If you’re going to go to Winnipeg, you’d better pack some masks. A mask mandate for the entire city and some outlying communities went into effect Sept. 28.
It is the largest such measure yet in either Manitoba or Saskatchewan. Residents of Winnipeg, Stonewall, Selkirk and over two dozen neighbouring rural municipalities will need to wear masks while in public spaces and most public gatherings, including at bars and restaurants, have been capped at 10 people or less after a case spike in the region. Existing guidelines for areas such as schools, day care facilities, retail, sports venues, casinos and other locations will supersede the order.
That area is now considered “orange” on the provincial pandemic response system.
In a news briefing Sept. 28, Manitoba chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the measures are similar to those in Prairie Mountain Health, brought in after a spike in cases in Brandon. After seeing more than 180 active cases within the region at its peak, the region now has only 29 active cases.
“We’ve seen the effectiveness of this kind of targeted response in the past and Prairie Mountain Health is our example of that,” said Roussin.
“As we raised the pandemic response system level there, we saw a relatively quick turnaround of the numbers. We know Winnipeggers have done this before. We’ve worked together to bring down those numbers and we’ll work together to do that again.”
Manitoba case numbers have remained high in recent weeks, with 39 new cases announced Sept. 28, 42 cases Sept. 27 and a whopping 66 new cases reported Sept. 26.
Out of 618 active cases as of Sept. 28, 512 are in the Winnipeg area. Twenty-two of the 39 new cases Monday were reported in Winnipeg, with seven additional cases found in the Northern Health Region (NHR) connected to an outbreak in the city. The province also announced a 20th person has died from COVID-19 in Manitoba, a man in his 70s in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
Health officials are advising that people stay home when sick, practice social distancing, wash their hands often and follow all public health guidelines. People such as seniors, pregnant women, people with conditions that compromise their immune or respiratory systems or other possibly vulnerable groups are asked to “exercise additional caution”, according to the province.
“We do strongly encourage people to reduce their contacts from outside their household,” said Roussin.
Travel to northern Manitoba from the southern portion of the province is still restricted. At least eight cases of COVID-19 in the NHR have been connected to people travelling from southern Manitoba while still following the provincial health order by living in the north, travelling south for medical treatment or other purposes and then coming home.
Saskatchewan is seeing numbers staying mostly constant, but three outbreaks have been declared by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) in the Yorkton area - one at Yorkton Regional High School, another at the Yorkton Regional Health Centre and another at the Pumphouse Athletic Club, a gym in the city’s downtown.
Health officials believe the outbreak may have started at the gym.
“Initial findings suggest that most recent cases may share a common source of exposure at a local fitness facility,” reads a provincial release.
“As in all parts of Saskatchewan, Yorkton residents or individuals who have visited the area should remain vigilant and follow all public health advice.”
Visitation at the Yorkton Regional Health Centre has been limited and students at Yorkton Regional High School have moved to remote classes.
As of Sept. 28, there were 20 active cases in the central east region, which contains Yorkton. Seven of the province’s 14 new cases of COVID-19 were announced in the area, along with three each in Saskatoon and Regina and one new case in the far north west.
The province currently has 149 active cases of COVID-19 and eight people are hospitalized, none of whom are in intensive care.
Saskatchewan’s numbers remaining more or less constant comes in spite of the fact that the province has ramped up testing in recent weeks. On Sept. 27, 2,236 people in Saskatchewan received COVID-19 tests.