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Province releases data on race, ethnicity of positive COVID-19 patients

A man with a mask waits to cross the street near the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg on Monday, March 1, 2021.
A man with a mask waits to cross the street near the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg on Monday, March 1, 2021.

The provincial government released data on Monday on race, ethnicity and Indigeneity (REI) information from people who test positive for COVID-19 showing that like in other parts of the world infections in Manitoba are not evenly distributed by population groups.

Collected since May 1 of last year, the data shows that despite only making up 13% of the province’s population, Indigenous and First Nations people made up 17% of Manitoba’s positive cases. Meanwhile, Filipino people showed the greatest disparity in population size burden of COVID-19 with a 12% positivity rate while having only 7% of the population. Filipino women are slightly more affected than men.

“It’s important to note that this is not about the people in these communities making bad choices or not following public health guidance,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer. “We need to look at this data in the context of many factors such as occupation, income, housing adequacy to understand how race influences the effects of COVID-19. We know people in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) communities are more likely to live in lower-income neighbourhoods, live in over-crowded and multi-generational households, they’re also likely to have low-wage occupations and be employed at higher-risk occupations such as food manufacturing, service industry, transportation, accommodation, food services (and) retail.

“This is systemic and it’s seen in every jurisdiction resulting in very similar patterns of disproportionate effects of COVID-19.”

Roussin said the public health officials will work to develop strategies to take action in partnership with BIPOC networks and community organizations. In the longer term, this includes introducing changes to health and social systems to strengthen protections.

People employed in food manufacturing made up 30% of positive cases, followed by service industry at 15% and transportation at 11%.

“COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on BIPOC communities, yet the PCs took months to release this data,” said NDP Health Critic Uzoma Asagwara. “If it had been made public months ago, when they promised, it could have helped to guide our public health response and keep families most at risk safe. Releasing the data is just step one, now we need government to work with these communities to design a plan to keep them safe.”

Strength in Storm

A familiar face at the province’s COVID-19 updates, Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer and Co-Incident Commander of Manitoba’s COVID-19 response Lanette Siragusa has been named the Strength in the Storm Excellence Award winner from the national Nursing the Future organization, it was announced Monday. This award is for a nurse leader who has consistently overcome disruption, chaos and turmoil in a global pandemic and recognizes the contribution, leadership and steady hand of nurses in Canada.

“I certainly can’t think of a more deserving recipient than Lanette Siragusa,” said Roussin. “Throughout the pandemic she has been such a fantastic leader at our Incident Command table, bringing tremendous ideas and solutions. She’s been quite a leader and continued to even taking shifts at care homes during some of this pandemic. It’s certainly has been my pleasure to work with Lanette and she is a tremendous asset to Manitobans.”

Charges laid

A 13-year-old boy was charged by Winnipeg Police on the weekend for allegedly stabbing a convenience store clerk after being asked to put on a face mask or covering in the store.

“This is a very serious, thankfully very rare outcome of someone refusing to follow public health orders,” said Roussin, who took time out of Monday’s COVID-19 briefing to wish the clerk ‘well in their recovery’. “I do want to offer my thanks and appreciation to business owners who are working so hard to implement these public health orders and are working hard at the fundamentals. It’s certainly been a challenging time for many but the efforts of our business community and all Manitobans is very much appreciated.”

The 13-year-old has charged with assault with a weapon and aggravated assault and detained in custody.

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Twitter: @SunGlenDawkins

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Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021

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