October 21, 2020

Winnipeg
-2° C, Light snow

Full Forecast

Close
Winnipeg Free Press

ABOVE THE FOLD

Subscribe

Mask mandate ordered in Winnipeg as virus cases spike

Winnipeg Free Press

Delivering Crucial Information.
Right Here.

Support this work for just $3.92/week

In the past week, public health officials have watched with increasing concern the steady rise of COVID-19 cases in Winnipeg, many the result of community transmission.

On Friday, with 54 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the province, 44 of them in the Manitoba capital, they decided action was needed.

Effective Monday, the Winnipeg metropolitan region will be have its status under the province's pandemic response system elevated to restricted (orange).

The main effects are that masks must be worn in all indoor public places in Winnipeg and neighbouring municipalities, and gatherings in settings not already restricted by public orders, such as weddings, will be reduced to 10 persons.

"The indicators, especially in the Winnipeg health region, are certainly trending in the wrong direction," said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief public health officer, in announcing the measures at a hastily scheduled news conference.

While western Manitoba was once the province's COVID-19 hot spot, leading public health officials to impose temporary restrictions in Prairie Mountain Health, Winnipeg is now the major concern. As of Friday, the city had 401 of Manitoba's 487 active cases.

"The indicators, especially in the Winnipeg health region, are certainly trending in the wrong direction." — Dr. Brent Roussin

The current five-day test positivity rate is 3.1 per cent in Winnipeg, 2.6 per cent provincewide.

Health officials are troubled by the growing number of cases linked to bar-hopping. In recent weeks, half of the new infections have been connected to bars, pubs and restaurants.

Roussin said Friday that while people in the Winnipeg metro region will have to wear masks as they walk in and out and about in bars and restaurants — as opposed to when they are seated — there will be no further restrictions on such establishments.

Restrictions as of Monday:

Masks must be worn in all indoor public places;

Indoor and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people;

All other existing orders and rules, governing schools, child care centres, retail outlets, indoor sports, museums, theatres, gyms and casinos, will remain the same;

Masks must be worn in all indoor public places;

Indoor and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people;

All other existing orders and rules, governing schools, child care centres, retail outlets, indoor sports, museums, theatres, gyms and casinos, will remain the same;

Restaurants and bars won't face new restrictions immediately, although masks must be worn by patrons walking to and from tables;

Seating in churches will continue to be set at 30 per cent of capacity, although church cohort groups, now limited to 50 persons, will be cut back to 10.

Employees of private businesses will not, as a matter of course, be required to wear masks indoors. However, masks or non-permeable barriers are required in workplaces that deal with the public.

However, he said the government will immediately begin to consult with the industry about new measures that can be taken in the near future.

While case counts have mainly been rising in the Winnipeg health region, 17 surrounding municipalities are included in the new order for practical purposes. People in these communities regularly travel to Winnipeg for work or school, and their proximity to the city would make it easy for groups to circumvent size restrictions on gatherings by moving events a short distance away.

In addition to the Winnipeg, neighbouring municipalities are affected including Selkirk, Stonewall and Niverville.

The restrictions will remain in place for a minimum of four weeks, representing two virus incubation periods.

Roussin said officials won't be able to judge how effective the new restrictions are for at least a week or two.

As of Monday, masks are mandatory in all indoor public places in the metro region. The limit of 10 on gatherings applies, whether it is an indoor or outdoor setting.

Mask-wearing on the menu, but little else changing at city bars, eateries

Click to Expand
The mandatory mask rule for public places will apply to bars and restaurants. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)
The mandatory mask rule for public places will apply to bars and restaurants. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Posted: 25/09/2020 7:00 PM

Many of the recent COVID-19 infections in Winnipeg have been linked to bar-hopping and restaurant-going 20-somethings, yet Manitoba's new pandemic restrictions taking effect Monday don’t specifically target drinking establishments and eateries.

Rather than ordering licensed establishments in Winnipeg and the surrounding communities to stop serving alcohol at an earlier time, as Quebec, Ontario and B.C. have done to slow the spread of the virus, Manitoba's chief public health officer said consultation with stakeholders is needed first.

Read Full Story

However, existing orders and rules for schools, child care, retail outlets, museums, theatres, gyms and casinos remain the same for the time being.

Manitoba imposed similar restrictive measures on Aug. 24 in Prairie Mountain Health, which includes Brandon, when cases in that region spiked. The restrictions were lifted on Sept. 18, after the situation was brought under control.

"We were able to make significant change in the Prairie Mountain Health region in a relatively short period of time, and we are looking to do the same in the Winnipeg health region," Roussin said on Friday.

While health officials did not impose restrictions on Prairie Mountain Health until the test positivity rate there exceeded five per cent, they knew exactly where the case clusters were, Roussin said.

"We don't have that benefit here in Winnipeg," he said, noting that the virus is more dispersed in the community.

He implored Winnipeggers to reduce the number of close contacts they have with people outside the home. Visiting people outdoors is safer than in enclosed spaces, he said.

Reacting to the announcement, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said "it's a pretty serious day for everyone who lives in Winnipeg."

"I think this is a time for us all to remember that we have to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19," he said. "Let’s wear our masks, let’s limit our interactions in social settings and get back to the basics (that) helped Manitoba to be so successful for so long."

The province said 1,607 laboratory tests for COVID-19 were completed on Wednesday, and a whopping 2,354 tests were completed on Thursday.

Also, officials declared outbreaks over at Fred Douglas Lodge and Concordia Place personal care homes.

— with files from Carol Sanders

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

   Read full biography

History

Updated on Friday, September 25, 2020 at 9:57 PM CDT: Adds video

The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.

To submit a letter:
• fill out the form on this page, or
• email letters@freepress.mb.ca, or
• mail Letters to the Editor, 1355 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2X 3B6.

Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.