The province has now expanded its investigations of positive COVID-19 cases to include a person’s race, ethnicity or Indigenous identity.
"These questions are important to our understanding of the impact of this virus on Manitobans from various backgrounds and will help us (in) identifying the disproportionate impact on specific populations or issues with access to services which may exist," Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health’s chief nursing officer, said during Friday’s health briefing.
The information will also allow health officials to improve their ability to support community organizations that play a role in the local response to the virus, Siragusa said, noting patients are under no obligation to answer the questions.
"The response to these questions is totally voluntary, but we do encourage you to share this information as it’s important for us as we monitor this virus, she said.
"The information will be collected and stored securely and treated in the same confidential manner as all other health-care information."
While British Columbia isn’t currently tracking information on the race or ethnicity of COVID-19 patients, it does gather data on whether patients self-identify as Indigenous for all communicable diseases, including COVID-19, the CBC reported earlier this month.
"We know that there’s a number of conditions that can disproportionately affect people based on different things such as income or ethnicity," said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer.
"And so we want to ensure we’re collecting this data to be able to understand whether there’s a disproportionate effect based on ethnicity with COVID," Roussin said.
Sharing the information is voluntary, he said, "but think it’s a real good step to be able to start collecting information to be able to show if there are any disproportionate effects."
Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand said Friday he has no issue with the province collecting the data.
But, he said, the province needs to share that information with the Métis community.
"I’m not opposed to collecting (the data) if a Métis citizen has it (the virus), but if they’re not going to tell me, I don’t know what value it will be for our people," he said.
"If the province wants to gather data and information about my people, at least give us the courtesy (of) that and share it with us so we can help out and prevent any deaths or any serious infections occurring pandemic-wise."
Siragusa said health officials have consulted First Nations and reached an agreement on collecting the data.
Meanwhile, one health-care worker in Prairie Mountain Health has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week, Siragusa reported Friday.
There have been 25 non-travel-related COVID-19 cases involving health-care workers in Manitoba since the pandemic began. Nineteen have recovered.
The 25 cases involve 10 nurses, four medical staff and 11 workers from various allied health and support areas.
An additional eight cases involving health-care workers are connected to travel. All developed symptoms while self-isolating prior to their return to work, health officials said.
In total, 601 health-care workers and first responders were tested between April 22-27.
Four new cases of COVID-19 were reported Friday, bringing the total number of lab-confirmed positive and probable positive cases in Manitoba to 279.
There are now a total of 17 confirmed cases of the virus in Prairie Mountain Health, up two from Thursday’s numbers.
» email@example.com, with a file from Michele LeTourneau
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