Roussin says model shows Manitoba's Omicron wave has peaked as province sets new hospitalization record

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 set a new record for the third day in a row on the same day the Manitoba government announced it is preparing to relax the province's pandemic health orders.

7 deaths, 744 COVID-19 hospitalizations reported Wedensday

Manitoba set a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations the same day Premier Heather Stefanson and Dr. Brent Roussin announced the province would start loosening health restrictions. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 set a new record for the third day in a row on the same day the Manitoba government announced it is preparing to relax the province's pandemic health orders.

Seven more people in Manitoba have died from the coronavirus, and there are 744 people with COVID-19 in Manitoba hospitals on Wednesday — seven more than on Tuesday.

Despite the increasing numbers, Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said modelling last week showed the Omicron wave may have peaked.

"We redid those models and they show us the same thing this week — that we've very likely peaked in cases, very likely peaked in hospital admissions and are either peaking or peaking soon regarding admissions to ICU," he said at a news conference Wednesday, where he and Premier Heather Stefanson announced some public health restrictions would be loosened in the coming days.

"So we are getting a better understanding of where we are in this wave."

Regarding the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, Roussin repeated the assertion that public health officials have made, that roughly two-thirds of people in hospital who test positive for the virus are there for reasons not related to the disease.

"It's certainly relevant to us that 60 per cent of the people there would be there regardless of COVID," Roussin said.

That approach to distinguishing between hospital cases has come under criticism from physicians, who say drawing those distinctions is not straightforward when underlying health conditions can be made worse by the infection.

The seven deaths bring the pandemic death toll in Manitoba to 1,576.

Manitoba experienced its third-deadliest month of the pandemic in January, and has the second-highest fatality rate of all Canadian provinces. 

At the news conference Wednesday, Stefanson said Manitoba might count deaths differently than other provinces.

"Are we comparing apples to apples when it comes to this?" she said.

Leaders of other Manitoba parties criticized Stefanson's comment.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont accused the premier of minimizing COVID-19 deaths.

"The deaths have been very difficult, and to minimize in any way anyone's loss in this pandemic is just disgusting," he said.

NDP leader Wab Kinew callled Stefanson's comments "bizarre" and said loosening restrictions at a time the province is still seeing increasing hospitalizations could strain the health system further.

"January was the month with the most deaths since vaccines were widely available ... hospitalizations went up again. People are still getting sick, so we're not out of the woods yet," he said.

Majority of cases in ICU because of virus

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units stayed flat at 54, while the total number of all patients in ICUs, including non-COVID patients, fell by four to 110 from what had been a fourth-wave high on Tuesday.

In contrast with hospital cases, Roussin said the majority — roughly 70 per cent — of patients in ICUs are there because of COVID-19.

The deaths announced Wednesday include four people from Winnipeg: a man and a woman in their 60s and two women in their 90s, one of whom is linked to the outbreak at River Park Gardens.

The other deaths reported Wednesday are people from the Northern Health Region: a man in his 50s, another in his 60s and a woman in her 80s, the release says.

The province also reported seven deaths linked to COVID-19 on the provincial data dashboard on Tuesday, all of whom have now been identified as people from the Winnipeg health region.

Those deaths include three women in their 80s, one of whom was linked to the outbreak at Actionmarguerite St. Joseph. The other deaths reported that day were four men: one in his 80s and three in their 90s, the release says.

The province's five-day test-positivity rate fell to 29.2 per cent, down from 30.1 per cent. 

Provincial labs completed 1,926 PCR tests on Tuesday. PCR testing has been limited to certain people and results from rapid tests, which are more widely available, are not tracked by Manitoba Health.

Lab tests confirmed 526 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, but that is assumed to be a significant undercount of coronavirus cases due to the limits on PCR testing.

Of those, 284 are in the Winnipeg health region, 81 are in the Northern Health Region, 68 are in the Southern Health region, 55 are in the Interlake-Eastern region, and 38 are in Prairie Mountain Health.

Currently, 32,547 cases are listed as active.

As of Wednesday, 85.7 per cent of eligible Manitobans had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 79.7 per cent had two doses, and 40.6 per cent had received a booster shot, the provincial website says.

Among children age five to 11, 56.6 per cent had received a first dose of the vaccine.

41 tickets

Manitoba COVID-19 enforcement officers have handed out dozens of tickets for various violations of pandemic health orders over the last few weeks.

From Jan. 24 to 30, a total of 41 tickets were issued, including 37 tickets of $298 for failure to wear a mask in an indoor place. There was one ticket to an individual of $1,296, and one $8,550 ticket for violating the federal Quarantine Act.

That's an increase from 37 tickets the previous week, which was an increase from 27 the week before. The week before that, there were 33 tickets issued.

Of the tickets issued last week, two-thirds were in the Southern Health region, where there were 27. There were 10 in Winnipeg, three in Prairie Mountain Health and one in the Northern Health Region.

Outbreaks declared

Outbreaks have been declared at:

  • Concordia Hospital, Unit N1N, in Winnipeg.
  • St. Paul's Personal Care Home in The Pas.

The following outbreaks have been declared over:

  • Concordia Hospital, Unit N3W, in Winnipeg.
  • St. Boniface Hospital, Unit M2, in Winnipeg.
  • Health Sciences Centre, units GD3, GD4 and PX2, in Winnipeg.
  • Deer Lodge Centre, Lodge 2 East, in Winnipeg.
  • Riverview Health Centre in Winnipeg.
  • Donwood Manor personal care home in Winnipeg.
  • The Convalescent Home of Winnipeg in Winnipeg.
  • Actionmargarite St. Vital in Winnipeg.
  • Golden West Centennial Lodge in Winnipeg.
  • Villa Youville in Ste. Anne.
  • Gillam Hospital in Gillam.


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