Manitoba's COVID-19 test positivity rate continues to drop, as province reports 64 new cases
Death of man in 70s announced as province expands vaccine eligibility again
Manitoba reported 64 new cases of COVID-19 Friday as the province's test positivity rate dipped to its lowest point in over four months.
The five-day rolling average of COVID-19 tests that come back positive has dropped every day this week. On Friday, it sunk to 3.9 per cent — a drop from 4.3 the day before, and the first time it fell below four per cent since hitting 3.5 on Oct. 13.
In Winnipeg, that rate is now 3.3 per cent, down from 3.8 Thursday, Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba's deputy chief provincial public health officer, said at a news conference.
Friday's update came at the end of a week that saw some of Manitoba's lowest COVID-19 numbers in months, including a daily new case count of 45 on Wednesday — the lowest since Oct. 18.
That progress led Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin to float some relaxed pandemic rules on Thursday that could come into effect as early as next week.
But with five cases of the B117 coronavirus variant — a more infectious strain first identified in the U.K. — reported so far in Manitoba, Atwal said it's crucial that people keep following public health rules and guidelines.
"These are all the things we need to do to keep our numbers trending down," he said. "Manitobans' adherence to the orders and the fundamentals will determine our next steps."
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He also announced a man in his 70s from the Southern Health region has died after getting COVID-19, bringing Manitoba's total coronavirus-linked deaths to 889.
Earlier Friday, Manitoba again expanded eligibility for getting a COVID-19 vaccine — this time to include First Nations people born on or before Dec. 31, 1948, and members of the general population born on or before Dec. 31, 1928.
That change, which expands the eligibility window by two years, marks the third straight day Manitoba has opened up eligibility to more people.
3rd vaccine approved
Atwal's news conference alongside Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the province's vaccine implementation task force, came hours after Health Canada announced it has approved a third vaccine developed to combat the illness.
Reimer said the addition of the two-dose vaccine from AstraZeneca to the mix will speed up Manitoba's rollout, but exactly how big its impact will be remains to be seen.
The vaccine is cheaper and easier to handle than the already-approved mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which both need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures.
There are now 191 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Manitoba, down five from the day before; 28 of those people are in intensive care, an increase of two.
Most of Friday's new cases are again split between the Northern Health Region, which has 33, and the Winnipeg health region, which has 26.
There are three cases in the Interlake-Eastern health region and two in the Southern Health region, while the Prairie Mountain Health region reported none.
A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Actionmarguerite St. Joseph in Winnipeg, while a previously announced outbreak at the city's Southeast Personal Care Home is now over.
There have now been 31,721 COVID-19 cases identified in Manitoba, including 29,635 people considered recovered and 1,197 cases still deemed active — though health officials have said that number may be inflated by a data entry backlog.
There were 1,927 COVID-19 tests done in Manitoba on Thursday, bringing the total number of swabs completed since early last February to 521,826.
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