Two cases of COVID-19 linked to the Assiniboine Centre at the Brandon Regional Health Centre over the weekend were found in health-care workers and the third was found in a patient, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Monday.
The patient likely contracted the virus at the facility, according to Roussin.
“It looks like we had a client who tested positive who had been admitted much longer than the incubation period and then we had the two staff who tested positive,” he said. “That’s the only connection we can come up with right now. … This client was certainly in too long to have been exposed outside the facility.”
These three cases at the hospital were first identified on Sunday, but more specifics were not provided until Monday’s COVID briefing. A government spokesperson said in an email that only those who are considered to have been in close contact with people who tested positive will be contacted by health officials.
In a statement emailed to the Sun, Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said her union is not aware of any of the positive cases in Brandon being nurses. Jackson also expressed concern regarding the outbreaks at Brandon care homes and called for greater transparency from the government.
“In most cases, nurses learn of outbreaks in health facilities at the same time as the general public. We are advocating for improved information sharing with nurses and other health-care professionals, and believe enhanced transparency in the immediate and long term is critical for a robust and effective public health response to COVID-19.”
Additionally, Roussin announced that an investigation discovered that a previously identified case of COVID-19 is a health-care worker at the Fairview Personal Care Home in Brandon and is a close contact of a previously known case. Close contacts of the health-care worker are being identified and the case investigation continues.
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Though the risk of transmission is considered low, the entire Fairview Personal Care Home has been moved to level red in the province’s health restriction system and outbreak protocols are being undertaken to reduce the risk to staff and residents. This means that like that the Hillcrest Place and Rideau Park care homes in Brandon, visitations are being restricted.
Asked about what concerns he has about the health-care system with cases found in four facilities in Brandon and a care home in Steinbach, Roussin said he believes there has been a bit of a breakdown when it comes to people following preventive guidelines.
“We’ve seen on a number of occasions out in the public with the spread in Brandon that there’s a lot of fatigue out there with adhering to the fundamentals, adhering to the guidelines that did such a good job of protecting us in that first wave,” Roussin said. “When we see the spread in these personal care homes, we can see that it’s challenging to be using PPE consistently, it’s challenging to do that for so long.”
Most of Brandon is still under level orange, but the second floor of the Assiniboine Centre at the hospital as well as the three care homes named above are under level red. As reported last week, the Brandon School Division is operating under less severe level yellow restrictions.
Officials are also warning that possible exposure to the virus may have occurred at Frederickson Performance Centre at Unit F-1212 18th St. in Brandon from 7 to 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 17 and from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 23. The risk of transmission is considered low, but those potentially exposed and having symptoms appear are encouraged to get tested.
During the briefing, Roussin was asked why Manitoba hasn’t signed on to the federal government’s contact tracing smartphone app eight days before school starts. He said that the federal government decides what order provinces join the app and it hasn’t been Manitoba’s turn yet. He added that the help won’t eliminate the need for other contact tracing measures.
In total, there were 28 new cases of COVID-19 detected as of 9:30 a.m. Monday, including 13 in Prairie Mountain Health. The number of active cases in Brandon has risen to 168, with 127 people having recovered.
There were also seven cases found in the Winnipeg health region, six cases in the Southern Health-Santé Sud health region and two in the Interlake-Eastern health region.
Of the cases announced Monday, 14 were related to close contact with previously identified cases and one was related to travel. In the last week, Public Health has been unable to identify a source for 32 cases, 16 of which were in Prairie Mountain Health. Since July 1, there have been 423 cases detected in Prairie Mountain Health.
Roussin said that there are 83 cases linked to employees at “a business in Brandon,” which is how he has previously described the cases connected to Maple Leaf Foods’ pork processing plant. While the government’s numbers and the union representing workers’ numbers didn’t line up last week, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 communications director Chris Noto said their figures also list 83 cases among their members.
A further 20 cases link to the business cluster and the Prairie Mountain Health cluster, Roussin said.
In the province as a whole, there are 469 active cases, with 11 people hospitalized and one person in intensive care. Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate is now at 2.1 per cent. There have been 280 cases linked to communal living, 115 of them currently active.
Effective today, all visitors to health-care facilities in Manitoba will be required to wear a non-medical mask to be allowed to enter. Those exempt are people who cannot put on or take off a mask without assistance, those who have a medical condition that prevents them from safely wearing a mask or children under five years of age.
On Thursday, travel restrictions for northern Manitoba and isolated communities are being reinstated. Those exempt from those restrictions are residents of those regions or people intending to set up a permanent residence, people travelling directly to lodges and campgrounds, government staff, health providers, people seeking emergency health care, business owners and operators and travel related to parenting arrangements.
Full details of those travel restrictions will be posted online on Thursday. Roussin also encouraged Manitobans to obey travel restrictions put in place by First Nations communities.
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