2 people died in COVID-19 outbreak at HSC in spring, public health officials admit

2 people died in COVID-19 outbreak at HSC in spring, public health officials admit

The COVID-19 outbreak that started at the end of March at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre infected more than two dozen people and two people died as a result, public health officials admitted Tuesday.

This was revealed in an epidemiology report which was completed in July but made public last week — nearly five months after the outbreak.

According to the report, 16 staff members, five patients and four close contacts of cases were linked to this outbreak.

Before Tuesday, public health officials never said two of the deaths were linked to the outbreak at Health Sciences Centre (HSC). Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said that’s not the job of public health.

“The reporting … is quite separate from public health work,” he said.

Manitoba’s health minister admitted at a press conference on Tuesday there’s some work to do in the public health system, but by and large, the government’s record is solid.

“We believe that we’re doing well and we believe there’s always room for improvement,” Cameron Friesen said.

“I think that the record of our government on COVID-19 has been remarkable in terms of the commitment that we made to Manitobans to put good information in their hands to build structures that would give Manitobans that good information.”

Neither Friesen nor Roussin could identify which of the 16 people who’ve died in the province are related to the HSC outbreak. They wouldn’t say if the two people were patients, health-care workers or close contacts.

Friesen added that the government is working to provide rapid information about the virus, including more geographically-specific information about cases in Winnipeg.

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“We’ve got a system in Manitoba right now where we’re reporting on 80 districts … to give people instant information on where those cases are taking place,” he said.

Four residents at the Bethesda Care Home in Steinbach have died after contracting COVID-19. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

This new information means seven people who died of COVID-19 in this Manitoba were infected by outbreaks in the health care system.

Four residents died at Bethesda Place in Steinbach earlier this month, while one resident died at Poseidon Care Home in Winnipeg in April. 

This newly released report also revealed one other Winnipeg death this spring was related to an outbreak at a business, where 24 workers or close contacts in total were infected.

Roussin said there was no need to name the business at the time because the public was never at risk.

Friesen said he stands by Roussin’s decision not to disclose.

“We accept the advice of public health officials, and so our chief has been clear in Manitoba that when there is a value in actually declaring what the name of a business is or more information, that has been done when we felt that there was a public health interest,” he said.

Another workplace-related outbreak in the Prairie Mountain Health region was also mentioned in the report, which led to six employees and four close contacts testing positive.

25 per cent of cases among people in 20s

Among the conclusions in the epidemiology report is that the primary method of transmission has shifted from travel to contact with a known case of COVID-19, as well as unknown transmission.

It also notes that nearly 25 per cent of cases are among people in their 20s.

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“This is an important observation that merits further investigation moving forward, as this group could be a significant contributor to increased spread of COVID-19,” the report says.

Of that group, nearly two-thirds are women.

That may be a reflection of the high number of female health-care workers who contracted the virus, it says.

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