COVID-19 cases doubled from March to April as Manitoba's third wave continues to rise
'We've been here before, so we know exactly what we need to do,' says chief public health officer
COVID-19 case numbers more than doubled from March to April in Manitoba, with a 110 per cent increase in cases, Manitoba's top doctor said Monday at a news conference.
"We're seeing concerning numbers right now. We're seeing a concerning trajectory going up in essentially every indicator," said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief public health officer.
The case numbers are continuing to rise from April — a month that already established itself with a heavy mark.
The total number of new cases in April was 4,800. In comparison, there were 4,100 cases in October, when COVID's second wave started and just before Manitoba went into a strict lockdown for four months.
The data prompted Roussin to emphasize the seriousness of the situation the province finds itself in nearly 15 months into the pandemic.
"This is why we put stronger public health orders in last week, and this is why we're asking Manitobans to stay home. We need to reduce the number of contacts we have, and the best way to do that is to stay home as much as possible."
WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin talks about cases more than doubling from March to April:
Roussin announced 251 new COVID-19 cases and one new death on Monday. A man in his 50s from the Winnipeg health region died of a case linked to the B117 variant.
Hospitalizations have jumped from 167 to 178 since Sunday, while the number of patients in ICU also went up, from 40 to 45.
The Winnipeg health region has the greatest number of new cases with 184.
The rest are in the Interlake-Eastern health region (20), Southern Health region (18), Northern Health Region (15) and Prairie Mountain Health region (14).
The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is eight per cent provincially and 8.7 per cent in Winnipeg, up from 7.7 and 8.4 per cent, respectively, the day before.
The last time test positivity was this high in Winnipeg was in early January; the last time the provincial test positivity was this high was Jan. 28.
Public health orders that came into effect Wednesday include a ban on gatherings at homes (including outside) and reduced capacity for outdoor gatherings on public property to 10.
The province recognizes people are tired of public health orders, tired of the pandemic and tired of hearing about the fundamentals for staying safe and reducing the spread, Roussin said.
"But if we look to February and March of this year, we can see that these measures work. We brought our case numbers down and we reduced the strain on the health-care system," he said.
"But once again we see these numbers climbing, and these numbers only climb because we're increasing the amount of contacts we have. We've been here before, so we know exactly what we need to do."
If the numbers don't begin to retreat, the public health orders will be expanded and more restrictions will come, Roussin said.
But what exactly those might be, he wouldn't yet say.
"Nothing's off the table," he said.
"Certainly we have to protect Manitobans. We have to protect our health-care system. We can't see our health-care system be overrun, so if our numbers continue to climb, we'll have to take further measures."
A breakdown of the 178 hospitalizations in Manitoba provided by the province says 49 per cent of the COVID-19 patients are under 60 as the coronavirus has begun to hit the younger population.
The number of more contagious coronavirus variant cases identified in Manitoba shot up by 249 Saturday, bringing the total number to 2,344, the province's online dashboard says. Of those, 978 were considered active.
While the province tries to use public health measures to tamp down rising case numbers, it is also expanding eligibility for vaccines.
On Friday, pregnant adults became eligible to get a vaccine at a supersite or popup clinic, while the province opened up the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to people in their 30s with certain health conditions.
WATCH | Roussin talks about more young Manitobans getting sick with COVID-19:
A second supersite is set to open in Winnipeg on Friday, at the Winnipeg Soccer Federation North facility, 770 Leila Ave.
"Certainly our best tool right now against COVID-19 is the vaccine. That's what's bringing us that hope for the future, the optimism we have for summer. But we have to realize we're not there yet," Roussin said.
Many Manitobans have not been vaccinated yet, so we need to keep the transmission level down until everyone has access to the vaccine, Roussin said, urging people to get it as soon as they are eligible.
"The quicker we get the majority of Manitobans vaccinated, the quicker we can start looking at loosening these restrictions."
No plans to close schools … yet
Asked about the possibility of closing schools and shifting to full-time remote learning, which the Manitoba Teachers' Society has called for, Roussin said there are no immediate plans for that.
"Like we've said always, nothing is off the table, but right now the significant amount of transmission that's occurring in those age cohorts is happening outside of school," he said.
"We know there is a lot of benefit to keeping the kids in school. We know that education has been doing a tremendous job at decreasing the risk of transmission within schools
"So we're going to follow it really closely, work alongside education, and we'll adjust things if required."
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19, April 30, 2021: