Southern Health region moves to red level as Manitoba reports 243 new COVID-19 cases, 5 more deaths

Manitoba reported 243 new cases of COVID-19 and five deaths on Friday, while another region was moved to the red, or critical, level in the province’s pandemic response system.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, announced during Friday’s news conference that the Southern Health region will move to the highest level of the pandemic system as of Monday, Nov. 9.

The region will be under restrictions similar to those currently in place in the Winnipeg area, which moved to the red level earlier this week

Those additional restrictions include:

  • Closing all restaurants and bars will be closed for dine-in service. Takeout and delivery will be allowed.
  • Reducing capacity at cultural or religious gatherings to 15 per cent, or 100 people, whichever is lower.
  • Maintaining capacity at grocery stores and pharmacies at 50 per cent. This does not change from the previous orange-level restrictions
  • Limiting capacity at all other retailers to 25 per cent or five customers, whichever is higher (employees are not included in the calculations).

These new restrictions are needed to stem the tide of cases in the region and across the province, Roussin said, as just asking people to follow public health advice hasn’t worked. 

To anyone questioning why these restrictions are being put in place, Roussin said consider the numbers. 

“Look at the numbers that we saw in in summer, look at the numbers we saw in the spring and look at what we see now,” he said.

“You know, 160 cases in the spring would have been quite alarming. We have 160 people in hospital right now.” 

Southern Health — which includes larger population centres like Steinbach, Portage la Prairie, Winkler and Morden — has seen 293 new cases since Oct. 31, including 52 new cases on Friday.

Most of the new cases Friday — 136 — were reported in Winnipeg, the current epicentre of the surge.

Another 23 are in Northern Health, 17 are in the Interlake–Eastern region, and 15 cases are in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

Of the five deaths announced Friday, two were linked to the outbreak at the Victoria General Hospital: a man and a woman from Winnipeg, both in their 90s. Another death, involving a man in his 90s, was linked to the outbreak at the Maples Long Term Care Home in Winnipeg.

A woman in her 40s from the Northern Health region and a woman in her 60s from the Interlake–Eastern region have also died. 

These latest deaths bring the number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Manitoba to 96. 

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 in Manitoba has more than tripled in two weeks, going from 51 on Oct. 23 to 161 on Nov. 6. (Bryce Hoye/CBC News)

Hospital capacity

There are now a record-high 161 people in the hospital with the illness, with 20 in intensive care, according to the latest figures from the province

The hospitalization number has risen every day since Oct. 19, when there were 28 COVID-19 patients in Manitoba hospitals.

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, said health officials have a plan to drastically increase the number of critical care beds in the province as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Critical care beds are 94 per cent full, with 78 of the province’s 84 beds in use, said Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa.

Twenty of those patients are COVID-19 positive, with 15 on ventilators, she said.

In recent days, three ICU beds have been added to the health-care system — two in Winnipeg, and one in Brandon, she said.  

On Friday, health officials revealed plans to more than triple the number of critical care beds in the province should a surge of COVID-19 patients stretch hospital capacity.

The plan involves shuffling staff and potentially bringing in thousands of students and other specialized health workers.

Roussin urges people to stay home 

The province’s test-positivity rate — a rolling average of the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is now 9.1 per cent, also a new high.

Roussin urged people to reduce their close contacts and only go out for essential reasons to curb the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

He also said that health officials have heard reports of people trying to work around COVID-19 rules and asked Manitobans to respect the purpose of those restrictions. 

“No one should be looking for ways for Manitobans to gather,” he said.

“We know that’s challenging but we must maintain our health-care system.”

Health officials are also reporting outbreaks at the The Pas Homeless Shelter–Oscar’s Place in The Pas, Maplewood Manor in Steinbach, and the St. Norbert personal care home in Winnipeg.

Those sites have now been moved to the red, or critical, level of the the province’s pandemic response system.

Other potential exposures are listed on the province’s website

New Winnipeg, Swan River testing sites

Another drive-thru Winnipeg testing site is now open at Red River College’s Notre Dame campus (2055 Notre Dame Ave.).

The site will offer COVID-19 testing and also serve as the second community medical clinic.

A new appointment-based indoor COVID-19 testing site will open in Swan River on Monday. It will be open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 621 Main St.

The designated drive-up testing site at the Swan Valley Primary Care Centre parking lot in Swan River closed at 1 p.m. Friday. 

Roussin said people should only go for testing if they are symptomatic or have been advised to go for testing by public health, because of the high demand and finite amount of resources available right now. 

People may be turned away if they don’t have symptoms or a referral, he said. 

Information on testing locations, hour and how to make an appointment can be found on the province’s website. 

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Nov. 6, 2020:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Friday, November 6, 2020. 1:16:29

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