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Positive cases swell after testing blitz in colonies – Winnipeg Free Press



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Manitoba’s sizable spike in COVID-19 cases is the result of a growing cluster in Brandon and a substantial effort to test residents of Hutterite colonies.

For the first time on Monday, the province’s chief public health officer shared more comprehensive case counts in colonies, or “communal living communities” as he called them.

Dr. Brent Roussin said there have been 236 cases in such communities since the coronavirus arrived in Manitoba in March, 148 of which are still active.

A big effort in recent days to expand testing in communal living communities — including the use of mobile clinics — has seen case numbers soar. Over the past two days alone, there have been 85 new cases identified in these communities.

Prairie Mountain Health region, which extends from the Parkland region along Manitoba’s western boundary to the U.S. border, is home to both Brandon and some of the communal living communities hit hardest by the virus. Since July 1, there have been 320 cases identified in the region, prompting its orange rating — and new restrictions — that took effect on Monday.

The province, until recently, has generally been loath to report case numbers in communal living communities, fearful of stigmatizing them. 


Visitors to all Manitoba health-care facilities will soon be required to wear non-medical masks.

Visitors to all Manitoba health-care facilities will soon be required to wear non-medical masks.

The requirement, which takes effect province-wide on Sept. 1, also extends to outpatients attending appointments at clinics within hospitals and health centres throughout the province, the government said in its most recent pandemic response press release.

All visitors arriving at health-care facilities will be required to wear a non-medical mask to be permitted into the site. While primary care clinics and other locations providing health services are not currently included in the mask requirement, all Manitobans are strongly encouraged to wear a non-medical mask when seeking care, Health Minister Cameron Friesen said in the press release.

This requirement is already in place in the Prairie Mountain Health region, where the use of masks is mandatory in all indoor public places as the region is currently listed as Restricted (orange) under the #RestartMB Pandemic Response System.

“We felt it was imperative to communicate that to Manitobans to get a good sense of the actual numbers we are getting in communities,” Roussin said.

On Monday, the province announced 49 new coronavirus cases on top of 72 on Sunday and 42 on Saturday. However, it said that 24 of the 49 were actually connected to Sunday’s total. So, the revised number for Sunday jumps to 96.

Roussin, explaining the change, said “there was a data correction made to Sunday’s numbers.”

Of the 49 new cases revealed on Monday, 35 were in Prairie Mountain Health region, two were in Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority, four were in Southern Health and eight in the Winnipeg health region.

Chart showing new daily cases and seven-day moving average

The five-day test positivity rate rose to its highest level yet in Manitoba at 2.9 per cent. Roussin has said in the past that a level of three per cent or more could trigger more restrictions within the province. A total of 1,544 laboratory tests were completed on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the 395 active cases recorded Monday were also a record for the province. Altogether, there have been 993 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba.

Also concerning is the rise in community spread of the virus within the province. There have been 39 cases in Manitoba attributed to community spread over the past seven days. That accounts for 19 to 20 per cent of all cases, the province’s top doctor said.

Yet despite these troubling signs — and with the start of school just two weeks away — Roussin said he is not ready to impose new conditions on the movements of Manitobans just yet.

He noted that the health system is not being heavily taxed, despite the sharp rise in cases, perhaps due to the fact that younger persons are contracting COVID-19 compared with an earlier provincial outbreak this spring. On Monday, there were just six Manitobans in hospital, with only one in intensive care.

Chart showing daily active cases of COVID-19 by health district

Roussin said Prairie Mountain Health’s new Restricted (orange) rating under the #RestartMB Pandemic Response System will be in place for at least two weeks — roughly one virus incubation period — and likely for longer.

Under the orange rating, masks are mandatory in all public indoor places in the region and at all indoor and outdoor public gatherings. Public gatherings are also restricted to 10 people, both indoors and outdoors.

Meanwhile, health officials say a potential exposure to COVID-19 may have occurred at the Safeway Corral Centre (921 18th St. North) in Brandon on Aug. 15 (2-6 p.m.), Aug. 18 (11:30 a.m.- 8 p.m.) and Aug. 19 (2-4:45 p.m.). While the risk of transmission is considered low, they said, information is being passed on to help people assess their risk and seek testing if symptoms appear.

Roussin said none of the new cases reported on Monday is linked to the outbreak at the Bethesda Place personal care home in Steinbach, which has seen seven persons, including four staff, test positive.

A new community coronavirus testing site opens at 2735 Pembina Highway on Tuesday. The site will be open to the public on a walk-in basis from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. Access Fort Garry on Plaza Drive will no longer offer COVID-19 testing once the new site opens.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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Alberta Health no longer recommending asymptomatic testing – Edmonton Journal



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“I know that this has been a long pandemic. But, we have learned much and today’s change is part of how we are continually updating our approach to incorporate what we learn,” said Hinshaw.

Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said they will be operating on an honour system and Albertans will be asked if they are symptomatic or part of one of the target groups.

“We are confident that Albertans will follow this recommendation, just as they have followed all public health advice,” said McMillan in an email.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, provincial labs have completed 1,169,378 tests, including 13,003 that were completed on Wednesday.

In a letter to the prime minister requesting federal funds, Premier Jason Kenney said federal money would be used in part to increase the province’s testing capacity to a peak of 22,000 test per day up from an average of 12,000 tests per day.

Hinshaw reported 146 new cases on Thursday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 1,483. There are currently 751 cases in the Edmonton Zone.

Alberta hospitals are treating 41 COVID-19 patients, eight of whom are in intensive care. There were no new reported deaths Thursday.

Hinshaw said there have been 64 infectious cases identified at 48 schools.

Edmonton Public Schools spokeswoman Megan Normandeau said there were single cases linked to John D. Bracco School, Vimy Ridge Academy and Centre High while two cases have been linked to McNally School.

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Mouth wash COVID-19 test coming for school-aged children in B.C. – Powell River Peak



British Columbia is introducing a new saline gargle test for students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to help make COVID-19 testing easier for children and teenagers.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. is one of the first places in the world to use a mouth rinse gargle test for the new coronavirus.

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“Unlike the (nasal) swab, this is a new saline gargle where you put a little bit of saline water, that is sterile water, in your mouth, you swish it around and spit it into a little tube,” she said at a news conference Thursday.

“This test is kind of cool and something we’ve had in the works for a while. This new method is more comfortable, particularly for our younger children.”

It is developed by a B.C. company, which reduces the province’s dependency on the global supply chain, she said.

Henry described the test as more efficient, which shortens the long lineups and wait times.

Getting tested is key in the fight against the pandemic and the test will make it easier to collect samples from young people, she said.

The test can be done without a health professional by parents or children themselves.

With schools reopening, Henry said the focus of this new and “easier” method of testing will be on children until there are more supplies.

“And we’re hoping to make it more broadly available as we go forward.”

The province announced a record daily high of 165 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and one additional death, bringing the death toll to 220.

There has been a total of 7,663 cases of COVID-19 in the province.

The uptick is caused by a combination of increased testing, awareness and contact tracing, Henry said.

“Remember that today’s cases are people who have been exposed over the last two weeks.”

The province tested 7,674 people for COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of COVID-19 tests ever conducted in B.C. in a single day.

Health Minister Adrian Dix reminded people to keep groups small and limit social gatherings.

“So, this weekend, and as we plan for Thanksgiving in the fall months ahead, let us once again close ranks on COVID-19, and change its course,” he said.

— By Hina Alam in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2020.

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Provincial health officer won't give in to bar industry's call to reinstate liquor sales after 10 p.m. –



Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, is rejected calls from the bar industry to allow liquor sales until midnight.

Last week Henry issued a public health order that ended liquor sales at restaurants and bars at 10 p.m., and closed the businesses at 11 p.m., unless they are serving food.

The industry immediately appealed for more relaxed rules, and that request is now being repeated, despite Henry’s warnings about the risk of COVID-19 transmission during the later hours.

Jeff Guignard, executive director of the B.C. Alliance of Beverage Licensees, says his group’s research shows the last couple of hours of business is when establishments go from losing money to turning a profit.

Bars in downtown Vancouver make half their revenue after 10 p.m., he said, while in other areas about a quarter or a third of revue is tallied after 10 p.m. Even in rural communities, 10 per cent of revenue comes in the last couple of hours of business, he added.

Jeff Guignard is executive director of the B.C. Alliance of Beverage Licensees. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

He said 50 per cent of the industry might not make it to the end of the year and it has been surviving on government rent and wage subsidies. The situation will become more dire if the public health order isn’t changed.

“It means bankruptcy. It means you’re going to close and you’re going to have to lay off your employees,” said Guignard.

Henry told reporters on Thursday that she had received a letter from the alliance on Wednesday, but she wasn’t ready to budge on the order.

“I appreciate that this is a very challenging time for people in that industry, I also know that this virus is transmitted by people,” she said.

“These orders were done with thought and the realization that these were places right now that cannot safely operate,” said Henry.

She said environmental health officers who have been inspecting bars around the province say the businesses faces challenges to meet safety requirements. Henry also said staff at the establishments and WorkSafeBC have expressed concerns.

Preventing COVID-19 spread in drinking establishments is a challenge, says Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“We had transmission events documented in several places around the province and it was becoming increasingly challenging for public health to try and identify and getting on top of those places that were breaking the rules,” she said.

Delay in publishing order

Guignard said bar owners are “absolutely furious” that the public health order — which was issued verbally more than a week ago — has not been published in writing. That means details aren’t clear for a highly regulated industry with various types of liquor licenses. 

Businesses don’t know, for instance, whether off-sales of alcohol are also banned after 10 p.m.

Henry said her office has answered questions that have popped up since the verbal order was issued and she hopes to have the details in writing by Friday after a careful legal vetting to ensure the order isn’t overly broad.

With files from Tina Lovgreen

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