WINNIPEG -- COVID-19 outbreaks at two Manitoba personal care homes has the association representing seniors’ residences throughout the province, concerned.

On Thursday, the Manitoba government reported a second death connected to an outbreak at Bethesda Place personal care home in Steinbach, Man. A woman from the Southern Health region in her 90s, a resident at the home, died, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba to 14.

“This is something that we’ve all been fearful of,” said Jan Legeros, executive director of the Long Term & Continuing Care Association of Manitoba. “We know that during the lockdown Manitoba was very fortunate in seeing almost no cases and so when restrictions began to loosen, I know that we were all quite worried that this would happen. In fact, it has.”

Eight people linked to the care home — including three residents, two of whom have died — are now connected to the outbreak, according to the province.

Dr. Brent Roussin said public health officials have traced the outbreak to an employee who tested positive earlier in the month.

He said a worker at Rideau Park personal care home in Brandon has also tested positive for COVID-19, but the risk of transmission is low given the worker was wearing personal protective equipment and is now self-isolating.

“No other cases have been identified or linked to this case,” said Roussin. “However, an outbreak has been declared.”

“The site will be moving to red, to critical on our pandemic response system.”

Both care homes have implemented additional precautions and restrictions on visitors as a result of the outbreaks.

Legeros said the association would like the province to go back to mandatory screening — questions about travel and contact, symptoms and taking temperatures — for staff before they enter facilities.

“It was with great trepidation that some of the care homes did stop, only because government did advise us they would not reimburse us for any of those costs if we continued,” said Legeros. “I believe the majority have continued to do that because we know that COVID doesn’t walk.

It is carried, with the loosening of restrictions we just felt that it was important to continually actively screen staff as well as the visitors.”

Roussin said the rules right now require staff to use an online screening tool and wear PPE while on site.

He said temperature testing hasn’t been shown to be that effective.

“People who choose to do it, that’s fine but we know a significant portion of people with COVID, don’t have elevated temperatures and a significant amount of people who have elevated temperatures don’t have COVID,” said Roussin. 

Roussin said the province’s one-site PCH model requires staff only work at one personal care home.