Increase in positive COVID-19 tests in single digits for second consecutive day

Chief public health officer says abiding by physical distancing recommendations over Easter weekend will be critical to flattening the curve

Manitoba reported only a single-digit increase in the number of positive COVID-19 tests for the second day in a row April 9.

Three new positive tests were added to yesterday’s total of 221, bringing the total so far in Manitoba to 224. The only health region with more cases than yesterday was Winnipeg.

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Eleven people are currently hospitalized with novel coronavirus infections, five of them in intensive care and four of those in intensive care are on ventilators.

Seventy-six cases are listed as recovered in Manitoba, which means that 14 days have passed since the onset of symptoms and symptoms are no longer present. There are 145 active cases and the number of Manitobans who have died from COVID-19 infections remains at three.

Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Thursday that while numbers of new cases have been low the past two days, this does not mean that the province is succeeding in flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases.

“This is too early to make that determination,” he said, reminding people not to host family gatherings or religious services over the Easter weekend. “This weekend I feel is critical as are the next couple of weeks.”

First responders such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics showing possible coronavirus infection symptoms have now been added to the priority list for COVID-19 testing, along with symptomatic people who have been outside the province in the past 14 days, close contacts of known cases, lab workers, all hospital patients with respiratory illness symptoms and people with COVID-19 infection symptoms who live in the province’s north, in First Nations or in remote communities and residents of group settings like correctional facilities.

Though there have still been only three positive tests for the virus in the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA) area, Roussin cautioned that a low number of cases within a health region does not mean the virus is not present.

“This virus is in all health regions in Manitoba,” he said. “Do not look to see if there is one reported in or around you. You cannot assume this virus is someplace else.”

COVID-19 testing sites in Thompson, The Pas and Flin Flon will be open April 10-13 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Manitoba chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said. The sites are not walk-in clinics and people who believe they may have the coronavirus should call Health Links for a screening and advice about whether they should be tested for the virus.

People with other health care issues should still seek necessary treatment, Roussin advised. 

“If you need care, medical care, do seek it,” he said. “Our hospitals are safe.”

Siragusa said that while adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) are still a concern, supplies of gowns and gloves have been received since April 8, when she said these were among items, along with N95 masks, for which the current supply could last only a few weeks.

Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said in an April 9 press release that the province should provide greater transparency about stocks of PPE.

Nurses understand that Manitoba is competing with jurisdictions across the world for PPE procurement,” said Jackson. “They are willing to follow all guidelines and policies provided by government and health officials as long as they understand the context and need to do so. At minimum, Manitoba can provide greater transparency to ensure those on the frontlines have the contextual information required to understand the decisions made by government regarding their health and safety."

Asked when the peak of the pandemic might be expected, Roussin said it will depend on the efforts of Manitobans to reduce the risk of transmission.

“The further down the line that peak happens the better it is for Manitobans,” Roussin said, noting that efforts to reduce the spread of the virus are critical right now during the first wave of infections to ensure the province’s health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed.

As of April 9, there were 19,777 coronavirus cases in Canada, including the three announced in Manitoba Thursday afternoon. The virus has killed 461 people in Canada.

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