While the risk of transmission between two cars is "very low," the Chief Public Health Officer says he considered other factors when he temporarily banned drive-in church services.
Over the weekend, a Winnipeg church held drive-in worship services with hundreds of vehicles in attendance, something they had been doing throughout the warmer months. On Tuesday, the province will be announcing if this church will be fined for holding a drive-in service.
Dr. Brent Roussin is standing by his decision to order the halting of in-person worship services.
"Our recommendation is more virtual right now, in the short term," Roussin says. "Any type of event, the more people you have coming together at the same time, the more likely you are going to have some kind of gathering, some kind of transmission go on there."
He says the risk is "very low" between vehicles.
"This is just one factor," Roussin says. "Now you are dealing with hundreds upon hundreds of cars gathered for an hour or more. If everyone stayed in their car and everyone was in the same household that was in that car, that would be a low risk."
The doctor says there is a risk of transmission with larger gatherings and considers a drive-in worship service a large gathering.
Roussin is concerned that even if people were to gather in their vehicles, they could be tempted to exit their vehicles and gather together. He also says there could be factors, such as a person needing to use the washroom, that makes staying inside vehicles difficult.
"We certainly realize how difficult it is, not just this example there are many examples of how difficult this is, every Manitoban probably has a list of ways it has negatively impacted them and pandemics are difficult times."
Roussin says the clear message is Public Health wants Manitobans to stay home as much as possible.
In the spring, many churches held their own drive-in services successfully. Roussin says churches were not consulted when they made the order because the intention was to create a circuit breaker.
"We wanted a real significant change in our amount of contacts. We just did not want large groups of people coming together."
Roussin is asking Manitobans to comply with the circuit breaker for the short term, saying that hospitals are overwhelmed.
"We are asking Manitobans for a few weeks to try to limit gathering. Do things in an alternative way right now because we are overwhelmed in the healthcare system."
The alternative ways do not include drive-in worship services.
While churches did successfully conduct drive-in services in the spring, Roussin says that was a different time.
"This is a circuit breaker for the second wave that we cannot compare to the first wave," he says. "We needed to make big changes to bring these numbers down."
Roussin says the current COVID case numbers, while lower than anticipated without a circuit breaker, are still too high. There are close to 10,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba.