The head of public health in Manitoba asked people in the province to stop socializing with those they don’t live with after another “worrying” round of record COVID-19 numbers on Thursday.
“The message is: stay home. The message is: don’t socialize outside your home,” said Dr. Brent Roussin at a news conference.
Along with 474 new cases of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Roussin announced a province-wide positive test rate of 11 percent (11.4 in the Winnipeg area) and hospitalizations that rose to 227 (including 34 people in intensive care) ).
The latest update also marked the second consecutive day that Manitoba announced nine more deaths – the highest number of coronavirus-related fatalities reported in a single day in the province.
These figures came when all of Manitoba was moved to the red, or critical, level of the province’s pandemic response system.
This change left the provincial limit for meetings of five, but it comes with a strong recommendation to avoid socializing with someone you don’t live with – something that Roussin asked people to take seriously.
“These orders are here to save the lives of the Mannitobans,” he said. “We don’t need to find a way to get around them. We just need to find a way to move forward and follow them.”
This maximum of five people, which does not include family members who are hosting, entered into force in Manitoba on November 2.
It has not changed in the measures implemented on Thursday, contrary to the statements that Roussin made earlier this week, when he said that there were meetings with people outside the home would be banned.
Roussin said that such a ban would be difficult to enforce and would require many exemptions and is therefore not part of Manitoba’s latest public health order – but it is still advice that people should follow, he said.
The province no longer has control over the transmission chains of its COVID-19 cases, he said, and is concerned about the acceleration of cases and hospitalizations among people in First Nations.
The restrictions introduced in Manitoba this week are the toughest the province has ever seen during the pandemic, said Roussin. Even with widespread strikes in April, groups of 10 people were still allowed and no restrictions on private meetings were introduced, he said.
WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin explains how the new collection rules are stricter than during spring break:
The new rules also closed non-essential gyms, places of worship, theaters, hairdressers, recreation centers and retail stores. These measures will remain in place for at least two weeks, but probably for longer, said Roussin.
Increase in deaths in nursing homes
The deaths announced in Manitoba on Thursday include four people linked to the outbreak at the Long Term Care Home Maples, he said: three men and a woman, all in their 80s.
They also include a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Holy Family Home, a man in her 80s linked to the outbreak at the Bethesda Regional Health Unit and a man in her 60s linked to the outbreak at Parkview Place Long Term Care Casa.
Two other women from Winnipeg unrelated to any outbreak – one in her 50s and another in her 70s – were also among the deaths announced on Thursday.
In the meantime, an outbreak has been reported at River East Personal Care Home in Winnipeg, which has now been moved to the critical red level of the pandemic response system.
Most of the new cases announced on Thursday – 315 – are in the Winnipeg health region. There are 94 in the Southern Health region, 26 in the Interlake-Eastern region, 20 in the Northern Health region and 19 in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
Manitoba also announced two new COVID-19 test sites on Thursday: one at 2007 Saskatchewan Ave. W. in Portage la Prairie and another at Assiniboia Downs (3975 Portage Ave.) in Winnipeg. Together, these sites will increase testing capacity by up to 520 per day, the province said in a press release.
More details about the locations and times of the new sites will be available on the province website.
There have already been 9,782 cases of COVID-19 detected in Manitoba. Of these, 6,030 are considered active, although Roussin said that number is distorted because of an accumulation of data input and is probably close to 3,163.
Another 3,620 people recovered and 132 died.
On Wednesday, another 3,717 COVID-19 tests were completed in Manitoba, bringing the total made in the province since the beginning of February to 300,169.
Possible COVID-19 exposures are listed on the province website.
WATCH | Complete November 12, 2020, COVID-19 press conference: