Important points from Mar. 19 provincial COVID-19 press conference


By Kate Jackman-Atkinson

Neepawa Banner & Press

Each day, I’ve been taking part in the Provincial government’s COVID-19 press conferences. In conjunction with the conferences, the Province issues media releases, but here are some additional take aways from the Mar. 19 conference.

In attendance at the conference were:  Lanette Siragusa, Provincial lead, health system integration, quality / chief nursing officer; Dr. Brent Roussin Manitoba's Chief Provincial Public Health Officer and Cameron Friesen, Health Minister.

9 community screening locations are in operation, four of which are in Winnipeg. The health authorities decide where they will be located.

While the number of Manitobans testing positive for COVID-19 remained at 17 on the morning of Mar. 19 (two more presumptive positive cases were announced the previous evening), we should expect to see more soon.

The province is ramping up capacity to deal with the expected surge of patients.

     A 30 bed isolation unit is being set up at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.

     The Province has added 27 additional ventilators to their stock of 243. Friesen said 16 more are on the way.

     89 physicians have stepped forward to take on additional hours. Work is ongoing to identify nurses with critical care experience who could be called on if needed.

We will see more cases.  Friesen explained, “The rise in numbers is inevitable and exponential. There will absolutely be an increase because we are undertaking testing.”

Of the 17 lab confirmed cases, 16 are related to travel.  Regarding the final one, Dr. Roussin explained that while travel was involved, they haven’t been able to confirm yet whether the infection occurred while they were away.

One of the positive cases has been admitted to hospital, where they are in stable condition.

Visitation at acute care facilities (hospitals) has been suspended, with some case-by-case exceptions.  For example, children can have one parent with them.

Agencies that offer day programs through Community Living disABILITY Services for adults with intellectual disabilities have been asked to limit this service only to those who need the service. For example, if they live who a family member who could lose their job if day service can’t be provided.

All gatherings of over 50 people are asked to be cancelled, including faith-based gatherings.

With a limited capacity for testing, Dr. Roussin stressed that only those showing symptoms and who have travelled internationally should be tested.  “People without symptoms do not need to be tested,” he said, adding, “We need to focus on the most at risk.” Anyone who has travelled and isn’t showing symptoms should be self-isolating anyway.

As of Mar. 19, Dr. Roussin said tests for those in hospital or personal care homes, working in health care or from First Nations will be prioritized. Processing of tests for “mildly ill people in the community might be delayed,” he said.

Health Links/Info Sante has gone from 30 lines to 100 and from 350 calls per day to 2,130 calls on Mar. 18. Wait times are down to 1 hour and 36 minutes.  The online self assessment tool had 150,000 hits on Mar. 17.

• All participants in the press conference stressed that we are ahead of the game compared to other provinces. Friesen noted that Ontario had their first positive case at the end of January and declared a state of emergency two days ago.

• In the coming days, we might see additional changes to home care.

• There is no effective, proven therapy to treat or prevent COVID-19.