Manitoba slow to disclose potential public exposures to COVID-19

Manitoba Public Health is falling weeks behind in disclosing potential public exposures to COVID-19 outside of schools.

Since the start of the pandemic, Public Health has issued notices when it determined COVID-19 patients went out in public while they were symptomatic. 

In recent weeks, as cases in Manitoba have surged, few of these notices have been issued at all, aside from potential exposures at schools. 

In the Winnipeg health region, the most recent non-school exposure listed on the province’s website involved a Winnipeg Transit passenger who took the No. 38 bus on Nov. 10, 12 and 13.

In the Prairie Mountain Health region, the most recent potential exposure listed that didn’t involve a school took place on Nov. 10, at the Extra Foods in Swan River.

The delays in both of these cases are well within the two-week incubation period for COVID-19. 

In Manitoba’s other three health regions, Public Health has failed to disclose any exposures over the past two weeks or longer.

In the Interlake-Eastern health region, the most recent non-school exposure disclosed by the province took place at Arborg’s Play Group child-care centre on Nov. 3 and 4.

In the Northern Health region, the most recent non-school notice involves an infected person who entered the New Avenue Hotel in The Pas on Halloween and Nov. 2.

And in Southern Health, the most recent non-school exposure listed took place at Oak Bluff’s arena on Oct. 26.

Public Health concedes it’s struggling to keep on top of its notification duties, given the sheer volume of new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba.

“Given the current number of cases and the high number of contact some cases have, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint where various exposures have taken place, making it difficult to isolate a place of exposure and announce it,” the department said in a statement.

“Please note that the timeline includes a person testing positive receiving results, the completion of the public health investigation and a notification to the business/organization before the information is posted publicly.”

Over the past two weeks, Manitoba has announced 4,830 new COVID-19 cases. During that time frame, only 12 notifications of have been issued about potential public exposures that did not take place in schools.

Of those notices, 11 involved Winnipeg Transit passengers and one involved a Unicity Taxi passenger.

Public Health said there is no need to notify the general public if all close contacts are identified and notified.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said Tuesday more exposures could be announced.

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