Manitoba’s top doctor issued a warning Tuesday as the province’s COVID-19 numbers continued to rise: people have to mingle less with nonhousehold members and stop interacting with others while sick.
“We just cannot succeed in this pandemic if people are out and about when they’re symptomatic,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer.
“We’re seeing transmission occurring in different venues – within households, within gatherings – and so what we’re seeing here is increasing community-based transmission.”
Health officials announced 124 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, although all but 26 were delayed reporting from the long weekend. Numbers have spiked in recent weeks, mostly in Winnipeg.
More than one-third of all cases to date involve people aged 20 to 39, provincial data indicate. Dr. Roussin has also repeatedly said in recent weeks many cases have been linked to people gathering in bars, restaurants and homes.
The case numbers are taxing the province’s contact-tracing capacity, especially because many people who have tested positive lately have been in close, prolonged contact with many other people, Dr. Roussin said. The most recent provincial figures show that some people who tested positive had more than 40 contacts each that had to be investigated.
“We see right now, especially in Winnipeg, very complex investigations – people with multiple venues that they’ve attended, sometimes multiple venues they attended while symptomatic.”
Dr. Roussin has not told the public to stop all contact with people outside their household, but said Tuesday it is important to reduce the number.
Dr. Roussin also reported the province’s 35th death Tuesday – a man in his 70s from the southern health region.
Winnipeg’s rising numbers prompted the province two weeks ago to impose further restrictions in the city and surrounding communities, including mandatory mask use in indoor public places and a 10-person limit on gatherings.
Last week, bars, pubs and licensed restaurants in the region were ordered to start closing earlier, and alcohol sales have been cut off at 10 p.m.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen said further restrictions are a possibility, but he wanted to give the recent changes time to work. He pointed to a summer surge in western Manitoba, which dropped sharply two weeks after restrictions were imposed there.
“We will take extra precautions if we need to, as we think they will have effectiveness, but give this time to work,” Mr. Friesen said.