Manitoba extends COVID-19 health orders for 1 more week

Manitoba's current COVID-19 public health orders will stay in place for at least another week, officials announced on Friday.

Extra time will give health officials 'more clarity' about where province is in current wave: Roussin

Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin spoke at a news conference where it was announced current public health orders will be extended another week. (CBC/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba's current COVID-19 public health orders will stay in place for at least another week, officials announced on Friday.

The extension is needed as the province continues to assess the spread and impact of the Omicron variant, Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said at a news conference.

"As we all learn to live with the virus, it is still critical that we stay the course over the next week. There are signs of stabilization, but we need more data to fully assess our next steps and implement initiatives that support our pandemic response," Gordon said.

The current health orders first went into effect on Dec. 21 and were extended in early January. They were set to expire Feb. 1 but will now be extended until 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 8.

"Next week, Premier [Heather] Stefanson and Dr. Roussin will provide Manitobans with public health orders moving forward, including what I hope will be an outline to reopen the province at that time," Gordon said.

"The premier will also give details about extending support to businesses, the arts community and the cultural sectors that have been so greatly impacted by this pandemic."

The aim is to get Manitoba back to a state or normalcy, or a new normal, that allows people to gather without limits, travel, go to restaurants and take in the many festivals the province offers, Gordon said, mentioning several summer festivals she hopes will go ahead.

Roussin was asked by reporters how comfortable he would be with loosening restrictions if the impact from the coronavirus on the health-care system continues to result in the cancellation of surgeries and patients being transferred farther from home.

There have been questions in the past few weeks as to whether public health officials and politicians see eye-to-eye on the health orders.

"Certainly, the strain on the acute-care system is a big part of our decision-making, so it's going to tie into a lot of things," Roussin said.

"It's hard to mention just one one specific thing like this, but certainly the strain on the health-care system is certainly the the main focus of the public health restrictions — to try to minimize that strain."

In the meantime, Manitoba remains at the restricted or orange level under the province's pandemic response system.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19:

Manitoba government daily briefing on coronavirus: Jan. 28

4 months ago
Duration 59:29
Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.

The latest provincial data indicates severe outcomes from the spread of the Omicron variant may have peaked, a news release said Friday. Although admissions to hospitals and intensive care units due to COVID-19 remain high, they are either stable or slowly beginning to decline, it said.

"We are nearing a critical juncture," Roussin said.

"Based on several data points, it appears the Omicron wave may have peaked or is in the process of peaking or plateauing in Manitoba. But there is still a significant spread of Omicron in our community so, certainly, the health-care system is feeling those effects."

Over the past week, hospital admissions due to the virus decreased nine per cent, from 391 to 356, and ICU admissions dropped 22 per cent, from 46 to 36, said data presented by Roussin. The number of COVID-19-related deaths reported dropped by 13.3 per cent, from 45 down to 39.

The overall number of adult patients in ICUs provincewide — both those with COVID-19 and those who do not have the illness — was 110 on Friday, a spokesperson from Shared Health said in an email. That number far exceeds the province's pre-pandemic baseline ICU capacity of 72.

There were also seven patients in the pediatric intensive care unit receiving both COVID and non-COVID care Friday morning. Two of those patients — both under the age of 10 — were COVID-positive, a Shared Health spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the Omicron variant is now the dominant strain in intensive care units.

Extending the public health orders by one week offers time to confirm the trend in the COVID-19 data and its impact on our health system, Gordon and Roussin said.

"A week may not seem like a lot of time, but at the juncture we're in, it's going to provide us, likely, with significant more information … more clarity," Roussin said.

Earlier this week, it appeared at least one measure of the pandemic was offering some optimism the present wave is receding in Manitoba.

Wastewater monitoring done by the National Microbiology Laboratory suggested the virus that causes COVID-19 was found in the largest quantities in Winnipeg at the beginning of January.

In his weekly COVID-19 news update on Wednesday, Roussin said it's still a bit early to say, definitively, whether the Omicron wave is ebbing. He said it is necessary to look at several measures, including test positivity, the trend in PCR testing and hospitalizations, as well as wastewater.

On Friday, however, new data about Winnipeg wastewater suggested the viral count may once again be increasing, the province said in its news release.

As work continues around managing hospitalization and ICU capacity, additional patients may need to be relocated outside of their home region, the province said in its release.

"Manitoba recognizes that for some patients and their designated support person, this is a short-term inconvenience, but for others, it is a significant hardship," Gordon said.

"We are putting a new program in place that will provide financial assistance for meals, transportation and accommodations or link to community support resources when a person is relocated to a facility outside of their region for ongoing in-patient care."

Dr. David Matear, who was named health system co-lead for the provincial health incident command team last week, said 253 patients in stable care have been transferred outside their home health region in the last three months, including 39 in the past week.

"While we recognize the concern of affected patients and their families about the distance from loved ones, we also appreciate their understanding that these transfers are necessary," he said.

Matear added that as of Thursday night there were 182 open beds out of approximately 1,480 in the province 

"We've acknowledged that the location of these open beds does not necessarily line up with our patient demands, and that is something we are addressing in our inter-regional moves to ensure we have capacity," Matear said.

When a patient is transferred out of a community, the regional health authority or service delivery organization will work directly with the patient and a designated support person to co-ordinate this financial assistance.

The program will allow for up to eight visits per month by a designated support person and include meal vouchers so the designated support person can dine with the client when on-site meal service is available, or assistance to a maximum of $8 for breakfast, $10 for lunch and $15 for dinner when on-site meal service is unavailable.

It will also include transportation assistance of return bus fare or gas expenses, and accommodation assistance up to a maximum of $70 per night plus taxes.

Program details are currently being finalized and are expected to be in place in early February. The program will not be retroactive, Gordon said.


Plans increase Manitoba's ICU capacity as Omicron approaches plateau

4 months ago
Duration 2:24
Manitoba's current COVID-19 public health orders will stay in place for at least another week, officials announced on Friday. The extension is needed as the province continues to assess the spread and impact of the Omicron variant, Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said at a news conference.


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