New COVID-19 cases drop in Manitoba again, but province sees one of its deadliest days yet

Tuesday's update comes after Manitoba saw its lowest COVID-19 numbers in more than a month, with 167 new cases reported Monday.

155 new cases reported in Manitoba on Tuesday, along with 18 more deaths connected to the illness

A COVID-19-positive intensive care unit at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. (Mikaela MacKenzie/The Canadian Press)

Another 18 people have died from COVID-19 in Manitoba, and there are 155 new cases of the illness in the province, provincial health officials announced Tuesday.

The number of new cases reported continues a four-day downward trend, and comes after 167 cases reported Monday.

Tuesday's total is now the lowest daily new case count since Nov. 3.

The number of deaths announced Tuesday, however, jumped sharply from four on Monday. The number reported Tuesday is just shy of Manitoba's record of 19 in a single day, and matches the totals announced on Dec. 9 and Dec. 12.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, the province's acting deputy chief public health officer, said Manitoba's numbers were trending in the right direction, but the outlook heading into next year would depend on people following public health orders against gathering over the holidays

"Stick to your household, period. That is your bubble," he said. "We're halfway through a pandemic, and people need to realize that. This is a pivotal point."

The provincial government has produced posters in 14 languages — including Cree, Tagalog and Punjabi — with advice on how to celebrate the holidays safely. 

Thirteen of the 18 deaths reported Tuesday are connected to outbreaks, including seven related to the outbreak at Oakview Place care home in Winnipeg.

Three are connected to other outbreaks in Winnipeg, at Charleswood Care Centre, St. Norbert Personal Care Home, and the N3E family medicine unit at Concordia Hospital.

There were also deaths connected to outbreaks at Kin Place in Oakbank, Fairview Home in Brandon and Grandview Personal Care Home in Grandview.

These deaths bring the total related to the pandemic in Manitoba to 590.

December has seen more deaths than any other month since the start of the pandemic. (Cameron MacLean/CBC)

Almost 1,200 health workers vaccinated

Manitoba is continuing its rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with a total 1,192 front-line health workers having received the vaccine so far. 

Although provincial public health officials said last week that the province would be able to find people to receive the vaccine in the event that there were unused doses available, a "handful" of doses — seven in total — have been wasted since the vaccine program launched, said Atwal.

There are a variety of reasons why doses might not have been used, including challenges around storage, eligibility requirements, privacy concerns and quality control, Atwal said in a media briefing Tueday.

"Any vaccine program that's ever rolled out has always had some wastage. We are aware of that. This isn't unique to this vaccine," he said.

Atwal praised the skill of experts administering the vaccine, saying Manitoba is the only jurisdiction in Canada that has been able to extract a sixth dose from every vial.

So far, there have been zero adverse effects from the vaccine reported, Atwal said.

Hospitalization number drops

A total of 380 are in hospital with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, with 275 still considered infectious — the lowest number since Nov. 26.

There are 44 people in intensive care with the illness, including 36 still considered infectious.

Manitoba's test-positivity rate remained unchanged from Monday, at 11.5 per cent, and 10.5 per cent in Winnipeg. 

Most of the new cases — 92 — are in the Winnipeg Health region. The Northern Health region had 27 new cases, and there were 17 in Southern Health, 10 in Prairie Mountain and nine in the Interlake-Eastern health region.

Since the start of the pandemic, a total of 23,180 people have tested positive for the virus in Manitoba. 

Labs completed 1,497 tests on Monday. 

Provincial data shows there are 4,382 active cases of the virus in Manitoba, although health officials have said that number is likely inflated due to a backlog in clearing recovered cases. 

An outbreak was declared at the Le Chalet de La Broquerie assisted living facility in La Broquerie.

Meanwhile, health officials declared outbreaks over at three locations in Winnipeg: the 3U4-7 family medicine unity at Seven Oaks General Hospital, the N3 West family medicine unit at Concordia Hospital and the Deer Lodge Centre long-term care unit.

Outbreaks have also ended at the Agassiz Youth Centre in Portage la Prairie and the Vita and District Personal Care Home in Vita, the province said.

The province updated public health orders to allow high-performance athletes to train for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, which officials expect will affect fewer than 10 people in the province.