83 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba on Tuesday, numbers in Winnipeg keep improving

Eighty-three new cases of COVID-19 reported in Manitoba on Tuesday.

'So things are improved, for sure, [but] we still need that trend to continue,' says Dr. Jazz Atwal

A nurse prepares a needle with the Moderna vaccine as a COVID-19 vaccination supersite opened Monday in Thompson. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Eighty-three new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Manitoba on Tuesday.

No new death data is available because of a system reset by the province. The deaths, which are 832 as of Monday, will be updated and reported on Wednesday.

As has been the case many times over the past several weeks, the majority of the new cases are in the Northern health region with 53.

The Winnipeg health region is reporting 18 new cases for the second consecutive day. There are five more in the Interlake–Eastern health region, five in the Prairie Mountain Health region and two in the Southern Health region.

An outbreak has been declared in the St. Boniface Hospital B5 medicine unit, where four cases have been reported. The facility has been moved to the red, or critical level, on the province's pandemic response system.

The hospital has suspended patient admissions to the unit and is advising families of B5 patients to do virtual visits rather than in-person ones.

Meanwhile, the outbreaks at Oakview Personal Care Home in Winnipeg and Rest Haven Personal Care Home in Steinbach have been declared over.

It's been 10 days since the province loosened some of the COVID-19 restrictions and Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, is pleased with the lack of a surge in new cases.

"We haven't seen much of an increase in cases that we can attribute to that at this point," Atwal said.

"Obviously people are partaking in activities, whether they're outdoors — skating and skiing — or going to retail. It seems like compliance is fairly well with public health messaging.

"So things are improved, for sure, [but] we still need that trend to continue."

Lowest daily case numbers since October

The 83 cases reported on Tuesday is the lowest number of new cases since there were 80 reported on Oct. 19, 2020. As well, the current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 7.6 per cent provincially and 4.1 per cent in Winnipeg.

Both of those numbers are the lowest they've been in close to four months.

Asked if the positive trend signifies an opportunity to further loosen restrictions once the current health orders expire Feb. 13, Atwal said "it's always hard to speculate about the future."

He also noted there are still 254 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 36 in intensive care.

"Obviously, if our cases remain low, if our acute-care system is going to be able to handle cases and hospitalizations, then there's always that opportunity to look at those restrictions and see where they should be," Atwal said.

"It feels really good. We were in a tough spot there for a long period of time."

Atwal recalled the worst of pandemic's second wave in late October through December, when ICUs "were overflowing" and surgeries were being cancelled in order to divert staff to focus on COVID-19 patient care.

It was a time when test positivity rates ranged from 10 to nearly 15 per cent.

When November began, the province had recorded a total of 75 deaths since March. By the beginning of January, just two months later, the total number of deaths was 667. 

"That was worrisome," Atwal said, repeating the necessity for the restrictions.

"It's nice to see our numbers come down. It's nice to see Manitobans uniting and working together to come to a point where we're able to kind of reverse course here a little bit."