4 new cases of COVID-19 among Manitoba health-care workers in past week
25 health-care workers in the province have now tested positive
The number of new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba remain low, with just two new cases reported Wednesday, but those who appear to be most vulnerable lately are health-care workers.
Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said Wednesday there were four new cases of COVID-19 over the past week involving people in that field, bringing the total to 25 health-care workers in the province who have now tested positive.
Asked if those four cases involved people who picked up the illness on the job, Siragusa said it's been confirmed two did. Contact tracing is still being done on the other two to determine where they got it.
She did say that personal protective equipment was available to, and worn by, the four workers, so any spread of the illness beyond them was likely minimal.
Of the 25 health-care worker cases, 23 are in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and two in the Interlake-Eastern health region. Eight are nurses, five are medical staff and 12 are allied health/support workers, Siragusa said.
Fifteen of those people have recovered and are back at work, she said.
Health-care workers have accounted for four of the 11 new COVID-19 cases reported in Manitoba in the past week. Roussin was asked if that means health-care worker infections are responsible for most of Manitoba's new transmissions.
"We know of those four, and we sure haven't had a number of cases otherwise to report," he said. "But [it's] tough to make a generalization over that, just over the one week like this."
Roussin couldn't say if Manitoba has already passed its COVID-19 peak but noted the growth curve has been flat for some time.
With the two new cases of COVID-19 in the province announced Wednesday, Manitoba's total is now 257.
The number of deaths in the province remains at six.
There are 97 active COVID-19 cases and 154 people who have recovered. Seven people are currently in hospital with COVID-19, three of whom are in intensive care.
Roussin didn't have statistics immediately available about the total number of people who have been in ICU and recovered, but noted the average length of length of stay in ICU for COVID-19 patients has been 10.6 days.
He was also asked if the low overall case numbers are an indication that Manitobans listened to his urging to practise physical distancing during the Easter long weekend. He and Siragusa had expressed concern ahead of that holiday about people gathering in groups.
"The early indication is yes, but it's still a little bit early to conclude that," he said, noting it was only 10 days ago.
"We usually look for at least a full incubation period [of 14 days] and usually an incubation period plus a period of infectiousness, so more into that 18 to 21 days after. But certainly, early indication isn't showing us a climb in cases."
Roussin also mentioned once again the province will be looking at gradually reopening non-essential businesses over the coming weeks, as long as the numbers of new cases remain low.
"This will not be a return to normal. There will be a new normal," he said.
He repeated what Premier Brian Pallister said earlier in the day — that more detail on the loosening of restrictions will be disclosed next week.
Roussin wouldn't get into specifics, but did say one thing about what the "new normal" would look like.
"Large group gatherings are not a thing in our foreseeable future," he said.
"And even when we do start moving the economy, things like physical distancing are going to be in place for quite some time."
Manitobans need to be prepared for the possibility of more than one wave of the virus, Roussin added, which is why the reopening cannot involve simply throwing the doors wide open.
"We'll have to adjust accordingly with our public health measures if needed. Is that going to extend all the way to fall or not? It's tough for me to say. But it's certainly not going to be back to normal for quite some time."
When it does come time to consider reopening things, Roussin said he would be looking at other jurisdictions for examples. One of those could be Saskatchewan.
That province's premier, Scott Moe, is set to make an address on Wednesday night, with details on Saskatchewan's plans for reopening expected to be released Thursday morning.
"We would look at [areas] with similar epidemiology to us, so certainly Saskatchewan has a similar timing in certain similar epidemiology to to Manitoba," Roussin said.
"So we would pay close attention to any interventions that they were making and follow the impacts of that."
As part of that aim toward opening the economy, Roussin re-emphasized that the criteria for COVID-19 testing eligibility has been expanded, noting it is now open to anyone who is still working outside the home and is displaying any symptoms of the illness.
"This includes people working in construction, in transportation, in manufacturing and grocery stores, and daycares, and all other critical businesses," Roussin said.
"For a long time we've been discussing the the short supply of testing, and we had limited criteria. Now we're opening it up because we want to be able to ramp up our testing to be able to look to open up the economy," he said.
"We want to make sure we're getting adequate testing numbers in to ensure that we're picking up on any community-based transmission. So when we're [talking about] essential services — some people may not have understood how broad that is — basically anyone who's working right now is considered that essential service."
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | April 22, 2020: