COVID-19 cases in northern Manitoba continue to climb, with nine separate districts in the region reporting active cases of the disease.
The region now has gone from almost five months with no new cases of COVID-19 to 31 active cases of the disease, spread out throughout nine different health districts.
Three active cases of COVID-19 have been listed by the provincial government as “unknown district” cases, often involving cases where a person’s place of residence on their provincial health card does not match with their current residence.
The Shamattawa/York Factory/Tataskweyak/Split Lake health district makes up the brunt of current active cases according to provincial data, with nine cases reported as active within the district. Seven people remain active within the Thompson/Mystery Lake district.
Ten people who have previously tested positive in Thompson are now considered recovered.
Three people have COVID-19 in the Cross Lake/Pimicikamak health district, while two cases each have been reported in the Bunibonibee/Oxford House/Manto Sipi/Gods River/Gods Lake, Island Lake and Lynn Lake/Marcel Colomb/O-Pipon-Na-Piwin/Granville Lake districts.
One case remains active in three northern districts - the Bay Line, Gillam/Fox Lake Cree Nation and Nelson House/Nisichawayasihk districts.
When asked by the Thompson Citizen’s Ian Graham during an Oct. 19 media briefing, Manitoba chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said he did not know if any of the new northern cases have been tied to an outbreak at the Thompson YWCA, but said other cases have emerged that were not linked to the facility.
“I don’t think there has been any more that have occurred - we can get an update on that. We do know that we’re seeing more cases in Thompson. We know now that we’re seeing non-epi-linked cases in the Thompson area, so we’re watching that situation very closely.”
Roussin did not know off-hand how many cases in Thompson have been linked to the YWCA outbreak.
On the rise of cases in northern communities, Roussin said the north would need to stick to basic preventative measures, including social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitizing hands, to fight the spread.
“I think what we need to continue to conclude is that we’re not helpless against this virus, that we’ll see those numbers double, but it’s not out of our hands. We can all take steps right now to reduce the impact of that transmission. That’s those fundamentals,” Roussin said.
“We’ll continue to adhere to the northern travel restrictions, all those fundamentals - handwashing, staying home when you’re ill, physical distancing, wearing a mask in indoor public places - we all know what we can do and we know that it’s challenging to adhere to all the time, but that would be my message - let’s get back to the fundamentals and we’ll start seeing the interruption of transmission.”
The Town of Snow Lake confirmed that someone who had COVID-19 had been working in Snow Lake, adding the person who tested positive was a resident of Thompson who had come to work in the community for Strilkiwski Trucking. The person who tested positive is now self-isolating in Thompson.
There have been no possible exposure sites or other cases connected to the initial case.
“Contact tracing and identification of individuals affected by being in contact with this person has been completed and those individuals have been sent home to isolate as a precaution… public health has said that the risk to the general population of Snow Lake is low,” reads an Oct. 19 statement from the Town of Snow Lake, signed off on by Mayor Peter Roberts.
Vale Manitoba also reported a COVID-19 case within a person who worked at one of the company’s Thompson sites Oct. 16, stating the case was found in a local contractor who was last at work Oct. 10. It is unclear if the case is the same case listed by the Town of Snow Lake.
An outbreak at the YWCA in Thompson still considered active but limited to participants in the Shelter in Place Program on the facility’s third floor. Anyone who stayed at the facility from Oct. 4-14 is asked to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. At least five cases have been linked to the facility.
Province-wide, cases in Manitoba remain near all-time high levels. Cases were found in all five Manitoba health regions Oct. 19, with 80 total cases found. Of those 80 cases, 51 were found in Winnipeg. Two more deaths were also reported - a man in his 70s and a woman in her 80s, both in Winnipeg and both linked to an outbreak at the Heritage Lodge long term care home in the provincial capital. The province has now seen 42 deaths from COVID-19, 21 of which have taken place in October. On average, at least one death has been reported in Manitoba each day this month.
The test positivity rate has sat around four to five per cent in recent days, with the provincial rate sitting around 4.2 per cent.
As of Oct. 19, there are 1,743 active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, with 28 people in hospital and six in intensive care with the disease. Out of the 1,743 active cases, 1,484 are in Winnipeg.
New restrictions are now in place in Winnipeg, which has seen most of the province's new cases. Within the city and surrounding communities, gathering sizes dropped to five maximum - in addition to household members, only five others can come to a home, for example.
Casinos, beverage rooms and similar facilities will be closed in Winnipeg, while restaurants and lounges will be only allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity, with two-metre distancing in effect and group sizes limited to five. All other measures, including contact tracing and mask use, will stay in effect. Sports and recreation facilities will need to reduce capacity to 25 per cent of a building's maximum. The restrictions will be paired with fines and possible penalties for businesses or groups that don't follow the new rules.