Manitoba’s top health official chose the perfect time to take a week off.
Provincial chief medical officer Dr. Brent Roussin hosted his first news conference in a week and a half July 6 and announced no new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba for the sixth consecutive day.
The province has processed over 66,000 tests since the pandemic began and is tracking 14 active cases.
“We have to learn to start living with this virus. We have to try to find ways to get back to the things that we enjoy doing,” Roussin said.
“But we have to ensure we're protecting the public as we do so.”
The July 6 conference was the first health update since the province lifted restrictions on travel into northern Manitoba June 26.
“We put these restrictions in places as soon as we felt they were necessary at the level that we thought was necessary,” he said.
“As we saw our numbers declining over time, as we had the health care system up in its response mode, as our testing capacity increased, we could not justify leaving those travel restrictions on any further.”
Roussin said potential travellers should still exercise caution, using the same techniques that limited the spread of the virus across all of Manitoba.
“No one should be traveling or really going out anywhere, if you have any symptoms as part of the illness,” he said.
“There shouldn't be anyone visiting who has a respiratory illness. Frequent hand hygiene and trying to maintain that physical distancing whenever possible - that messaging works in that situation as well.”
Most recent cases have been related to travel, but those cases have not spread. Roussin credited people infected for following procedure and contacting few people before they knew they could be infectious.
“I think the essential workers have been following guidance quite well,” he said.
“We've seen cases being imported, but we haven't seen large contacts to those cases, because these professionals are following our advice.”
Roussin noted masks are not required in public in Manitoba, but recommended their use only if all other preventative measures (like social distancing) are not possible.
“[Masks] have to be used properly,” he said.
“We all see the people wearing masks, not covering the nose or the mask under the chin - and that carries risks of its own. Touching your hand or face more often. when we choose to wear a mask, that's setting us up for exposure as well.”
Over 1,700 Manitobans were tested over the past three days before July 6.
If no cases are found in the Northern Health Region as of July 8, northern Manitoba will mark three full months with no new cases of COVID-19. The region’s last case was reported April 8.
The picture on COVID-19 isn’t looking quite as rosy to the west. Saskatchewan announced nine more people had fallen ill with COVID-19 over the weekend, pushing the province past 800 total cases of the disease.
Two cases were reported July 4, with four new cases found July 5 and another three cases reported July 6.
Three of those cases were found in the far north region. Cases were also found in the north region (one case), the central region (one case), Saskatoon (two cases) and southern Saskatchewan (two cases).
As of July 6, 805 people in Saskatchewan have been infected with COVID-19. Of that total, 59 cases were still considered active Monday. Four people were hospitalized with the disease July 6, with three of those people in intensive care - one in Saskatoon and two in an unidentified northern facility.
Of the 59 active cases, 42 were in northern Saskatchewan - 35 in the far north, eight in the north.
The next phase of Saskatchewan’s reopening plan was slated to go into effect July 6, allowing for indoor sports and pools, rinks and performing arts to resume operations. The fourth phase of the provincial Reopen Saskatchewan plan has included four separate subphases. Youth day camps were allowed to reopen June 22, along with outdoor pools and spray pads and outdoor recreation and some sports activities. June 29 included reopenings for libraries, museums, galleries and theatres.
The next subphase of phase four, slated to go into effect July 9, will include casinos and bingo halls. The fifth phase of the plan, which does not have a firm date of introduction, will include possible lifting of limits on public and private gatherings.