Northern Manitoba continues to be hit hard by COVID-19, with nearly half of 191 new cases

Northern Manitoba reported 84 of the province's 191 new cases on Friday.

Test positivity rate hovers at 10% as province seeks input on loosening some restrictions next week

A health-care worker puts a nasal swab in a tube after doing a COVID-19 test. Cases of the illness continue to rise in northern Manitoba, which on Friday reported the largest proportion of the province's new cases for the third straight day. (Arnulfo Franco/The Associated Press)

A jump in new COVID-19 cases continued on Friday in northern Manitoba, which reported 84 of the province's 191 new cases.

That marks the third straight day Manitoba's Northern Health Region had the largest proportion of the province's daily new infections. Since Wednesday, confirmed cases have shot up by nearly 300.

Many of those cases are linked to a few small communities that are experiencing outbreaks of the virus. The northwestern town of Lynn Lake, with a population of just under 500, had 121 active COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

The spread of COVID-19 has also continued to disproportionately impact First Nations people in Manitoba, who make up about 60 per cent of the new cases announced Friday, the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team says.

Most of those cases — 65 of 114 — are people living on reserves, the team said in a Friday bulletin.

The latest updates come a week before provincewide restrictions that ban most gatherings and the sale of non-essential goods expire.

The provincial government is now considering reducing some of those restrictions, and is asking for input from the public in an online survey.

Manitoba also announced five more people had died from the illness, bringing the province's death toll to 760.

They were a woman in her 100s linked to the outbreak at Winnipeg's Charleswood Care Centre and four men: two in their 70s (from the Winnipeg and Northern health regions) and two in their 80s (in the Winnipeg and Southern health regions), Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference.

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Meanwhile, Manitoba's five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate remains at 10 per cent. In Winnipeg, the rate increased slightly to 7.2 per cent from 7.1 per cent on Thursday, Roussin said.

The remaining new cases are in the Winnipeg health region (71), Southern Health region (14), the Prairie Mountain Health region (13) and the Interlake-Eastern health region (nine).

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Manitoba dropped to 284 people on Friday, with 35 of them in intensive care, the province said in a news release.

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at the Dauphin Regional Health Centre, while another outbreak previously declared at Winnipeg's Metropolitan Kiwanis Courts is now over, the release said.

As of Friday morning, 13,539 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Manitoba, the province said in its Friday vaccination bulletin. That number included 11,401 first doses.

Residents at all Manitoba's personal care homes are expected to get their first dose of the vaccine by mid-February. So far, 281 have already been immunized, the bulletin said.

The province said later Friday it is pausing new appointments for COVID-19 vaccination due to a production slowdown by Pfizer, one of the companies behind the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

"Manitoba anticipated these issues and has contingency plans in place," an online update said.

The new COVID-19 cases announced Friday bring Manitoba's tally to 27,145 infections identified, with 23,478 deemed recovered, the release said. Another 2,907 are still considered active cases, though health officials have said that number is inflated because of a data entry backlog and there are likely about half that many.

There were 2,025 more COVID-19 tests done in Manitoba on Thursday, which brings the province's total to 448,061.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Jan. 15, 2021:

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Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Friday, January 15, 2021. 48:57


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