coronavirus in Manitoba.
Seven people who contracted COVID-19 have died in the province and 318 have recovered, the bulletin said.
Communities worried about stigma
Positive cases identified in two Hutterite colonies earlier this week motivated other Hutterites to get tested, said Mark Waldner of the Hutterian Safety Council, which develops safety programs in Hutterite communities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
"I think there's a heightened awareness," Waldner said on Friday. "Right now, people seem to be coping fairly well. There is some fear, of course. There's some concern, as you would expect."
The safety council said it expected more cases would emerge, though it did not identify the two colonies in the cases reported earlier in the week. Waldner, who is also on the safety council's COVID-19 task force, could not say whether the cases announced Friday were connected to one of those two colonies, or involve a third community.
He said he's worried about the stigma the COVID-19 cases might carry for Hutterite communities across the province, pointing to stories about truck drivers in Manitoba being refused service after several truckers tested positive for COVID-19 in June as an example of how strong these perceptions can be.
"We're concerned that once you start naming [communities], then it could turn out to hurt us," he said. "We're obviously clearly visible to others. We're somewhat concerned about the cultural profiling that's going on, or that could go on."
Still, the eagerness among Hutterites to get tested for COVID-19 in the past few days is a testament to how the community will step up to keep each other safe, Waldner said.
"I've been blown away by the response overall," he said. "If we can get everyone to react in a similar way, then we'll be able to nip it in the bud, I hope."
Positivity rate now 0.43 per cent
On Thursday, 844 more tests were completed in Manitoba, bringing the total number of COVID-19 tests done in the province since early February to 73,885.
The province's five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the percentage of completed tests that came back as positive — is now 0.43 per cent, up from 0.16 per cent on Thursday.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said Thursday the test positivity rate is among "the most important indicators" public health officials are watching to make decisions about imposing or lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
He said any number below 1.5 per cent would be considered "very low."
The province also announced Friday that the COVID-19 test site in The Pas (at 328 Fischer Ave.) will close temporarily on Tuesday and Wednesday next week and have limited hours (1 to 4 p.m.) on Monday because of maintenance work on the building.
It will be open with regular hours again on Thursday.
Information about test sites in Manitoba is available on the province's website.
While any new cases will be announced this weekend, numbers on active caseload, recoveries and testing won't be updated again until Monday.
With files from Darren Bernhardt