Manitoba ‘can’t sustain this,’ top doctor says as 10 more deaths, 392 new cases of COVID-19 announced

Manitoba’s top doctor is reprimanding people who continue to go out and chastising businesses looking for ways around public health orders as the province announces 10 more deaths and 392 cases on Monday.

“Our health-care providers are becoming overwhelmed,” Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said, announcing record-high hospitalization numbers. 

“We can’t sustain this number of cases in our health-care system.”

Manitoba has had triple-digit daily case numbers for a month and cumulative cases are nearly nine times higher today than they were at the beginning of September as the province continues to see some of the worst rates in the country.

Evidence of crowded big box store parking lots over the weekend, and a protest against restrictions in hard-hit Steinbach, prompted vows from Roussin and the premier Monday to increase enforcement.

Manitoba hit a record-high 13 per cent five-day test positivity rate on Monday, while Winnipeg’s rate hit 12.8 per cent.

There have been 172 COVID-19 deaths reported in Manitoba to date, and nearly 90 per cent of those have happened since the beginning of last month.

Three of 10 deaths announced Monday — a man in his 80s, a woman in her 80s and a woman in her 90s — are linked to an outbreak at Maples Long Term Care Home, where more than 30 people have died.

Manitoba officially breached the 100-death mark for November on Monday. More than twice as many people have died in the first half of the month than died in all of last month. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

The other Winnipeg deaths were a man in his 90s connected to the Victoria General Hospital outbreak, a man in his 80s from Seine River Retirement Home, and a man in his 70s from Winnipeg.

There were four deaths in the Southern Health region: a man in his 90s linked to the Bethesda Place outbreak, a man in his 90s from the Brooklyn Terrace outbreak, a man in his 80s from the Carman Memorial Hospital outbreak, and a man in 70s from the Bethesda Regional Health Centre outbreak.

Hospitals ‘under distress’

A record 234 people are in hospital with COVID-19, a record-high 42 of them in intensive care.

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health, said 90 of 99 ICU beds are full, with COVID-19 patients in just over half of them. About three ICU patients are being admitted daily.

As of Monday morning, a record 234 are in Manitoba hospitals with COVID-19. A record-setting 42 are in intensive care. (Bryce Hoye )

“The entire system is soon going to be under distress under these high daily case counts, and it really can’t continue,” she said. 

“If we had a worst-case scenario, it feels like this would be it.”

If trends don’t improve, the province may be forced to create space for non-COVID-19 hospital patients outside of hospitals, Siragusa said.

No more tolerance: Roussin

Just under a week ago, Roussin and Premier Brian Pallister announced the entire province would move to red, or critical, under Manitoba’s pandemic response system to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin urges Manitobans to stay home:

Dr. Brent Roussin is telling Manitobans to stay home as much as possible after a person who tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend was found to have 85 contacts. 0:46

On Monday, after reports of some large retail stores attracting crowds of shoppers over the weekend, Roussin warned that any stores among those allowed to remain open that break capacity rules could be fined.

He suggested some businesses have tried to skirt the public health orders to stay open and sell non-essential items.

“There’s not going to be tolerance anymore to breaking any of the public health orders,” Roussin said.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman mentioned busy stores in a letter he sent to Premier Brian Pallister Monday, saying businesses are selling a wide variety of non-essential items and asking the province to crack down on them.

Roussin and Pallister also criticized a large gathering in Steinbach over the weekend to protest the latest wave of public health restrictions.

WATCH | Manitoba’s top doctor condemns Steinbach protest:

Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says it’s not the time to gather in large groups because the health-care system can’t sustain the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at this rate. 0:48

Gathering size limits under public health orders remain at a maximum of five, excluding the residents of a hosting home.

When Roussin was asked Monday why he wouldn’t make a public health order forbidding people from gathering with anyone outside their household, he said there needs to be public buy-in to the spirit of health recommendations to stay home, and stemming the spread can’t entirely be driven by orders.

Pallister said some of the ticketing officers at the protest faced threats.

“The consequences of stupidity are going to be felt,” he said.

“You don’t have to believe in COVID for it to be real, it’s real,” Pallister said. “COVID kills people … all of us have to be focused on bending the curve and this is for you folks that were at that rally.”

‘We can’t accept that’

Roussin said some people still aren’t following orders, with one person who tested positive last week having 85 contacts.

“We can’t accept that,” he said. “Don’t look for reasons to go out. Look for reasons to stay home.”

Contact tracers are increasingly facing verbal abuse, “getting yelled at, sworn at,” when they call people, Roussin said. Some businesses owners also have berated them.

WATCH | Roussin discusses critical versus non-essential businesses:

Dr. Brent Roussin says Manitoba public health will be taking steps to further define what essential businesses are, as well as further enforcing capacity limits to limit crowding. 0:55

Roussin’s public briefings will now be held every day from Monday to Friday. Siragusa will be present on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The shift comes less than a week after the province went into code red in its pandemic response system.

Manitoba recorded 392 new cases Monday, the eighth highest daily case total to date. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Manitoba has reported more than 3,000 new cases in the past week and broken or tied records for the provincial test positivity rate each day, including on Monday.

The latest provincial data says the number of health-care workers who have tested positive has tripled in a month — from 129 at the beginning of October to 403 in the first week of November.

Another 22 health-care workers, most of them in Winnipeg, tested positive last week, Siragusa said.

In total, 11,339 Manitobans have tested positive to date, up from just over 1,200 cases in early September.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Nov. 16, 2020:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Monday, November 16, 2020. 1:08:18

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