WINNIPEG—Manitoba’s chief public health officer says he’s worried by an increase in COVID-19 cases in Winnipeg and that some people are going to many different locations while symptomatic.
“It’s concerning,” Dr. Brent Roussin said Monday.
The number of active cases in the capital city has almost tripled to more than 280 since the start of September. Sixteen of 22 new provincial cases reported Monday were in Winnipeg.
The province identified several Winnipeg restaurants, bars and gyms as sites of possible exposures over the last week. There have also been cases in schools and from gatherings in homes.
Roussin said the number of contacts for each person who tests positive has increased, which is putting pressure on staff tasked with tracking them. One person who tested positive in Winnipeg had 50 contacts, according to recently released data in the province’s public health report for the week of Sept. 6 to 12.
Roussin said mandating masks and bringing back other restrictions are on the table. But for now, the province is monitoring the situation.
Roussin is encouraging people to wear masks even if not officially required.
“If the vast majority of Manitobans want to wear a mask in indoor public places, we don’t really need a mask mandate.”
Roussin also announced that two more Manitobans have died after testing positive for COVID-19. That brings the total in the province to 18. The recent deaths were of a man in his 80s in the southern health region and a woman in her 80s in the Prairie Mountain region.
Those areas saw a resurgence in positive cases in July and August. As a result, specific regulations around masks and group sizes were put in place in Prairie Mountain, which includes Brandon. Infection numbers in those regions have since dropped, while cases in Winnipeg have surged.
The surge prompted the captain of the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets to make a request on social media for mandatory masks.
“Time for universal mask mandate. Why not? Let’s take care of each other,” read a post on Blake Wheeler’s Twitter account, directed to Premier Brian Pallister.
When asked about the request, the premier said he would defer to health experts.
“I personally have a ton of affection for Blake Wheeler and the way he plays hockey,” Pallister said.
“To make sure that we get through this together, we have to demonstrate that we can respect those who we’ve put in a position of trusted leadership. And Brent Roussin’s been put in that position and it’s really important we respect that.
“It doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything Brent says or does — that’s not what I’m saying. But I am saying that I am going to respect … what our experienced public health officials decide.”
Also Monday, the government revealed details of how it will spend its $ 85.4-million share of recently announced federal funding to help schools during the pandemic.
Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the money is to help enhance remote learning for students who can’t attend classes, such as those with chronic health conditions who are advised by doctors to not attend.
Remote learning is also available for some high school students in more-crowded schools and for students whose classes have been temporarily cancelled due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
Goertzen said the province is not expanding remote learning to make it an option for any student who wants it.