Manitoba's 3rd wave exceeding worst-case projections for intensive care patient numbers, daily COVID-19 cases

Daily COVID-19 case counts and the number of patients with the illness ending up in intensive care units in Manitoba are exceeding the province's most extreme projected scenarios for the third wave.

Case counts could peak next week, but ICU admissions could take up to a month to reach top point: Dr. Atwal

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Manitoba has seen a sharp uptick in recent weeks. (Mikaela MacKenzie/Winnipeg Free Press/The Canadian Press)

Daily COVID-19 case counts and the number of patients with the illness ending up in intensive care units in Manitoba are exceeding the province's most extreme projected scenarios for the third wave.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba's deputy chief public health officer, unveiled the pandemic modelling Friday that the province used to assess the need for its most recent lockdown measures.

By all key metrics — including a rising test positivity rate, evidence of broad community spread and higher percentages of more infectious variants — those projections suggest COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations linked to the illness will keep growing "substantially" in the coming weeks, he said.

Last week, CBC News obtained a leaked copy of a provincial presentation slide that showed modelling for intensive care admissions — an updated version of which was included in Friday's presentation.

The leaked data suggested the province expected the number of COVID-19 patients in its intensive care units to exceed the height of the pandemic's second wave by the end of the May long weekend, and potentially double again before summer.

Atwal said he thinks case counts in Manitoba will peak sometime next week, but it could take between two and four weeks before intensive care admissions hit their highest numbers — ahead of the scenarios outlined in the modelling released Friday.

He pointed to people not following public health orders and guidance as the reason behind why Manitoba's numbers have surged above worst-case scenarios.

"What's driving this extreme scenario is people's behaviours. It's about those interactions. It's about not adhering to the orders to [their] fullest degree. It's about not listening to the messaging to its fullest degree," he said at a news conference.

"We have people [diagnosed with COVID-19] who are being honest, who are saying, 'Yes, I went to a bonfire. Yes, I had a sleepover. Yes, six of us got together at someone's house and played video games. Yes, we had a big barbecue.'"

COVID-19 numbers across the board have been trending upward in Manitoba since April 23, Atwal said. Since then, cases alone have been going up by 33 per cent every week, while intensive care admissions have been up by 20 per cent weekly and hospitalizations have increased by about 18 per cent each week.

How the next few weeks shake out will depend entirely on how closely people follow Manitoba's pandemic rules — and how many do it, he said.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy Manitoba chief public health officer, says how closely people follow the province's pandemic rules will determine whether COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise over the next few weeks. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

"A best-case scenario is within a week, we've got a plateau. ICU numbers come down [a few weeks after]," Atwal said.

"Now obviously if there is no adherence, we will go down not a very good path. But we are hoping and we are expecting Manitobans to adhere so that our numbers plateau and we limit the impacts on our acute-care system."

Younger patients, worse outcomes

The increase in intensive care admissions is also partly because more contagious coronavirus variants have led to younger, unvaccinated people having more severe outcomes and spending more time in hospital, Atwal said.

"Being young does not make you immune to COVID-19. Being young does not mean you will not have a severe outcome. We have many hospital beds occupied by young people who are otherwise healthy," he said.

Over the last two weeks, about half the COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Manitoba are under 50. Those cases are split evenly between people in their 30s, 40s and those under 30, Atwal said.

About 25 per cent of people who land in intensive care with COVID-19 stay longer than two weeks, though some stay as long as seven weeks.

As of midnight, 67 of Manitoba's 117 intensive care patients had been diagnosed with COVID-19, a spokesperson for Shared Health said in an email on Friday afternoon. Fifty of those cases were still active and 12 of those people were under age 40.

WATCH | More young people becoming seriously ill with COVID-19:

'Being young does not make you immune to COVID-19': Dr. Jazz Atwal

2 years ago
Duration 0:53
Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba's deputy chief public health officer, revealed pandemic modelling Friday that shows how hard the third wave has hit the province, and said younger people are increasingly becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

Before the pandemic, the baseline capacity for the province's critical care program was 72 patients, the spokesperson said.

Atwal said the province will release its modelling more often in the future to help people better understand Manitoba's pandemic situation. But he stopped short of saying there would have been better compliance with public health orders if the models had been shown to the public earlier.

"It is challenging to say," he said. "Maybe it would have helped in some situations, and in other situations it probably wouldn't have made a difference."

Hours after Manitoba announced people as young as 12 are now eligible to get immunized against COVID-19, Atwal urged people to get their shots as soon as they can.

As of Friday, 49.4 per cent of adults in Manitoba have gotten at least one dose of vaccine, the province's online vaccine dashboard says.

Officials previously said some Manitobans will be able to start booking second-dose appointments by May 22, though on Friday said that could end up happening even earlier.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?