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Death toll reaches 20, province prepares to use tracking app

The province announced on Monday it would go online with the national COVID-19 application this week to help track exposure to the coronavirus.

“We’ll have more to say in a few days. That work has gone on behind the scenes, as we’ve said it was going on, to make it available and compliant in Manitoba,” Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen said at Monday’s COVID-19 press briefing.

The app is currently available for use in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Saskatchewan and is available at the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Friesen added people should understand the app doesn’t rely on GPS and it doesn’t give the government information about who you are or where you are. He said the app uses Bluetooth technology to link with others and their phones when you come in contact for the threshold period of time — more than 15 minutes, less than two metres apart and over the past 14 days.

“With this app, if you contract COVID-19 and you’re determined to have done so, it is still voluntary for you to enter that one-time code into your app. That will then send a signal to other phones where that contact has taken place,” Friesen said.

He encouraged Manitobans to download COVID Alert, which is a voluntary disclosure tool due to Canada’s privacy laws.

“If 20 per cent of Manitobans download this, it’s not going to have any effect. I’ve heard numbers of 60 per cent, some have said. Some have said higher adoption rates for this to be effective,” Friesen said.

The app will not replace the government’s contact tracing, but is an additional tool.

That news comes with 39 new cases of COVID-19 as of 9:30 a.m. Monday, none of which were in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

However, a 70-year-old man in the Prairie Mountain Health region has died, the 20th life claimed by COVID-19 in the province. Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the man had been hospitalized, but did not disclose the hospital.

Of the 39 new cases, seven cases are located in the Interlake–Eastern health region, seven in the Northern health region, three in the Southern Health–Santé Sud and 22 in the Winnipeg health region.

There are now 618 active cases, while 1,281 people have recovered from COVID-19. Thirteen people are in hospital and seven are in intensive care.

The province also disclosed possible exposure at Denny’s at 4100 Portage Ave. in Winnipeg on Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sept. 20 from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., as well as XXI Lounge at 1011 Portage Ave. in Winnipeg on Sept. 18 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sept. 19 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Brandon Regional Health Centre’s Assiniboine Centre remains under a code red until two full incubation periods after the last associated case. That hasn’t happened, yet, said Roussin.

Meanwhile, as children begin to contemplate their Halloween costumes, parents are wondering what can and can’t be done come Oct. 31. Roussin said the government would be releasing a plan.

“We’re going to try to get a plan out, get some guidance. The fundamentals are always going to apply. I do think it’s important, but we’ve also been dealing with a significant number of cases that public health is trying to work on, and dealing with new public health orders,” he said, when pressed about the importance of already-stressed children having advance knowledge about what they can expect.

“But absolutely it’s important, and we’re working on that.”

Roussin also reported 2,647 tests were completed on Friday, 2,196 on Saturday and 1,596 tests on Sunday, for a total 180,750 since February.

The five-day positivity rate remained at 2.2 per cent,

While Winnipeg and surrounding communities are now, effective Monday, under a code orange, Roussin strongly encourages all Manitobans to reduce the number of close contacts outside their household, and avoid closed-in or crowded spaces.

Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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