502 COVID-19 cases reported in Manitoba as 1st B1617 variant cases discovered
Province hasn't seen daily case count this high since height of 2nd wave
Manitoba reported 502 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, with a spike in new infections in its capital city leading the province to its highest one-day jump since the height of the second wave.
The Winnipeg health region posted 389, or more than two-thirds, of those new cases. The area's five-day test positivity rate also jumped to 11.3 per cent from 10.4 on Thursday, while Manitoba's rate rose to 9.6 from 9.1.
"These numbers are alarming," acting deputy chief public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said at a Friday afternoon news conference. "That's why meetings are underway right now to finalize new public health orders."
On Friday evening, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced new pandemic restrictions will come into effect in Manitoba at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
Atwal said Manitoba has now identified its first four cases of the B1617 variant of interest, which is contributing to India's surging COVID-19 caseload.
That's on top of 390 newly identified cases of other more contagious coronavirus variants in Manitoba, according to the province's online variant dashboard. Those variants now make up 41 per cent of Manitoba's active COVID-19 cases.
WATCH | Dr. Jazz Atwal on what 'alarming' spike in cases means for Manitobans:
Friday's case count marks the highest single-day spike Manitoba has seen since Dec. 27 — though the cases announced that day were from a three-day period, after the province took the previous two days off from reporting new cases.
Before that, Manitoba had only reported more than 500 cases once: on Nov. 23, when 546 were posted.
New rules coming as hospitalizations rise
Roussin's announcement on Friday evening marked the second time in as many weeks that Manitoba tightened its public health orders.
Last Wednesday, new rules including a ban on almost all household visitors took effect as the province continued battling its third wave and trying to keep more contagious variants under control.
While it's still a bit too early to see what effect those restrictions are having, Atwal said the continued jump in case counts in spite of the new rules meant further measures were needed.
"We've always expressed that we want to put the least amount of restrictions on individuals," he said. "But it's coming to a point here now that we're seeing that with these even significant restrictions we have in place, we're still generating lots of cases."
The rest of Manitoba's new COVID-19 cases announced Friday are split between the Southern Health region (34), the Prairie Mountain Health region (32), the Interlake-Eastern health region (30) and the Northern Health Region (17), the province said in a news release.
They bring the total number of active cases to 2,989, about 70 per cent of which are among people under 40, Atwal said.
Manitoba also announced the death of a man in his 50s from the Southern Health region, bringing the province's COVID-19 death toll to 987.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Manitoba continues to rise. As of Friday, there are 201 patients in hospital with the illness, a jump of 16 since Thursday.
Fifty-six of those patients are in intensive care, an increase of four.
That number is now approaching Manitoba's height of COVID-19 intensive care admissions, according to a provincial presentation slide obtained by CBC News that shows a peak of roughly 60 COVID-19 patients in ICU in mid-December.
The number of COVID-19 patients moved into intensive care has also been steadily increasing in recent weeks.
On Sunday alone, 10 people with the illness were admitted, Manitoba Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said via phone at Friday's news conference with Atwal.
To date, Manitoba has identified a total of 40,940 COVID-19 cases, including 36,964 people who have recovered from the illness.