Early school start, pool and gym reopening possible in Manitoba’s Phase 2 but no date yet

An early start to the school year, access to pools and gyms and limited travel to Manitoba’s north are among a swath of measures proposed for the next phase of the province’s reopening, Premier Brian Pallister announced Thursday.

There’s currently no firm date when the new measures will take effect, except for loosened restrictions on public gatherings and professional sports.

Professional sports will be allowed to resume some training activities on Friday, the premier said.

Increases to public gathering size limits announced Wednesday will also take effect Friday, raising the maximum size to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. The current gathering limit is 10.

The draft plan revealed Thursday includes a proposal to begin the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 31, repurpose some non-instructional days during the school year and allow limited access to school facilities, the premier said.

Further details on the timing of other measures will be announced “at some point in the next few days,” Pallister said.

“Early and decisive actions, along with the hard work of Manitobans, have made a difference in our fight against COVID-19,” he said.

“There is no room for complacency. We do not want a COVID comeback.”

The draft plan revealed Thursday proposes a much broader range of measures than originally announced for Phase 2, when Phase 1 was announced at the end of April.

Some measures that were previously scheduled for later stages of reopening — including reopening of bars, tattoo parlours, tanning and fitness facilities at limited capacity — are now being considered for Phase 2.

Other measures on the table include increasing child-care and day camp group sizes to a maximum of 24 children, resuming sports activities for children and adults and allowing direct travel to northern parks, campgrounds, cabins, lodges and resorts while ensuring physical distancing.

Those come on top of the previously announced measures for Phase 2, including plans to reopen manicurists and pedicurists, film production, indoor restaurant spaces at 50 per cent capacity and non-contact children’s sports.

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health, announced Wednesday that plans are also underway to allow outdoor visits at long-term care homes, with certain restrictions in place. Visits will be limited to two visitors at a time and physical distancing must be maintained.

No new cases Thursday

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, announced no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon.

He cautioned Manitobans that Phase 2 of reopening is not a return to normal.

“We continue to review our data quite closely as we loosen restrictions and we’ll make changes accordingly,” he said.

“This virus is still in Manitoba, and if we don’t take the cautions that we’ve already been taking, we could see increasing numbers going forward.”

This chart illustrates cumulative COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, with red indicating active cases and black representing deaths. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

Roussin said he hopes to give businesses more notice ahead of Phase 2 than was provided before Phase 1. The first phase was announced five days before a wide swath of reopenings took effect on May 4.

“We’re hoping to be able to give better notice than the last time,” Roussin said Thursday.

It’s still early in Phase 1, with only one incubation period since that step in reopening, he said. Manitoba public health officials have said one incubation period is two weeks, and Roussin has previously said officials typically need two incubation periods of data to evaluate policy changes.

Manitoba has had one new case of COVID-19 in a week. The total number of cases in the province is 290, with 18 active cases, 265 people listed as recovered and seven deaths. One person is in hospital and no one is in intensive care.

The bars illustrate the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 in Manitoba, with red indicating people in an intensive care unit and deaths shown in black. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

A total of 582 tests were completed Wednesday, Roussin said, bringing the number of tests done in the province since early February to 36,402.

Chief Nursing Officer Siragusa said the health-care system is in the process of restarting more surgeries and diagnostic procedures.

“We know that COVID is going to be with us for longer term, and postponing care for our patients is not something that we can continue indefinitely,” she said.

Surgeries, which dropped to about one-third of pre-pandemic levels earlier, rose to about two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels over the past week, Siragusa said.

Diagnostic imaging is operating at about 76 per cent of its baseline after dropping to about 45 per cent in the early weeks of the pandemic, she said. Lab tests are also up to about 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels after dipping to around 50 per cent in early April.


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