The new cases come as Manitoba officially launches COVID Alert, Canada’s exposure notification app. Manitoba is the fifth province to connect to the free, voluntary app, which uses Bluetooth to alert users if they have been exposed to another user with COVID-19.
“All systems are working,” Health Minister Cameron Friesen said during Thursday’s briefing.
Outbreaks in some Manitoba nursing homes are also on the rise, Roussin said. A total of 19 people at the Parkview Place personal care home in Winnipeg – three staff and 16 residents – have tested positive for COVID-19, he said, and one resident has died.
A total of 19 people at the Bethesda Place personal care home in Steinbach have tested positive for COVID-19 – 11 staff and eight residents; four of the residents have died.
The province is still awaiting details of an outbreak declared Wednesday at the Calvary Place personal care home in Winnipeg, Roussin said.
The Maplewood Manor personal care home in Steinbach has four cases of COVID-19 in total, all of them on staff. Winnipeg’s Heritage Lodge long-term care home has registered eight cases, all among residents.
A second case of COVID-19 has been identified at Carberry Collegiate in Carberry, Manitoba, the province said. The individual was at school on September 21.
No close contact with the individual has been identified and the infection does not appear to have been acquired at school.
There is also a possible second exhibition at Carberry, at the subway at 200 First Ave., on September 26 from approximately 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
More test sites to come
Friesen and Roussin were pressed Thursday with reports of wait times of several hours at test sites and growing fears that waits could be barriers to access.
Earlier in the pandemic, the province quickly opened several testing sites across Manitoba. Some have since closed, while others have opened.
Roussin said the province is working to introduce more sites, but opening them requires finding staff and locations and ensuring they can be operated safely.
The province has improved the overall volume of testing since the start of the pandemic, he said.
« [Earlier in the pandemic] we were talking about 300, 400 tests a day, right? It was a big improvement for us at the time, ”he said.
“We do over 2,000 tests some days now, so we’ve improved that over time – we really want to be able to do better.”
It’s harder to staff test sites now than it was earlier in the pandemic, when healthcare procedures were cut back to make room in the healthcare system for COVID- 19, Friesen said.
“At that point, remember we were also shutting down our normal hospital functions, so we were able to redeploy a massive workforce to new things.
That is not the case now, as the province is working to catch up with a backlog of elective surgeries that were postponed earlier in the pandemic, Friesen said.
A new mobile test center in Winnipeg served 75 people on Wednesday, its first day, Friesen said.
Further mobile tests will come to Winnipeg in the coming weeks, he said, as well as to Dauphin, Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Winkler.
“We are moving very quickly to add testing sites because they are needed,” he said.
The increase in hours at existing test sites is also on the table, he said, as are staggering hours at the sites.
The current average time for a COVID-19 test is 56 hours from the time the swab is taken until the result is processed, Roussin said. The processing time in the laboratory is always between 24 and 48 hours.
Masks required in healthcare facilities
Starting Wednesday, non-medical masks will be required at all Manitoba access centers, community service providers and physician offices affiliated with health regions.
“These requirements will remain in place indefinitely, regardless of whether a region is orange or yellow on the pandemic response system,” Roussin said.
The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 2.1% Thursday morning, Roussin said. There were 1,803 tests completed on Wednesday, bringing the province’s total to 186,668 since the start of February.
There are 15 people in Manitoba hospitals with COVID-19 on Thursday, Roussin said, including seven in intensive care.
Since the start of the pandemic, Manitoba has identified 2,029 cases of COVID-19 and 1,388 people have recovered.