Manitoba hit a new high for daily COVID-19 case counts with 124 new cases on Tuesday — the first triple-digit tally and the third record-breaking day in less than a week. 

The province also announced a death, a man in his 70s from the rural east district in Southern Health. His death is the eighth COVID-19 death since Friday and the 35th in the province since the pandemic began.

The vast majority of the new cases — 95 of them — are in Winnipeg, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said Tuesday.

There are also 16 new cases in Interlake-Eastern, nine in Southern Health, three in Prairie Mountain Health and one in the Northern Health Region.

Manitoba also set a new record for its highest test positivity rate on Tuesday, as the province reported a rate of 3.5 per cent. The test positivity rate is a rolling average of the proportion of COVID-19 tests that come back positive, and Roussin has said it’s a critical metric in the virus’s spread.

In Winnipeg, the test positivity rate is 4.4 per cent, Roussin said.

The new cases Tuesday include some that were identified over the long weekend — including 15 on Saturday and 83 on Sunday — but weren’t previously announced due to a backlog, Roussin said. After a test comes back positive, public health follows a set process before announcing the case.

Additional staff were brought in and people did overtime to work through all the positive tests this weekend, he said. The backlog has now been cleared.

Some contact tracing investigations in Winnipeg have been “very complex,” Roussin said, as public health staff find cases of individuals with COVID-19 who have been to “multiple venues,” even while symptomatic.

“We just cannot succeed in this pandemic if people are out and about when they’re symptomatic,” he said.

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As case counts climb in Winnipeg, the growth can’t be put down to specific, concentrated areas where transmission is happening, Roussin said.

Contact tracers are identifying increasing examples of community spread, including 21 cases that cannot be linked to known sources in the city in the past 10 days.

That leaves Public Health with dwindling options for “targeted tools” to stamp out the spread, Roussin said.

“The challenge right now is because we’re seeing that community-based transmission in Winnipeg, it’s really tough to have any more targeted interventions,” he said. “We sort of went that way already, and we don’t really have a lot of more targeted interventions.”

Outbreak at Headingley jail

The new cases come after a record-breaking week for COVID-19 in the province, as Manitoba matched or broke records for daily case counts, daily death announcements and the deadliest personal care home outbreak.

On Friday, Manitoba broke its record for the most new COVID-19 cases announced in a single day, with 84 new cases — only to beat it again on Saturday, with a new record high of 97 new cases. On both days, the vast majority of new cases were in Winnipeg.

Twice in the past week the province matched its record for COVID-19 deaths announced in a single day. Three deaths were announced on Wednesday, followed by three more on Friday. Four of the victims were linked to Winnipeg personal care homes, including three connected to a single outbreak at Parkview Place care home.

The province declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Headingley Correctional Centre, one of three provincial jails where staff members have tested positive.

The site just outside of Winnipeg has been moved to the critical, or red, level in the province’s pandemic response system. 

Seven inmates and two staff members at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19. Roughly 150 people linked to the jail are in self-isolation, Roussin said Tuesday.

The jail had 600 inmates as of Sept. 3, a provincial spokesperson said at the time. That exceeded the jail’s capacity of 549, according to the province’s website.

Additional possible exposures were identified at four Winnipeg schools:

Winnipeg Adult Education Centre, 310 Vaughan St., on Oct. 5. Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, 720 Alverstone St., on Sept. 29, 30 and Oct. 1. Dakota Collegiate, 661 Dakota St. Exposure is from two cases, one on Oct. 6 and one on Oct. 5, 6 and 7. The cases are not believed to be linked. Dufferin School, 545 Alexander Ave., on Sept. 30 and Oct. 2. Testing by appointment

Manitoba currently has 1,248 active cases of COVID-19. There are 28 people in hospital, including five in intensive care, Roussin said Tuesday.

A new drive-thru testing site at 1066 Nairn Ave. in Winnipeg opened Tuesday, Roussin said.

The province is also working to introduce a new, appointment-based testing system that will allow Manitobans to call or go online to schedule a time to get swabbed.

The new system is set to be rolled out in the next few weeks, Roussin said.

The province is also working with Doctors Manitoba to let family doctors give COVID-19 tests after hours.

The outbreak at Parkview has become Manitoba’s deadliest in a personal care home.

On Monday, managing company Revera announced a total of 57 residents and 17 staff members have tested positive for the disease.

Seven people connected to that outbreak have died, including a woman in her 100s whose death was announced on Monday.

Manitoba announced four COVID-19 deaths over the long weekend. All four were Winnipeggers, including the province’s youngest person to die from the disease — a man in his 40s — and three women, in their 80s, 90s and the woman in her 100s.

On Tuesday, Roussin said the man in his 40s did not have underlying health conditions.

The province confirmed Sunday that the staff members at three provincial jails had tested positive for COVID-19. Possible exposures were identified at the Winnipeg Remand Centre and Milner Ridge in addition to Headingley.

Climbing case counts in Manitoba First Nations have also prompted the Red Cross to be called in for the first time. The Red Cross sent teams to York Factory First Nation and Little Grand Rapids to help with COVID-19 testing, and training on PPE and transmission prevention.

Just under half of all known active cases on Canadian First Nations were in Manitoba as of Sunday, with a total of 60 known active cases. More than 30 people have tested positive in Little Grand Rapids, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said.

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