Manitoba’s top doctor to deliver COVID-19 update as worrying trends continue 1 week into partial lockdown

Manitoba’s top doctor will share the latest on COVID-19 trends Thursay as test positivity rates and hospitalizations continue to climb one week after provincewide restrictions came into effect.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin is expected to provide an update at a news conference at 12:30 p.m. CT.

CBC News will live stream the public address here, on CBC Gem, and on Facebook and Twitter.

The announcement comes one week after code red was instituted under the provincial pandemic response system in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The provincewide restrictions came into effect last Thursday, triggering the closure of many businesses across Manitoba. 

Five of the past eight days have seen daily new case counts of 400 or more, including yesterday. Manitoba had 417 cases total from March until Aug. 1.

Under the restrictions, pharmacies, doctors’ offices and regulated health professions such as dentistry and physiotherapy may stay open. Grocery stores and retailers deemed critical are also allowed to stay open at 25 per cent capacity.

The widespread closures have been criticized for permitting some larger commercial outlets and big box stores to stay open and continue to sell a mix of essential and non-essential items, while smaller businesses have to close.

Premier Brian Pallister and Roussin have said they may consider revising the current orders to disallow the sale of non-essential items in-store to prevent the kinds of crowds reported at some businesses over the weekend. Roussin has slammed stores for trying to lure in customers for in-store Black Friday sales.

Officials have also further committed to ramping up enforcement in the past week, including rolling out a $298 fine for people not wearing masks in indoor public places, after more than 100 people gathered in Steinbach on Saturday to protest code red restrictions. 

A current public health order limits gatherings of greater than five, not counting household contacts, though Roussin has emphasized that people shouldn’t be seeing anyone from outside the home right now.

The province has also said this week it is mulling extending Christmas break for schools.

Despite the code red restrictions, Manitoba has registered record-breaking days over the past week. Records were set or tied each day for the five-day test positivity rate, and there have been more reported deaths (76) in that time than in the entire first 7½ months of the pandemic.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has increased by more than 20 since the restrictions came into effect, bringing the total yesterday to 249, adding strain to a health-care system that was already pushed to or near capacity.

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