There's been another COVID-19 related death in Manitoba, bringing the provincial total to 35.

According to public health, the latest death is a man in his 70s from the Rural East district in Southern Health-Sante Sud, and was a previously reported case.

Chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, added this is the eighth death due to COVID-19 in Manitoba since October 8, 2020.

"These tragedies underscore the need to protect those who are most vulnerable to this infection," he said, adding those over age 65 and with underlying medical conditions are most at risk of severe outcomes. According to Dr. Roussin, the best way to protect them is to protect ourselves and to limit the transmission of this virus, adding that can be done by decreasing the amount of contacts we have outside of our households.

"The more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, the more indoor and public crowded places you're at, you increase your risk of transmitting that virus. So please practice the fundamentals at all times and we'll have that impact on decreasing the transmission rate in our communities," said Dr. Roussin.

Those fundamentals include:
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Wash/sanitize your hands and cover your cough.
• Physically distance when you are with people outside your household.
• If you cannot physically distance, wear a mask to help reduce the risk to others or as required by public health orders.

In addition, the Province announced 124 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in Manitoba to 2,779.

Today’s data shows:
• 16 cases in the Interlake–Eastern health region;
• one case in the Northern health region;
• three cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region;
• nine cases in the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region; and
• 95 cases in the Winnipeg health region.

These numbers represent additional cases identified over the Thanksgiving weekend; 26 on Monday, 83 identified on Sunday and 15 on Saturday. Dr. Roussin says a backlog in cases at that time has since been alleviated.

Laboratory testing numbers show 2,383 tests were completed Friday, 3,311 were completed Saturday, 2,049 were completed Sunday and 2,188 were completed yesterday, bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February to 213,669. Case investigations continue and if a public health risk is identified, the public will be notified. Manitoba's current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 3.5 per cent.

Three new additional testing sites, two in Winnipeg and one in Brandon, will open in the next several weeks, bringing the total of nine drive-thru test sites in Manitoba, which will remain available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The drive-thru site at 1066 Nairn Ave. in Winnipeg opened today and the additional Winnipeg location at 125 King Edward St. East is expected to open in late October. A drive-thru site will open in Brandon at the Keystone Centre on Oct. 17.

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at the Headingley Correctional Centre. The site is moving to Critical (red) on the #RestartMB Pandemic Response System. The facility has taken measures to mitigate risk including separating contacts and cases from the rest of the population, coupled with discontinuing visitation and transfers, and enhanced use of PPE.

Additional possible exposures have been identified at:
• Winnipeg Adult Education Centre at 310 Vaughan St. in Winnipeg on Oct. 5. Based on the public health investigation, the risk of this exposure was assessed to be low. The infection was not believed to be acquired at school. The cohort is being advised to self-monitor for symptoms and seek testing if symptoms develop.
• Daniel McIntyre Collegiate at 720 Alverstone St. in Winnipeg on Sept. 29, 30 and Oct. 1. Based on the public health investigation, the risk of this exposure was assessed to be low. The infection was not believed to be acquired at school. The cohort is being advised to self-monitor for symptoms and seek testing if symptoms develop.
• Dakota Collegiate at 661 Dakota St. in Winnipeg with two cases on Oct. 6 and Oct. 5, 6, and 7. Based on the public health investigation, the risk of these exposures was assessed to be low and are not linked. The infection was not believed to be acquired at school. Close contacts to one of the cases have been contacted to quarantine. The rest of the cohorts are being advised to self-monitor for symptoms and seek testing if symptoms develop.
• Dufferin School, 545 Alexander Ave., Winnipeg on Sept. 30 and Oct. 2, this is the second case from the same cohort as a previous case at the school. This cohort and other close contacts have been advised to self-isolate (quarantine). While the investigation was not able to confirm if transmission took place at the school, the risk to the school community is still considered low.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has introduced exemptions to the Quarantine Act requirements for self-isolation related to international travel for compassionate or care-giving reasons. Provincial travel orders are being updated to reflect this change that Manitoba is supporting. People who are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 may travel to northern Manitoba or a remote community to:
• care for a family member or friend who is seriously ill but is not in a health-care facility;
• visit a family member or friend who is in a health-care facility with a life-threatening illness or injury if the health-care facility has authorized the visit; or
• attend the funeral of a family member or friend.

In addition, people from outside northern Manitoba or a remote community and are required to self-isolate are travelling for these reasons, can complete their self-isolation in the north.

The Province says these changes are being made to ensure consistency with federal changes and set out processes for similar situations in Manitoba.

Work is in development to reduce wait times at testing locations by introducing an appointment-based scheduling system. Manitobans who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will be able to call or go online to schedule an appointment to get tested. The appointment system, including details on how to schedule appointments by phone or online, will be rolled out in the next few weeks. Additionally, exploratory discussions are underway with Doctors Manitoba to enable community family doctors to provide after-hours COVID-19 testing to bring testing closer to home for Manitoba families.

Complementary counselling services to address the need for additional mental health support will now be offered through the expanded Mental Health Virtual Therapy Program. The service, set the begin today, will offer up to two counselling sessions, by phone or video and will be available in multiple languages. This complementary service will be offered until Dec. 31, when the program will be evaluated. To access this service, call (toll-free) 1-844-218-2955.

Unless recommended by public health officials, only individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should go for testing. Individuals with symptoms are asked to seek testing as soon as possible once symptoms are present. Employers are asked to only send employees for testing if they have symptoms or if testing has been recommended by public health officials.