Man in 20s dies of COVID-19, test positivity rate in Steinbach hits 40%

Manitoba health officials say there are 438 new COVID-19 cases Friday and listed nine more deaths, including a man in his 20s, bringing the provincial death toll to 207.

“This is tragic to see all of these listings every single day now,” said Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin. “These are not just numbers. This was a son, a Manitoban.”

The man in his 20s is the youngest person to die of the illness in Manitoba.

A record 281 people are in hospital, up from 263 yesterday, and the provincial test positivity rate dropped to 13.7 per cent, down from 14 on Thursday.

A record 281 COVID-19 patients are in hospital, with 43 of them in intensive care.

The 10-day test positivity rate in Steinbach is at 40 per cent, Roussin said.

There have been 24 Steinbach deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Winnipeg’s test positivity was at 13.7 per cent.

“When you’re looking at something like 40 per cent … this is a very concerning number,” Roussin said.

In recent days, Roussin and the premier have both chastised the 100-plus people at a Steinbach protest against the provincewide code red restrictions on the weekend. Those restrictions, which closed retailers that don’t sell non-essential goods, came into effect last Thursday.

Manitoba Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said the number in hospital has increased 338 per cent in less than four weeks. The current patients include a baby, she said.

A total of 872 non-elective and elective surgeries have been postponed in the past 25 days in order to divert resources to the strained hospital system, she said.

Families help care home

So far at least 27 care homes have been affected by outbreaks, said Siragusa, noting a single positive case in long-term care facilities constitutes an outbreak.

Golden Links Lodge in Winnipeg recently brought in paramedics and asked family members to pitch in, Siragusa said. Families have been given personal protective equipment and asked to help monitor their own loved ones.

There will be training and education for family members and an infection control team to support them, she said.

“It’s probably good for both the caregiver and the resident to have each other close by,” she said. “I think they’ve put the safeguards in place and considered the human factor of this outbreak.”

Three deaths tied to the care home were reported on Wednesday, and Siragusa said Friday that 42 residents have tested positive.

A logistics team is organizing plans for off-site locations for lower acuity non-COVID-19 patients due to the strain on hospitals, Siragusa said. A date hasn’t been set yet for when the first of those sites could open, she said, and it’s tied to whether hospitalization rates continue to climb.

‘We need to do better’

Roussin recalled the restrictions in the spring in Manitoba and how Winnipeg’s streets seemed mostly empty on his drives to work early in the pandemic.

Not so amid the second wave, he said.

“My drive to work today, the streets were full,” he said at the Friday news conference.

“Our current restrictions are much more stringent than they were in the spring. We are at a critical juncture right now. Our hospitals are reaching capacity. We need to do better, all of us.”

The news conference happens a day after new restrictions against private gatherings and shopping were announced, and just over a week after the entire province went into a code red partial lockdown under Manitoba’s pandemic response system.

More than 80 COVID-19 deaths have been reported since the province went into code red.

Manitoba had reported a total of 100 deaths less than two weeks ago.

Strain on the health-care system is one of the main factors that influenced tighter rules that ban gatherings in households and restrictions against the sale of non-essential items by retailers announced yesterday.

At 12:01 a.m., a new public health order came into effect, prohibiting people from having anyone at their homes who doesn’t reside there. There are a few exceptions.

Also as of 12:01 a.m. Friday, businesses are prohibited from selling non-essential items in-store. Pickup and delivery of such items is still allowed. Businesses also must have non-essential items removed from shelves or cordoned off by 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

The new orders are in effect until Dec. 11.

‘Can’t sustain these numbers’

The province announced a social media campaign Friday aimed at encouraging Manitobans to support local businesses amid the tightened restrictions.

There have been 12,919 cases in Manitoba as of Friday. That number has more than doubled since the beginning of the month, and Manitoba has seen nearly 3,000 new cases in the past week.

The hospital system is under great strain, and Roussin repeated again Friday that Manitobans need to stay home and leave only for essential reasons

Roussin said even more restrictions may be on the way if conditions don’t improve in the next week.

“We just can’t sustain these numbers much longer,” he said.

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