Manitoba expands COVID-19 testing to include symptomatic nurses, inmates, homeless people

Manitoba is expanding COVID-19 testing to include all symptomatic health-care workers and people who live or work in remote communities or group settings, Dr. Brent Roussin said Thursday.

1 new case of coronavirus in Manitoba, chief provincial public health officer says

Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the province is expanding its criteria for who can be tested for COVID-19. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba is expanding the criteria for who can be tested for COVID-19 in the province.

All symptomatic health-care workers and people who live or work in remote communities or group settings, like correctional facilities, shelters, long-term care or residential facilities and remote work camps, can be tested for the virus, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference Thursday morning.

Everyone living on First Nations in Manitoba who shows respiratory symptoms will be tested for the virus, he said. People who show symptoms who have travelled outside the province, been in close contact with a confirmed case or worked with COVID-19 tests in a lab also will still be tested.

Roussin also announced one new case of the virus: a Winnipeg man in his 20s. The case, which brings the provincial total to 36, is thought to be related to a previously announced case of the virus, Roussin said.

Manitoba Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa gave a shout-out to people working to help slow the spread of the virus.

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Manitoba processed a record 734 tests yesterday at the Cadham Provincial Laboratory, Roussin said. As of Wednesday, 5,606 COVID-19 tests have been processed.

There is still no evidence of community transmission — cases of COVID-19 that aren't connected to travel or contact with identified cases of the virus — in the province, Roussin said.

Roussin reiterated the importance of people staying home if they're sick, and of everyone practising social distancing.

"By protecting our community, we're also protecting our health-care workers. They are on the front line dealing with this," Roussin said.

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The province is looking at extending school closures, he said, reiterating that social distancing measures are not going to end in a couple of weeks.

Because of the virus's incubation period, which health officials say is around 14 days, people need to self-isolate for those two weeks after getting back from travelling outside Manitoba — even if they test negative for COVID-19 in that time.

"If you were last exposed to the virus, whether it's international travel or to a case, and you got sick at day five and tested negative … that does not get you out of the 14-day period. You could still be incubating COVID-19 for that 14 days," Roussin said.

WATCH | Why you have to self-isolate, even if you've tested negative for COVID-19:

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Preparing 'for the worst case'

The province is preparing for all possibilities of how the spread of COVID-19 might unfold and is putting things in place like critical care beds and ventilators to deal with a surge in cases, Roussin said.

"We're looking to prepare not only for the expected case, but we're looking to prepare for the worst case," he said.

Siragusa said less than 70 per cent of the province's critical care beds are full, and internal medicine or family medicine beds are just below 80 per cent of capacity.

"Which is not our norm, but we're very grateful," Siragusa said.

Currently, suspected cases of COVID-19 need to be tested twice: once at the Cadham Provincial Lab (where it would be deemed probable) and then again at the National Microbiology Lab (where it would be confirmed).

Manitoba processed 734 tests on March 25 at the Cadham Provincial Laboratory, and 5,606 COVID-19 tests have been processed to date. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The Cadham lab will soon be able to confirm tests in-house, a transition that will happen over the next few days, Roussin said.

More details about the change will be available tomorrow.

The change helps bring Manitoba's testing process in line with other regions, he said. Once a provincial lab has done a certain number of tests, it can start a process to confirm its own results — though some tests might still go to the national lab.

"This is very consistent with other provincial labs throughout the nation," Roussin said.

Siragusa said wait times for Health Links have dropped again, this time to an average of 23 minutes on Wednesday.

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The province has an adequate supply of face masks for health-care workers, though their inventory had to be secured after there was some theft and hoarding earlier, Siragusa said.

"Probably even before our first case was confirmed," she said.

"It was just the anticipation."

The theft happened at a site in Winnipeg, and no suspects were identified, Siragusa said.

The province is looking into sites that could be used to house people who are experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, like hotels, gyms and schools, she said.

The province is working on setting up more drive-thru test sites in Manitoba, like this one in Winnipeg. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

More drive-thru community testing sites will open in Manitoba in the next few days.

On Friday, a testing site will open in Eriksdale at the Eriksdale Wellness Centre. It will be open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A testing site will also open Friday in Portage la Prairie at the Stride Centre, operating from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. 

Community testing sites are also set to open Saturday in Dauphin and Monday in Pine Falls. More details, including operating hours, have yet to be announced.

The community testing site in The Pas will relocate to the Royal Canadian Legion on Friday and will continue to be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This will bring the total to 16 community testing sites including seven drive-thru locations.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | March 26, 2020:

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Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Tuesday, March 26, 2020.


  • An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information from the province about the hours and locations of some testing sites.
    Mar 26, 2020 4:17 PM CT