October 23, 2020

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Virus continues to surge as city moves to code orange

Winnipeg remains a hot spot after 92 cases identified over weekend

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP

Winnipeg continues to grow as a COVID-19 hot spot with 92 new cases identified in the city by public health officials over the weekend.

Today marks the first day Winnipeg and the surrounding municipalities are returning to more public health orders and restrictions, mandated under the province’s pandemic response system as Winnipeg is escalated to a code orange designation. The move was announced Friday by the province’s chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, along with the decision to mandate masks in indoor public spaces, and limit indoor and outdoor gatherings to 10 people.

"We need to ensure we are making careful choices about who we are spending time with, the nature of that time, as well as the amount of people," Roussin said Friday.

Fifty-one new cases were identified across the province Sunday, with 36 of them identified in the capital. Eight cases were found in the Interlake–Eastern health region, four in the Southern Health region, two in the Northern Health region, and a single case in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

Of the 65 new cases Saturday, 56 were in Winnipeg.

Public health officials also notified the public Sunday of another two possible COVID-19 exposures at Winnipeg schools. An individual attended École Précieux-Sang (209 Kenny St.) while possibly infectious on Sept. 18. The same day, health officials say another individual who was possibly infectious attended Sisler High School.

Chart showing active cases of COVID-19 by regional health authority

Officials said the risk of exposure in both cases is low and noted the infections were not acquired at the school. Anyone identified as a close contact will be contacted and provided further instructions regarding self-isolation and testing, officials said in letters to parents.

St. John’s-Ravenscourt School and John W. Gunn Middle School were added to the list of possible school-related exposures on Saturday. In both instances, transmission of the virus to the infected individual did not occur at the school.

An outbreak was declared at the Heritage Lodge Long Term Care Home on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg over the weekend. The outbreak moves the facility to a red (or critical) restriction level in the province’s pandemic response system. According to the system, red indicates "the virus is being transmitted at levels that public health and the health system cannot manage" and that "extensive community transmission is occurring."

Comparison of COVID-19 active cases per capita across the provinces

More widely, Winnipeg’s code orange status and regulations will be in place for a minimum of 28 days. While Roussin did not mandate the closure of restaurants and bars last week, he did leave open the possibility of new restrictions being implemented this week to try and stymie the citywide outbreak.

Roussin has identified bars as being a part of the problem. He said in one instance a single individual who went to several bars had possibly infected as many as 36 other people.

"We know that even though there are a number of young individuals acquiring the virus in the Winnipeg region, no one’s risk is truly their own," Roussin said last week. "These individuals will bring it back home to perhaps younger siblings, to older grandparents or older contacts or people who are more high risk."

Roussin is also concerned about the growth of the test positivity rate (the fraction of tests that come back positive) which on Sunday was 2.2 per cent. It was 2.3 Saturday and as high as 2.6 per cent last week.

Winnipeg and Manitoba are far from the only places in the country struggling with a second wave of novel coronavirus cases. On Sunday Ontario reported 491 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily jump seen since early May.

— with files from The Canadian Press


Twitter: @SarahLawrynuik

Sarah Lawrynuik

Sarah Lawrynuik

Sarah Lawrynuik reports on climate change for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press climate change reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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