No new restrictions coming for Manitoba yet, as COVID-19 numbers continue fluctuating, Dr. Roussin says

Manitoba is still seeing too much fluctuation in its COVID-19 numbers to know whether more restrictions are needed in areas hit hardest by the fourth wave, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says.

Province reports 147 new cases of the coronavirus, 3 deaths on Wednesday

More than 20,000 appointments for pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations have been made in Manitoba since bookings opened on Monday. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)

Manitoba is still seeing too much fluctuation in its COVID-19 numbers to know whether more restrictions are needed in areas hit hardest by the fourth wave, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says.

"We're seeing days where test positivity is increasing, and other days where it's decreasing. We're seeing [new case] numbers climbing over time, but also not at an exponential rate," he said at a news conference on Zoom Wednesday afternoon.

More people are vaccinated now, and that's helping to blunt the exponential growth in cases the province saw in previous waves, he said.

"So certainly, we're at a concerning point, but it's clear that vaccines have changed the trajectory of this wave."

Roussin won't rule out adding more targeted rules for the province's Southern Health region, which continues to have by far Manitoba's highest test positivity rate and its lowest vaccination rate.

On Wednesday, the region had nearly half of the province's new cases, with 71 of the 147 infections reported. Just over half of Manitoba's latest cases were also among people not fully vaccinated.

"We've been mentioning for quite some time that [we've been] concerned with the transmission in Southern Health, the amount of severe outcomes we're seeing," Roussin said.

"We know this is spread in indoor public gatherings. We know that the unvaccinated are [at] much greater risk of acquiring COVID, much greater risk of having severe outcomes. So any restrictions going forward need to focus on those types of ideas."

Test positivity data obtained by CBC News on Wednesday shows the Southern Health region's test positivity rate now sits at 17.4 per cent. The provincial rate remains 5.9 per cent, the province's online coronavirus dashboard says.

Winnipeg currently has the lowest rate in Manitoba at 2.9 per cent, the data obtained by CBC News says.

The Interlake-Eastern health region's rate is 3.9 per cent, the Prairie Mountain Health region's at 7.4 per cent and the Northern Health Region's at 8.4 per cent, the data says.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin, pictured here in a file photo, says Manitoba's COVID-19 numbers are still fluctuating too much to know whether more restrictions are needed. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, vaccine uptake among those born in 2009 or earlier in Southern Health region is now 69.1 per cent. That's also in stark contrast to the provincial rate, which is 87.5 per cent.

Manitoba introduced new pandemic restrictions specifically targeting the Southern Health region earlier this month, when religious gatherings that don't require proof of vaccination had their capacity reduced.

Doses for kids 5-11 start

Wednesday is also the day Manitoba starts vaccinating kids age five to 11 against COVID-19, Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine task force, said at the news conference alongside Roussin.

That's one day ahead of schedule, a change that happened after pediatric vaccine doses arrived Tuesday morning.

So far, Manitoba has booked 23,310 appointments for children in that age group, Reimer said.

"This is so impressive and it underscores what we knew: that Manitoba parents of younger children want to get their children vaccinated to protect them from COVID-19 and to help protect the whole community," she said.

Reimer said the clinics for pediatric doses take a more kid-friendly approach than the supersites set up for adults earlier in the year.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccination task force, says more than 23,000 kids age five to 11 have made appointments for a COVID-19 vaccination in the province. (CBC)

"We want to continue to be efficient, but that's not our No. 1 goal," she said.

More time is taken to make sure kids are comfortable during the process and get answers to any questions they have about the shot, she said.

Manitoba also plans to change some of its public reporting on COVID-19, Roussin said.

After Friday, the province will no longer provide details of possible exposures on flights, trains and buses in Manitoba.

It will also stop reporting details about more contagious coronavirus variants in the province now that 98 per cent of Manitoba's new cases are the delta variant, Roussin said.

On Wednesday, Manitoba reported that its total number of cases linked to those variants climbed by 74, the province's online variant dashboard says. Seventy-five more cases are now listed as unspecified, while the number of delta cases dropped by one.

Three more deaths linked to COVID-19 were also reported in Manitoba on Wednesday, including two connected to variants.

The province now has 153 people in hospital with the illness and 22 in intensive care.

The rest of the COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday are split between the Winnipeg health region, which has 33, the Prairie Mountain Health region, with 23, the Northern Health Region, with 12, and the Interlake-Eastern health region, with eight new cases.

The new cases bring Manitoba's weekly average of new infections down slightly to 159. 

There are now 1,537 active COVID-19 cases in the province, the coronavirus dashboard says, while 64,256 people in Manitoba have been deemed recovered after getting the illness.

A total of 1,299 people in the province have died from COVID-19, the dashboard says.

Manitoba did 2,710 more COVID-19 tests on Tuesday.


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