Thompson and Island Lake account for half of north's 43 new COVID-19 between them Feb. 11

40 students and staff at SDML schools have tested positive for the virus this school year, including 16 in the two weeks leading up to Feb. 9

The Island Lake and Thompson/Mystery Lake health districts continue to be the hot spots for new COVID-19 cases in Northern Manitoba, which accounted for 43 of 90 new positive tests across the province announced Feb. 11.

Twelve of the new northern cases were from Island Lake and 11 from the Thompson/Mystery Lake health district, which are the only two northern districts with a total of more than 500 cases since the pandemic began. There were also seven new cases of the virus from the Cross Lake/Pimicikamak health district on Thursday and five in The Pas/Opaskwayak/Kelsey health district.

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There have been 4,240 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the NRHA since the pandemic began and the region currently has 727 of the 1,582 active cases in the province.

An outbreak was declared at the Grassroots Early Learning and Child Care Centre on Feb. 11 and a Calm Air flight from Thompson to Winnipeg on Feb. 4 has been identified as the site of a possible public exposure to the virus.

Manitoba’s acting deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said that northern case numbers are following the general downward provincewide trend and that they should continue to decrease over the next couple of weeks.

“We do see the number of infections decreasing,” he said. “The case numbers are declining as time goes on. It’s something that we anticipated. We obviously saw a large spike in cases especially in some of our remote communities and Thompson itself as well, which isn’t as remote, and obviously it does take some time for it to come down so we are seeing that general trend coming down."

Noting that about half of the northern cases announced on Thursday were from First Nations, Atwal said that large households often lead to family members contracting the virus.

“If one person gets sick they’ll show up as a test positive today then maybe 10 days later two or three siblings or family members test positive,” Atwal said.

Wapanohk Community School is still listed as an active outbreak on the provincial government’s COVID-19 website with a note that the student cases are a result of household transmission, as the school has been on remote learning since resuming after the Christmas break and no in-school transmission has occurred. School District of Mystery Lake co-superintendent Lorie Henderson said at the Feb. 9 board meeting that it shouldn’t have been declared an outbreak. 

“The school was originally listed as an outbreak and when I spoke with public health it’s since been removed because there was no in-school transmission and the school was on remote learning,” she said. “It shouldn’t have been declared an outbreak is what I’m saying. The hope is to have all the students return to school starting Feb. 16. We’ll continue to work with public health to monitor the situation. We know our students are anxious to return to school. We have a few folks showing up asking to come back to school so we know it’s important that we open the doors.”

The school district  was scheduled to speak with public health about Wapanohk Feb. 10, Henderson said.

According to information made public by the province, there have been 16 COVID-19 cases connected to students and staff at six SDML schools in the two weeks leading up to Feb. 9. That was up from six cases at four schools over the two weeks leading up to Feb. 3. Wapanohk had the most associated cases in the two weeks leading up to past Tuesday, at five, while there were four at École Riverside, three at R.D. Parker Collegiate and one each at Burntwood, Westwood and Deerwood schools. 

According to a crowdsourced document listing COVID-19 cases associated with Manitoba schools, there have been 40 cases of the virus connected to staff and students at SDML schools since the school year began, including 18 at Wapanohk, eight at RDPC, five at Westwood, five at Riverside, two at Deerwood and two at Burntwood. At least a dozen potential exposure notifications have been sent to parents of students at those six schools since October.

A case being connected to a school doesn’t mean that the virus was acquired at school and not all school-connected cases result in notifications being sent to parents.

Let’s say a child wasn’t at school when they were communicable there would be no risk to  anyone at that school … so there would be no notification,” said Atwal. “If there’s any sort of risk to other individuals within a classroom or school setting then that notification process should be happening with those individuals.”

Three more deaths resulting from COVID-19 were announced by the province on Thursday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 862.

There were 244 people in hospital due to virus as of Feb. 11, including 92 with active infections. Fourteen people with active infections were in intensive care, while another 18 who are no longer considered infectious are still in ICU. Twenty-seven northern residents are in hospital due to the virus, 15 of whom have active infections. Two of the northerners with active infections are in ICU, as are three who are no longer considered infectious.

Manitoba chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said Thursday that on Feb. 8 there were 91 people in intensive care for all reasons, the lowest number of Manitobans in ICU since Nov. 22.

The five-day test positivity rate in Manitoba was 4.9 per cent Feb. 11.

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