COVID-19 Update March 30

Situation Update

The province announced 24 new COVID-19 cases today, along with 33 more over the weekend, bringing Manitoba’s total to 96. Four individuals are in hospital, including one in ICU. Two individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and there remains only one death in Manitoba.

Much stronger containment measures were ordered today. Starting April 1, non-critical businesses must close their physical operations until April 14, with a few exceptions:

  • Any publicly-funded health service provider can continue to operate
  • Businesses can continue their operations remotely or virtually in a manner that follows public health advice
  • Restaurants can continue to offer take-out and delivery, but no dine-in services
  • Grocery stores, hardware stores, banks and gas stations remain open

Two drive-thru testing sites opened today in Pine Falls and Dauphin. Manitoba now has 16 testing sites. The provincial news bulletin and public health order offer full details on this the business closures. Dr. Brent Roussin, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, suggested the length of this and other containment orders will be reviewed and could be lengthened.

Help for Employers

The federal government announced details of stronger financial support for employers today. We have updated our advice for Physicians as Employers.

In summary, the supports in place for businesses and employers include:

  • A wage subsidy of 75% per employee (max $847/week) that is available to all businesses who have seen at least a 30% decline in revenues. Originally, only a 10% wage subsidy was offered. The government has stated more details on eligibility will follow.
  • Expanding a work-sharing program for workers who agree to reduce hours and receive partial EI benefits, available to businesses who have seen at least a 10% decrease in business activity
  • Providing interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses through a new Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP).

You can view our advice for Physicians as Employers as well as the government’s website for further details on Canada’s COVID-19 economic response detailing these and other steps they are taking to help businesses through the pandemic.

Worried about PPE?

If you’re worried about access to personal protective equipment, you aren’t alone. We worry about it every day. We raise your concerns with provincial officials regularly. We have created a concise PPE page on our new COVID member site to help you quickly see the latest on what is recommended, how to order, and what to do if you are unsure or uncomfortable with the recommendations as they apply to your practice.

Other Updates

A few brief updates to help you keep up with related news impacting Manitoba physicians:

  • CPSM released another FAQ on Friday covering questions on prescribing for COVID-19, the ethics assigning COVID-19 care among your colleagues, CME requirement deferrals and re-registering retired physicians.
  • A clinical trial is underway in Manitoba to determine whether a standard malaria drug can prevent those most at risk from contracting COVID-19. Dr. Ryan Zarychanski, an internal medicine specialist and researcher with the University of Manitoba, is looking at the potential of hydroxychloroquine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. Any Manitoban, including physicians, interested in participating should contact the research study for more information. On a related note, the CPSM FAQ mentioned above also addresses the duty to not self-prescribe this medication.
  • An online CPD webinar on COVID-19 updates will be offered by the University of Manitoba Health Sciences Faculty tomorrow, March 31 over noon hour. You can register now and see the updates live tomorrow with Dr. Philippe Legace-Wiens and Dr. Yoav Keynan.
  • Shared Health is extending access to MyMBT secure messaging to all physicians during the pandemic at no cost. This can be used to communicate urgent and clinically sensitive messages to other providers. Digital Health has posted info on getting access.

FYI: How Effective is Social Distancing/Physical Distancing?

First of all, we are seeing the term start to change from “social distancing” to “physical distancing” to help reinforce that distancing by any name does not mean social isolation from family and friends.

A few days ago, BC officials claimed that social distancing has halved the spread of COVID-19. Their analysis found that coronavirus cases were increasing 12% per day, but that would double to 24% without measures like travel restrictions, physical distancing and limits on group gatherings. Further, a data science site helped to visualize the math behind social distancing and found that it can have a dramatic impact on slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Social or physical distancing can work, and it has been absolutely vital in flattening the curve elsewhere.