Manitoba

Manitoba marks another pandemic high with 947 new cases of COVID-19

Manitoba reports 947 new cases of COVID-19 and one death, the province said in a news release on Wednesday.

183 Manitobans in hospital with the virus, including 29 in intensive care units

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer, says Manitobans need to urgently do their part to reduce transmission of COVID-19. (Ian Froese/CBC)

With 947 new cases and one death on Wednesday, Manitoba's COVID-19 count shattered the province's previous record of 825 new positive cases.

It's the fourth time in less than a week that the province has broken the record.

Most of the newest cases emerged in the Winnipeg health region, which posted 667 new cases.

There are also 99 new cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region, 91 in the Interlake-Eastern health region, 82 in the Southern Health region and eight in the Northern Health Region.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief provincial public health officer, said at an online news conference that there's a backlog of about 10,700 tests that haven't yet been screened for COVID-19.

"The numbers we report are definitely an underestimate of the amount of transmission we're seeing right now," he said.

Manitoba has a backlog of roughly 10,700 COVID-19 tests that haven't yet been screened for the virus. Roussin says Wednesday's record-shattering case numbers are likely a significant underrepresentation. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The province is also reporting the death of a woman in her 50s from the Southern Health region.

There are now 1,384 deaths related to COVID-19. As of Wednesday, there are 7,488 active cases, and 68,613 people have recovered from the virus.

A total of 183 Manitobans are currently in hospital with COVID-19, up from 164 on Tuesday. Of those, 29 people are in intensive care units, up by two from the last report.

WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin on the state of COVID-19 testing in Manitoba: 

Manitoba's COVID-19 case testing backlog

5 months ago
Duration 1:10
Dr. Roussin explains why there's a backlog of testing 10,700 samples for COVID-19.

The provincial dashboard says 53 per cent of COVID-19 cases over the past six weeks have been in people who have at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 41 per cent in people who were not vaccinated at all and six per cent in people who are partially vaccinated.

The distribution shifts toward the unvaccinated when looking at severity of symptoms. Those who are not fully vaccinated are nine times more likely to end up in hospital with COVID-19, 26 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care and 17 times more likely to die, provincial data shows.

Although there are some early indications the Omicron variant of the coronavirus may be less severe than the Delta variant, Roussin said it's more transmissible and Manitobans must remain vigilant.

"We have numbers that we've never seen before, so even if it's substantially less severe, the overall strains on the health-care system are still going to be too great for us to handle," he said.

"We can in no way rely on the possibility that this is less severe.... We need to decrease that transmission now and significantly."

Dr. Pamela Orr, an infectious disease physician at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, said the province is not doing enough to reduce the impacts of the Omicron-induced COVID spike on hospitals, which she said are struggling now to manage existing patient burdens.

"We heard so little today in the press conference of the preventative measures that we need to address the current crisis and the impending catastrophe that we're looking at in terms of modelling," she said.

Doctors want to know whether the government has plans in place to send ICU patients to other provinces — as it was forced to do during the third wave in the spring — if hospitals in Winnipeg and Brandon run out of capacity again, Orr said.

Doctors also want to know what triage protocols are in place in the event hospitals are unable to deliver care, she added.

"We're in the middle of a catastrophe, and it's evolving in front of our eyes," Orr said.

Manitoba public health officials say the province's test positivity rate may be skewed because people are taking rapid tests and only presenting to receive a PCR test if they are positive. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The five-day test positivity rate is 24.2 per cent provincially, up from 21.9 per cent on Tuesday. In Winnipeg, the rate is 26.2 per cent.

The rates are likely skewed because so many people are using rapid tests at home and returning for testing at the province-run sites if they screen positive, Roussin said.

More rapid tests will be distributed across the province in response to the backlog, he added.

On Tuesday, 3,852 COVID-19 tests were done.

The province also provided more details on the five deaths reported on Tuesday. They are:

  • A woman in her 40s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to an unspecified variant of concern.
  • A woman in her 50s from the Winnipeg health region.
  • A man in his 70s from the Winnipeg health region.
  • A woman in her 80s from the Winnipeg health region.
  • A man in his 80s from the Southern Health region.

Days of record-high case counts

Wednesday's update comes after the province reported a record-high 825 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths on Tuesday, topping the previous pandemic records set on Christmas Day (785) and Christmas Eve (742).

Just over a week after Manitoba introduced capacity restrictions to stem the tide of COVID-19 cases, Roussin and Premier Heather Stefanson announced the restrictions would tighten slightly on Tuesday.

The updated restrictions mean gatherings must not exceed 50 per cent of the usual capacity of the space, or 250 people, whichever is less. Just before Christmas, gathering restrictions were slightly more relaxed for people who are vaccinated — they were set at 50 per cent but with no capacity limit.

The restrictions affect all indoor and outdoor gatherings, including religious gatherings, cultural events, theatres, restaurants, museums and art galleries, sporting and recreational facilities, gyms, and indoor and outdoor ticketed sporting events.

The province is also requiring restaurants and licensed premises to end the sale of liquor at 10 p.m.

The restrictions will expire on Jan. 11, 2022.

Outbreaks announced

Manitoba is announcing three outbreaks at personal care homes in the province:

  • Northern Spirit Manor personal care home in Thompson.
  • Actionmarguerite St. Boniface in Winnipeg.
  • Fred Douglas Lodge in Winnipeg.

An outbreak at Kin Place personal care home in Oakbank is now considered over.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Bergen is a journalist for CBC Manitoba and previously reported for CBC Saskatoon. Email story ideas to rachel.bergen@cbc.ca.

With files from Bartley Kives

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