Manitoba passes 500 deaths from COVID-19 as 9 more announced Tuesday

Manitoba has passed 500 deaths from COVID-19 as Manitoba added nine more to the total on Tuesday.

Test-positivity rate in Manitoba remains high, but health officials see signs of hope

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, says the fact the province has discouraged asymptomatic people from getting tested for COVID-19 may explain why the test positivity rate remains so high. The provincewide rate on Tuesday rose to 14.2 per cent. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba has passed 500 deaths from COVID-19 as the province added nine more to the total on Tuesday.

Health officials also announced 272 new cases of the illness Tuesday. The provincial test positivity rate rose to 14.2 per cent, the first time it has been above 14 per cent since Nov. 28.

The number of hospitalized patients with active COVID-19 rose to 311, with 78 additional patients who are no longer considered infectious, for a total of 389 people. The number of active cases in intensive care units is 44, plus eight patients who are no longer infectious.

Manitoba health leaders delivered the latest details about COVID-19 in Manitoba via a conference call on Tuesday afternoon, as the first shipment of vaccines arrived in the province.

Despite the rising death toll, continuing pressure on hospitals and the high test-positivity rate, they say there are some hopeful signs.

"We are seeing transmission decrease right across Manitoba. The restrictions are working," Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba's acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, said during the briefing with reporters.

"Manitobans are doing what they need to do. They're adhering to public health advice and we are trending in the right way."

A total of 1,561 COVID-19 tests were completed in Manitoba labs on Monday, the lowest number of daily completed tests since Aug. 12. Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin attributed the decreasing test volumes to low demand.

"We have a lot of unused capacity ... at the collection sites," Roussin said at Tuesday's briefing.

He pointed out that the province has discouraged asymptomatic people from getting tested, which may also explain why the province's test positivity rate remains so high. 

"We certainly get concerned when we see a test positivity like that, because what we have to consider is, are we just missing a lot of cases out there?" he said. "But we're not seeing that translate into increasing hospitalizations over time."

Another factor that could be contributing to the high test positivity rate is the fact that public health guidance, such as social distancing and handwashing, has limited other viruses such as influenza. 

"So when someone is getting sick, yes that test positivity number is a little bit high … but the absolute number of cases is also coming down, as well," Atwal said.

The province is preparing to begin vaccinating front-line health-care workers as soon as Wednesday and aims to have the first dose of the two-dose vaccine administered to 900 people by Friday.

6 deaths connected to care home outbreaks

Six of the nine deaths announced Tuesday are connected to outbreaks at personal care homes:

  • A man in his 70s linked to the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre in Winnipeg.
  • A woman in her 80s linked to Park Manor Care home in Winnipeg.
  • A woman in her 90s linked to the Charleswood Care Centre in Winnipeg
  • A man in his 90s linked to the Holy Family personal care home in Winnipeg.
  • A woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Kin Place in the Interlake-Eastern health region.
  • A woman in her 90s linked to Kin Place in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

The deaths also include a man in his 70s and two men in their 80s, all from the Winnipeg health region. 

A total of 508 people have died from COVID-19 in Manitoba.

Outbreaks at the Vita and District Transitional Care Centre in Vita and Cedarwood Supporting Housing in Steinbach have been declared over.

Nearly half (130) of the new cases announced Tuesday are in the Winnipeg region, with 53 cases in the Northern Health Region, 49 cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region, 25 cases in the Southern Health region, and 15 cases in the Interlake-Eastern region.

They bring the province's total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 21,535. Provincial data shows there are 5,762 active cases of the virus, but the province has said that number may be inflated due to a backlog in data processing.

Atwal pointed to signs of declining pressure on hospitals as another reason for optimism, heading into the holiday season.

"We do have some time coming up here, where schools are ending on Friday.… We are strongly messaging individuals to stick to their households, we want to make sure that we get to the New Year in a good place," when officials can start looking at ways to ease restrictions, he said.

About the Author

Cameron MacLean

Online Reporter

Cameron MacLean is a journalist living in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience covering news in the city and across the province, working in print, radio, television and online.