Northern Manitoba is now the province’s hub of COVID-19 cases - and the Flin Flon district now has 17 active cases.
In the space of about two weeks, Flin Flon went from having only one active case of COVID-19 Jan. 7 to 17 and increasing as of Jan. 18.
The exact whereabouts of most cases are not known, but at least two Flin Flon cases have been confirmed. The cases were reported in a letter from public health officials and the Flin Flon School Division, stating that the cases were located in the same cohort at Ecole McIsaac School. It is unknown if the cases were in students, teachers or other staff members or if the disease was transmitted to anyone else at the school.
“Manitoba public health officials have advised of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the school on Jan. 11 in the pink cohort when the individual may have been infectious,” reads the public health letter.
“The school is working closely with public health officials and is following their recommendations. Close contacts have been identified and are advised to self-isolate.”
Families of close contacts to the initial cases are being contacted by public health workers. Children who develop possible COVID-19 symptoms - including fever, chills, cough, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, nausea or diarrhea, shortness of breath or others - are asked to stay home and isolate with their families.
No current cases of COVID-19 are active in Hudbay’s operations in Flin Flon or Snow Lake, according to a statement sent to The Reminder from the company Jan. 18.
Elsewhere in the region, northern Manitoba is now home to almost half the province’s active cases of the disease, with outbreaks in remote communities either worsening or still ongoing. Another 46 new cases were reported in the region Jan. 18, including a death due to COVID-19 - a man in his 80s from The Pas/OCN/Kelsey district whose case was connected to the outbreak at the Rod McGillivary Care Home on Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
The region is now home to 1,469 active cases of COVID-19 and is approaching the 3,000 total case mark as of Jan. 18. As of Jan. 18, more than four per cent of northern Manitoba residents - 1 in every 25 people - have tested positive for COVID-19.
The latest major community outbreak in the north is in the Lynn Lake area, where 113 people have active COVID-19 cases, three people have died and more than 200 people in total have tested positive. An outbreak was reported at the community’s health centre, where two people - one of whom was a staff member - have tested positive.
To fight the spread, the Town of Lynn Lake launched a curfew for the community starting Jan. 18 until the end of the month. All people, aside from essential services workers on the job, are asked to stay home after 8 p.m. until 6 a.m., with a local bylaw enforcement officer making patrols.
According to a statement made by the Town, the Lynn Lake Friendship Centre and Marcel Colomb First Nation are offering some services, including grocery deliveries and picking up mail and medication, for people in isolation.
Vaccinations in northern Manitoba are being done, slowly but surely. The province has began immunizing residents at the St. Paul’s Residence in The Pas, where an outbreak is still considered in effect by the province. As of Jan. 18, one person - a staff member - tested positive for COVID-19 and has since tested negative, but the outbreak designation will remain in effect as a precaution. Residents at Flin Flon-area seniors’ facilities are slated to get their first doses later this month.
Shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Manitoba will be reduced in the coming weeks, due to a production change by the drug manufacturer. One of two COVID-19 vaccines to have been shipped to Manitoba, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is not the type that is being sent north - the other vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, is the shot that will be sent to northern Manitoba as it is easier to ship, not requiring the same super-cold freezers that are needed for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.
A COVID-19 vaccination “super-site” will be opened in Thompson Feb. 1, but plans released for the site have drawn criticism. The province originally planned to run a vaccination clinic out of a site at the Thompson Regional Airport - dubbed the “Vaxport” by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister - but local officials said the site would prove impractical for Thompson residents and people in outlying communities. A second site is being set up at the Thompson Regional Community Centre along with the “Vaxport”, but the site will be operated only temporarily, according to health officials, adding that the launch of the “Vaxport” will be delayed due to the Pfizer/BioNTech delay.
“We are planning to go forward with opening the site in Thompson on Feb. 1, but this will be on a temporary basis while supplies are in place to run that site. We are also going to be holding off on opening up the ‘Vaxport’ of the Thompson site, because we are awaiting further supplies,” said medical officer of health and provincial vaccination task force member Dr. Joss Reimer in a provincial press conference Jan. 18.
“For the time being, we are not taking appointments for the Thompson site, but we will let you know when that changes.”
Throughout the north, 33 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, 31 of whom have active cases of the disease. Six people from the Northern Health Region are now in intensive care.
Meanwhile in southern Manitoba, the province is showing progress. Overall new cases, active cases and five-day test positivity rates are declining in southern areas, with Winnipeg currently boasting a 7.3 per cent test positivity rate - more than three percentage points lower than the provincial average. The province reported 118 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths due to the disease Jan. 18, with the number of Manitoba active cases up to 3,108.
A total of 289 people are in hospitals in Manitoba due to COVID-19, 135 of whom still have active cases of the disease. Thirty-five people, including 23 people with active cases, are in intensive care. Since the pandemic began, 773 Manitobans have died from the disease.
Manitoba’s case load is dropping, but Saskatchewan’s is going the other way.
The province reported 290 new cases of the disease Jan. 18, pushing the province’s active case count up to 4,265. The far north east health zone remains one of the hardest hit in the province, with 377 active cases as of Jan. 18.
Most of those cases are in the far north east 1 health zone, located toward the middle of the province near La Ronge. Of the rest of the cases, 77 are in the far north east 2 zone, down from in the 90s last week. Twenty new cases were reported in the far north east health zone Jan. 18, but only one was found in the far north east 2 zone.
While Saskatchewan’s case loads are increasing, so are their vaccination numbers. The province has immunized 22,618 people with their first doses, including almost 2,500 Sunday - 104 of whom were in the far north east region.