The province is refining its approach in dealing with the pandemic, as the threat of variants increases.
That means self-isolation guidelines related to close contacts will be stricter, even as the province attempts to slowly loosen restrictions. That’s because transmission can occur easily, even with little to no symptoms in a person.
"As we are doing our cautious reopening, reopening very slowly — which means we’re decreasing public health measures on one side of things and we need to increase our public health measures in other aspects," chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Monday.
Case and contact management will become more and more important, he added.
"Some of these increased or more aggressive case and contact management include lowering the threshold of prolonged contact from 15 minutes to 10 minutes," he said while emphasizing that’s only a guide.
"If there’s high-risk contact — somebody was absolutely exposed to droplets, then that could be as little as just a few seconds or minutes," he said.
This will mean more people will be required to self-isolate.
"For all positive cases, everyone within the household of a positive case is going to be deemed a close contact. If somebody is a close contact of a case and lives in a different household, all members of that close-contact household must also isolate until the close contact has been tested and they have a negative result," said Roussin.
Further, all close contacts will be required to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days, regardless of testing results.
While the number of B117 — or U.K. — variant cases remains at four, the same as announced last week, Dr. Brent Roussin said vigilance must remain high.
Premier Brian Pallister, responding to questions at a separate news conference, stated: "nothing is off the table" as relates to helping Manitobans and Manitoba employers with loss of income or other possible help as they self-isolate.
Pallister spoke of the generosity of the government in terms of total value, as compared to other Canadian jurisdictions.
"Nevertheless, no amount of programs is going to make up for the sacrifice of Canadians during this pandemic, and we all know that," said Pallister.
"I won’t rule out any additional compensatory programs."
When asked about his thoughts on the reopening of the province so far, Pallister immediately spoke of the weather.
Then, he added, he has seen Manitobans respecting the sad necessities of these times.
"I hope and expect that to continue as we move forward," he said.
Closer to home, an outbreak was declared at Revera’s Valleyview Long Term Care Home in Brandon, but the number of cases has remained at one. Asked if this reflects vaccination success, Roussin said it’s too soon to say.
"Certainly, looking at our numbers, we’re seeing a diminishing amount of outbreaks, diminishing number of cases in that regard. That’s what we’d expect. We would expect to see the low amount of cases, lower transmission," said Roussin.
"Right now, we’re still focused on protecting the most vulnerable Manitobans, so we’re very aggressive whenever we see even a single case within a facility like that. Over time, as we have a second dose administered, our thresholds for declaring an outbreak may change."
He said there was a good uptake of vaccines in personal care homes, among staff and residents.
"The vaccine is just yet another tool. It’s not going to replace the screening, the fundamentals. But overall, just like what we’re seeing overall with our numbers, we’re seeing a trend."
» Michele LeTourneau covers Indigenous matters for The Brandon Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.
Monday’s covid-19 update:
The province announced two deaths in Monday’s COVID-19 update, both from the Winnipeg health region.
A total of 97 new cases were reported. The new cases are as follows:
• four cases in the Interlake–Eastern health region;
• 36 cases in the Northern health region;
• one case in the Prairie Mountain Health region;
• two cases in the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region; and
• 54 cases in the Winnipeg health region.
The five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate was 5.4 per cent in the province, and 4.4 per cent in Winnipeg.
Lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba since the beginning of the pandemic total 31,483.
The province reports 1,219 active cases and individuals who have recovered total a reported 29,378.
The province also reported 78 people are in hospital with active COVID-19, as well as 128 people in hospital with COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but continue to require care, for a total of 206 hospitalizations.
Fourteen people are in intensive care units with active COVID-19, as well as 18 people with COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but continue to require critical care, for a total of 32 ICU patients.
In the PMH region, there are a reported 26 active cases, with 1,976 recovered. There are two active cases hospitalized, and five people hospitalized who are no longer infectious. There is one patient in ICU. The region has seen 53 deaths.
Brandon’s active case count is 11, with 967 recovered and 22 deaths.
On Sunday, 1,790 tests were completed, for a total of 514,357 since February 2020.
» Source: Province of Manitoba