Two more Manitobans have died from COVID-19, while a number of possible outbreaks have been reported at Winnipeg schools, businesses and transit routes.
The province announced the two deaths during a Sept. 21 media briefing. The two victims were both in their 80s - a man in the Southern Health-Sante Sud region and a woman in the Prairie Mountain Health region. Manitoba has now reported 18 deaths from COVID-19 during the pandemic, along with 1,608 people who have contracted the disease.
“We want to extend our condolences to their families and loved ones,” said Manitoba chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin during the Sept. 21 briefing.
The disease is continuing to grow in Winnipeg while previous clusters in Brandon and other communities are falling by the wayside. Of the 22 new cases found in Manitoba Sept. 21, 16 cases were in Winnipeg. Throughout Manitoba, 363 cases remained active with 284 cases in the provincial capital on Sept. 21. Another 17 cases are active in Brandon. Only 61 people are sick with COVID-19 outside Manitoba’s two biggest cities.
Possible exposures to COVID-19 have been reported at several Winnipeg-area schools and businesses - most recently at College Garden City Collegiate, where a person who tested positive for COVID-19 was at the school for three days last week. Another possible exposure was reported at the Meadows School in Brandon Sept. 15-16, along with possible exposures at a Planet Fitness in Winnipeg, a Winnipeg Transit route and at a hookah lounge in the capital. A series of other possible exposures have been reported in Winnipeg cafes, restaurants, lounges and bus transit routes.
“There has been a concerning increase in the number of cases in Winnipeg, with many cases having large numbers of close contacts,” reads a provincial government briefing issued Sept. 20. The city still remains at a “yellow” level in the provincial pandemic response system, but several areas within the city - John Pritchard School and at six separate seniors’ facilities - are marked as either “orange” or “red”, where restrictions have been brought into place.
“Recent success in the Prairie Mountain Health region shows that focusing on the fundamentals can reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The chief provincial public health officer strongly encourages residents of and visitors to Winnipeg to focus on these fundamentals to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Part of the successful measures within Brandon and Prairie Mountain Health was mandating mask use in public spaces. Roussin did not call for a mandate on masks in public spaces in Winnipeg Sept. 21, but did not rule out such a measure in the future.
“We didn’t make that call today because we’re still looking at a number of our indicators. If we look at the number of active cases in Winnipeg, [that’s] not much more than what we saw when we instituted that in Brandon with a much smaller population size,” said Roussin.
“We’re not seeing a heavy burden on our health care system at this point, but we’re watching these things very closely… didn’t make that decision today, but nothing’s off the table.”
Two people in a Saskatchewan community still have COVID-19, but the disease has not showed any sign of outside spread.
The two cases remain the only cases in the Far North East 2 health zone, which contains Saskatchewan communities near Flin Flon including Creighton and Denare Beach. Another active case of COVID-19 remains in the far north west region.
Province-wide, seven new cases of COVID-19 were found in Saskatchewan Sept. 21, with most found in Saskatoon. Five cases were reported in Saskatchewan’s biggest city, with three of those cases linked to an outbreak at a Brandt Industries facility. Seventeen people have gotten sick connected to that case as of Sept. 21.
The other two active cases were found in Regina and in the south east zone. Saskatchewan currently has 145 active cases of COVID-19 and has reported 1,814 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started.
Ten people are in hospital, with one person in intensive care.
The province is planning on stepping up enforcement of public health orders, with fines in place for people found violating the orders. Provincial health officials said the fines will be issued after increased transmission of COVID-19 after different types of large gatherings, both in the province and around the country.
“In Saskatchewan and across the country, public health authorities are seeing increasing transmission rates as a result of public and private gatherings that are in contravention of public health orders and guidelines,” reads a provincial announcement. “Public health orders in Saskatchewan specify that individuals must self-isolate upon a confirmed COVID-19 test result and that indoor and outdoor gatherings may have a maximum of 30 people, provided there is enough space to maintain a two-metre separation between individuals who are not in the same household. Gathering sizes should be smaller if there isn’t enough space to maintain a physical distance of two metres at all times.”
The fines can be up to $2,000 per person and $10,000 for businesses and corporations, along with what the province has called “victim surcharges”.