By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba saw a record single-day increase in COVID-19 cases Monday, but the province’s top doctor said there was some reason for optimism.
Health officials reported 543 new cases — the first time the daily count exceeded 500.
Manitoba had led all other provinces in recent weeks in infection rates, and the number of intensive care beds being used by COVID-19 patients and others reached 96 of an available 103.
Still, the province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said the numbers could be worse.
The growth in daily case counts has slowed after rising sharply in October and early November. The change follows a series of increasingly tight restrictions that were imposed on public gatherings and store openings.
“But for the restrictions, we could have been seeing much more numbers, possibly,” Roussin said.
The latest round of restrictions, which took effect last week, forbid indoor public gatherings and social visits inside people’s homes with some exceptions. Retailers have also been forced to stop selling non-essential items in-store.
Roussin said people seem to have started taking the no-socializing orders more seriously. People who have tested positive in the last two weeks have had contact with fewer people than before. The average has dropped to four contacts from seven, he said.
“The contacts-per-case does look to be trending in the right direction, and it’s expected that that’s going to translate into fewer cases in the next week or 10 days.”
Not everyone appeared to get the message, however. Roussin said he had received reports of a number of in-person religious gatherings in violation of the latest public health orders.
RCMP said they went to a church outside of Steinbach, southeast of Winnipeg, on Sunday morning when a service appeared to be underway.
“It is believed there were well over 100 people inside the church,” spokeswoman Cpl. Julie Courchaine said in an email.
“Officers attended and spoke with a church representative. No fines have been issued as of yet; however, this is currently still under investigation and RCMP are working with (the provincial Health Department) on the matter,”
The Steinbach region has been the province’s COVID-19 hot spot recently. The rate of people testing positive there last week hit 40 per cent.
Southwest of Winnipeg, Morden Mayor Brandon Burley posted on social media that he has tested positive for COVID-19.
“For anyone who says, ‘COVID is just a cold,’ I can confirm it’s not, in no way whatsoever,” said a post on Burley’s Facebook page.
“Tests came back positive in our house, and I feel like I’m dead or dying 23 hours a day. Take this serious folks!”