A Manitoba coronavirus timeline

From Emerson to Churchill, Falcon Lake to Russell, and everywhere in between, people in Manitoba are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a look at how it has changed life in the province since March.

How the province has reacted since the announcement of the first 3 COVID-19 cases on March 12

A Winnipeg street is nearly empty on March 23, after life changed dramatically in Manitoba following the announcement of the first COVID-19 cases in the province on March 12. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

From Emerson to Churchill, Falcon Lake to Russell, and everywhere in between, the lives of people in Manitoba have been dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here's a look at what's happened in Manitoba since the first novel coronavirus cases appeared in the province.

1st cases

On March 12, the province announced the first three presumptive cases of the coronavirus in Manitoba. All three patients — a woman in her 40s and two men in their 30s — were exposed to the virus during recent travel.

That same day, two screening centres opened in Winnipeg.

Other parts of the country had already seen numerous cases by this point, including 59 in Ontario, 17 in Quebec and 53 in B.C. Saskatchewan also reported its first presumptive case on March 12, and a case involving a child was reported in Calgary.

International travel restricted

On March 13, the federal government warned Canadians against all international travel and limited inbound flights to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu called it a "critical time of containment."

"Given that there is increased travel happening over the next several weeks, and given that we're at a critical time in keeping our cases down, this is the determination that public health has provided us," she said.

That same day, the provincial government announced that in-school classes would be cancelled for one week before and after spring break, which was scheduled for the end of March and beginning of April.

On March 17, the Canadian and U.S. governments agreed to restrict non-essential travel across the border.

Manitoba also announced it was suspending all visits to seniors' homes to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Winnipeg Richardson International Airport sits empty on March 20 amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

On March 18, the province announced it was suspending visitors to acute-care hospitals for the same reason.

That same day, federal government announced the first details of its massive aid package to help Canadians and businesses deal with the effects of the pandemic, including an initial promise of $27 billion in direct supports and another $55 billion in tax deferrals.

1st Manitoban hospitalized

On March 19, Manitoba public health officials announced a person was hospitalized with COVID-19 — the first person hospitalized with the illness in the province — and was in stable condition.

That same day, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced a 30-bed isolation unit would be created by moving an existing medical unit in the main hospital space at Health Sciences Centre into the former women's hospital area.

State of emergency declared

On March 20, the province declared a state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic and banned gatherings of more than 50. It also shuttered wellness centres, including gyms.

As announced earlier in the week, daycares and preschools closed at the end of the day, but the province said it would spend $27.6 million on child care for front-line health-care workers.

Families Minister Heather Stefanson said licensed child-care centres would continue to get their full operating budgets and the province would establish a grant program to provide money to home-based child-care centres of up to 12 children.

In-school classes end

Although many parents had already pulled children out of school, on March 23, the province's schools began a three-week closure (which included spring break) to more effectively promote social distancing.

In a move to help renters, on March 24, the province froze rent hikes and postponed non-urgent eviction hearings in response to economic challenges caused by the pandemic.

Swings are gone from the playground at Gladstone School. The Winnipeg School Division posted signs and removed swings from all 89 of its playgrounds. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The Residential Tenancies Branch and Residential Tenancies Commission postponed all hearings, except for issues involving tenants' health and safety and unlawful activity.

That same day, Winnipeg school divisions shut down playgrounds in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 in those areas.

Testing expands

On March 26, the province expanded its COVID-19 testing to include symptomatic nurses, inmates and homeless people.

The federal government also implemented strict mandatory quarantine rules for returning Canadians in an effort to prevent people who might have been exposed to COVID-19 while abroad from passing it on to others.

1st death announced

On March 27, public health officials announced Manitoba's first COVID-19-related death

The woman in her 60s died after she was admitted to an intensive care unit in critical condition the previous week.

"It's a tragic loss. It's a Manitoban that we lost, and our hearts go out to their friends and family," Roussin said that morning.

"But this is our time to act now. Stay home if you can."

That same day, the province announced it would deploy employees to the five busiest provincial border crossings to inform travellers of the risk of COVID-19.

A sign at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at Emerson, Man., on March 24 warns returning travellers to stay home for two weeks after their return. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

In Ottawa, the federal government announced it would boost its wage subsidy to 75 per cent for small and medium-sized businesses to avoid layoffs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the wage subsidies would be backdated to March 15.

He also said the government would provide bank loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses, which would be interest-free for the first year.

"We're helping companies keep people on the payroll so that workers are supported and the economy is positioned to recover from this. That is our priority," Trudeau said.

City shuts down playgrounds

On March 27, the province announced that as of March 30, public gatherings would be limited to 10 people, down from 50.

The City of Winnipeg said that as of March 28, all of its play structures, including picnic structures, would be closed in order to comply with the provincial health order.

Also on March 28, the prime minister announced people showing symptoms of COVID-19 would no longer be able to travel domestically by plane or train. 

At a news conference on March 29, Trudeau pledged help for children and seniors struggling with accessing essential services while stuck at home.

The federal government pledged $7.5 million in funding to Kids Help Phone to provide mental health support to children and youth impacted by school closures and reduced access to social support and community resources.

The federal government said it would also spend $9 million through United Way Canada to help the country's older population get groceries, medication and other critical items.

Gathering limit expanded to 10

Effective March 30, gatherings were limited to 10 people in Manitoba.

The province also announced it would restrict the operations of non-essential businesses under a new public health order.

"These measures are yet another step to limit the transmission of this virus and to flatten that curve," Roussin said.

The Forks Market in Winnipeg is deserted on March 18, shortly before it closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

K-12 schools close indefinitely

On March 31, the province announced classes for kindergarten to Grade 12 students were suspended indefinitely for the school year.

Teachers would continue to teach remotely, assign work, conduct assessments and prepare report cards, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said.

Health-care workers get sick

That same day, the Manitoba Nurses Union confirmed a Winnipeg emergency department nurse tested positive for COVID-19. Darlene Jackson, the union's president, said she believed the nurse contracted the coronavirus while working in the emergency department caring for patients who had it.

On April 1, the province's two-week restriction on non-essential businesses came into effect.

Roussin also confirmed that day that four health-care workers in total had tested positive for COVID-19, including workers at Grace and St. Boniface hospitals in Winnipeg as well as a workers at the Selkirk Regional Health Centre.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, and Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health's chief nursing officer, addressed the public daily in the first weeks of the pandemic's advent in the province. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

He also said the early signs of community transmission were beginning to show in Winnipeg after public health officials weren't able to determine the source of transmission for four or five cases in the city.

"We knew to expect this. As more and more cases are introduced into a jurisdiction, community transmission is going to be inevitable."

Most cases on 1 day

On April 2, the province announced 40 newly identified cases of COVID-19.

As of April 29, that remains the highest number of new cases Manitoba has seen in a single day. As of April 2, 167 people were suspected or confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus.

The province ordered the closure of gyms on March 20. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

2nd and 3rd deaths

On April 3, public health officials announced a Winnipeg man in his 50s was the second COVID-19-related fatality in Manitoba.

The man had underlying health conditions and had been admitted to an intensive care unit before he died, Roussin said.

"These are challenging times for us all. We're seeing our case numbers continually grow. We are seeing severe outcomes, which is quite distressing to many Manitobans," he said.

"But again, this is not the time for fear. This is the time for our actions."

The third death was announced four days later on April 7. Roussin said it was a Winnipeg man in his 60s who had underlying medical conditions.

Fines for order-breakers

On April 9, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman joined Pallister to announce people and businesses in Manitoba could be fined for breaking the province's public health orders.

Breaking those rules — which banned public and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, forced non-essential businesses to close and required people in stores stay two metres away from each other — could cost $486 for individuals and $2,542 for businesses.

St. Boniface is among the Winnipeg hospitals where workers fell ill. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"Sadly, there is a small minority of people who are not doing their part," Pallister said. "At the end of the day, it is apparent that enforcement is needed as well."

4th and 5th deaths

On April 10, Roussin announced a man in his 70s, who had been in intensive care with underlying conditions, was the fourth person with COVID-19 to die.

Before the man was hospitalized he was at a personal care home, Roussin said, but it's not believed the man contracted the coronavirus while he was there.

On April 15, health officials announced a woman in her 60s from southwestern Manitoba had died after testing positive for the virus. 

This was the first death connected with the illness in Manitoba outside Winnipeg.

The woman was hospitalized in the Prairie Mountain Health Region, but not in intensive care when she died, Roussin said.

WATCH | Manitoba's top doctor talks about new public health orders:

Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer announces new public health orders

4 years ago
Duration 1:03
Featured VideoManitoba's chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, announced new public health orders on Thursday to reduce spread of COVID-19 in the province.

The next day, on April 16, the province announced new public health orders that required people who travel anywhere outside the province — including within Canada — to self-isolate for 14 days when they returned.

They also restricted travel north of the 53rd parallel and into remote communities with no summer road access.

More recoveries than active cases

April 17 was a momentous day for Manitobans because it marked the first time in the course of the pandemic that more people had recovered from COVID-19 than were actively experiencing symptoms.

A person at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre walks back into the hospital on April 8. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"This is thanks to the efforts of Manitobans … staying home [and] practising social distancing. We've seen likely some benefits from our collective work," Roussin said after making the announcement.

He added he's "cautiously optimistic."

6th death

On April 20, the province announced a Winnipeg woman in her 80s who had COVID-19 had died.

"We're extending our condolences to her family and friends," Roussin said.

That same day, the premier announced he was extending the province's state of emergency until May 18.

On April 28, COVID-19 testing was opened to anyone showing symptoms, including mild ones.

To meet the expected increase in demand under the new testing criteria, the province announced Ontario-based Dynacare would do some testing, in addition to the province's Cadham Provincial Lab.

A sign in Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg encourages visitors to practise social distancing. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Plan to reopen economy released

On April 29, Pallister announced some of the public health restrictions would be lifted.

He said as of May 4, a number of non-essential health-care and retail businesses would have the option of reopening under strict guidelines. That opened the door to several services, businesses and venues, including:

  • Non-urgent surgery and diagnostic procedures.
  • Therapeutic and medical services.
  • Retail businesses.
  • Restaurants (patio and walk-up services only — dining rooms stayed closed).
  • Hair salons.
  • Museums, galleries and libraries.
  • Seasonal day camps.
  • Outdoor recreation and campgrounds.
Restaurant patios were allowed to reopen on May 4. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Public gatherings also were still restricted to a maximum of 10 people.

"Today is good news, and it's good news because of you," Pallister said.

7th death

On May 5, the province announced its seventh COVID-19-related death.

The man, who was in his 70s, had underlying health conditions and lived in the Southern Health Region.

He was being treated in hospital and was in the intensive care unit at one point, Roussin said.

That same day, he announced a small cluster of cases at a workplace in the Prairie Mountain Health Region. Pallister later said the affected workplace was Paul's Hauling in Brandon, Man.

By May 11, that cluster grew to 10 people, including coworkers of people who had tested positive and their close contacts.

Sean Brown prepares to reopen his Winnipeg gym. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Restaurants, gyms, seniors centres reopen 

Most businesses that were forced to shutter their doors due to COVID-19 were allowed to start back up on June 1 under the second phase of Manitoba's reopening plan.

That included gyms, indoor restaurant spaces and seniors centres, plus manicurists and pedicurists, film productions, pools and a wide swath of other businesses.

The plan included expanding capacity at child-care centres and allowing restaurant dining rooms, bars, brew pubs and microbreweries to open at 50 per cent capacity, provided they could keep customers two metres apart.

Temporary foreign workers test positive

A group of four temporary foreign workers who lived together tested positive for COVID-19, Roussin announced on June 3.

A group of 18 temporary foreign workers in the Southern Health Region were split into three cohorts of six, Roussin said. Each cohort lived together, and all four of the people who tested positive were from the same cohort.

Most patients can designate one support person to visit them once a day in Manitoba hospitals. (Shutterstock)

Some hospital visitors allowed

On June 5, hospitals in Manitoba started allowing more visitors.

For more than two months, visitors had been banned from all acute-care facilities at Manitoba hospitals, with certain exemptions, including visits for compassionate or end-of-life reasons.

The new rules said most patients in hospitals or health centres could designate one support person who could visit once a day, with some exceptions for certain patients, including children, people giving birth and those at the end of life.

Manitoba reached six days with no new COVID-19 cases on June 11.

On June 16, Trudeau announced the federal government was extending Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments for two more months.

Phase 3 begins

The province initiated the third phase of its reopening plan on June 21.

Gathering sizes increased to a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors, from the previous limits of 25 indoors and 50 outdoors.

But those limits can be expanded if attendees can be split into separate groups that don't intermingle. Each subgroup has to be able to enter, exit and participate in the event separately from the others.

Under such systems, indoor gatherings can increase to a maximum of 30 per cent of the site's capacity, as long as each subgroup has no more than 50 people. In outdoor settings, the subgroups can go up to 100 people per group.

Manitoba previously had a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people entering the province, but that requirement was lifted for people coming from Western Canada and northwestern Ontario (west of Terrace Bay) in Phase 3.

That change applies as long as travellers don't have symptoms or known exposure to the coronavirus.

Daycares were allowed to return to full capacity — up from the previous maximum of 24 — in Phase 3, with certain precautions in place. Families that used the temporary child-care program implemented for workers when daycares had enrolment limits would be able to keep their spots until Aug. 31.

Day camps were allowed to have up to 50 kids per group; where possible, activities have to be designed to let campers and staff stay two metres apart.

On July 7, Manitoba had gone a full week without reporting a new COVID-19 case. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Full week without new cases

On July 7, Manitoba set a new record for the number of days without a new case of COVID-19 being reported in the province.

The day marked the seventh day in a row with no new cases.

That was the first time since the initial cases of COVID-19 were announced in Manitoba on March 12 that the province had gone a full week without a new case. The province had twice before reached a six-day stretch without new cases.

The stretch reached 13 days but it all changed on July 14 when five new cases, all people in hospital, were announced.

Phase 4

Despite that, the province moved ahead with Phase 4 of its reopening plan on July 25, allowing movie theatres and casinos to reopen and stage performances to resume. The following day, six new COVID-19 cases were announced.

By the end of the month, there were 70 active cases and another death — a man in his 70s whose death was announced July 28.

An outbreak linked to Hutterite colonies was announced with the case numbers eventually growing to at least 35  The province soon stopped identifying when cases were connected to the colonies, after Hutterites endured stigmatization.

People flocked to COVID-19 test sites, breaking single-day records on multiple occasions. Many were turned away from drive-thru sites that reached capacity within hours of opening.

Through July, 25,312 tests were completed, by far the most for a single month.

Cases soar

The number of cases surged through August with the province twice setting single-day records for new cases — 42 on Aug. 22 and then 96 the next day — and six deaths.

The total number of cases surpassed 1,000 by the last week of August, and the number of active cases reached 469 by month's end.

In the middle of the month, the province unveiled a new colour-coded system to allow the government to roll out COVID-19 restrictions targeting specific regions, communities or industries in the province.

The province also began offering more detailed data on where COVID-19 cases are in the province by indicating on its online COVID-19 data portal the specific districts within each of its five health regions where cases have been identified.

For the previous five months, health officials had only released case details by health region, most of which cover a vast area.

Manitoba will categorize the COVID-19 situation based on four risk levels, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said Wednesday. (Source: Government of Manitoba)

Manitoba also saw its worst outbreak at a personal care home, which infected 13 people and claimed four lives. Two people at Bethesda Place care home in Steinbach died in August and two more in early September.

The deaths pushed the province's coronavirus-linked fatalities to 16.

An outbreak also hit the Maple Leaf Foods pork processing plant in Brandon, where 70 workers fell ill.

Heightened restrictions for WestMan

The spike in cases led to heightened measures in western Manitoba's Prairie Mountain Health region. The area was upgraded to the orange, or "restricted," level under Manitoba's new pandemic response system.

Mask mandates and steep fines for rule breakers were imposed by the chief public health officer.

Roussin explained he needed to crack down on the spread "before things get out of hand" in the southwestern part of the province. That meant returning to measures that hadn't been in place since the early months of the pandemic.

Roussin suggested people had let down their guard after July's extended run without new cases and were losing track of "fundamentals."

The five-day positivity rate — a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive — went from zero in July to 3.1 per cent by the end of the month.

Manitoba became the country's leader in active cases per capita as community transmissions began.

Back to school

The province wrung its hands over sending students back to school this fall before deciding classes would resume under a number of restrictions.

It ruled out the idea of remote learning, saying parents unwilling to send their children to class would need to register for home-schooling instead.

Students returned Sept. 8, and it didn't take long for COVID-19 to show up.

Students in Manitoba headed back to school after nearly six months away from the classrooms and it didn't take long for COVID-19 to show up. (Marianne Klowak/CBC)

On Sept. 9, the province announced a Grade 7 student at Winnipeg's Churchill High School had tested positive, but was asymptomatic. Health officials said the risk to others was low because the student wore a mask and maintained proper distancing.

But the spread of COVID-19 in schools was a risk many parents decided they didn't want to take. Latest figures from the province show an almost 25 per cent increase in home-schooling registrations compared to 2019.

1st case on First Nation in Manitoba

The same week that the first case showed up in a school, the first case appeared on a First Nation in Manitoba. The chief and council of Fisher River Cree Nation, north of Winnipeg, confirmed the case to CBC News on Sept. 11.

Two more cases, at Peguis First Nation, soon followed. And by the middle of September, a confirmed case put Sagkeeng First Nation into lockdown.

Winnipeg moves to orange level

COVID-19 cases continued to show up at schools in Manitoba through the first three weeks of the school year.

By Sept. 25, there were 17 schools in the province with at least one case. By far, the biggest outbreak was at John Pritchard School in Winnipeg where at least 26 people had tested positive.

In response, the kindergarten to Grade 8 school in North Kildonan shifted about 250 students to remote learning.

A spike of 54 new cases in Manitoba was announced Sept. 25, 44 of which were in Winnipeg. That prompted Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin to put the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region — which includes the city and 17 other communities around it —  into the orange/restricted level effective Sept. 28.

That means masks are mandatory in all public places and gatherings have been drastically reduced and limited to 10.

In just two months, the active caseload in Manitoba went from went from eight on July 25 to 487 on Sept. 25.

Since Phase 4 began, Winnipeg has reported 520 new cases. Prior to that, the city had 248.

With files from Aidan Geary