COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations continue to increase in Manitoba, latest report says

Manitoba is seeing increased COVID-19 activity with higher death counts, hospitalizations and case numbers, according to the latest weekly report, but the province’s top doctor says it’s too early to call it a new trend.

The weekly epidemiological report released Thursday added twice as many COVID-19 deaths to the province’s total than the week before. More people with severe illness were also admitted to hospital during the week of July 31 to Aug. 6 than the previous week, according to the report.

Wastewater surveillance data has shown an increase in COVID-19 transmission since late June, the report said. Laboratory tests confirmed a larger number of new COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week.

At a Thursday news conference announcing additional appointments for monkeypox vaccination, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin was asked about the recent COVID-19 numbers.

He acknowledged the province is seeing a slight increase in activity, but said the increase is not “dramatic.”

“We’re now seeing some increase so we’ll have to follow that trend,” he said.

“The majority of the cases we see, when we report them as hospitalized, those are incidental findings. The majority of those people are not there because they have COVID, but they they happen to test positive for COVID.”

This latest report adds 12 more COVID-19 deaths to Manitoba’s total, compared to an increase of six reported last week by Manitoba Public Health.

The death count since the start of the pandemic now stands at 2,079. 

Manitobans continued to die at a faster rate compared to the same time period last year. A total of 566 people have died in 2022 as of the week ending Aug. 6, Manitoba Health reports, which works out to a rate of 2.6 deaths per day.

During the same 217-day period last year, there were 483 deaths, a rate of 2.2 deaths per day.

More people were admitted to hospital and intensive care units compared to the previous week. There were 57 hospitalizations, up from 53, and 12 ICU admissions, up from seven.

One of the patients admitted to ICU was a child younger than 10.

Continued strain

Dr. Philippe Lagacé-Wiens, a medical microbiologist at St. Boniface Hospital, agreed with Roussin that it is difficult at this point to know which direction the current trend is going. 

But the hospitalizations, even if the COVID-19 findings are “incidental,” still strain the health-care system, “because these people still need to be isolated,” he said.

“Their diseases, if they’re coming into hospital with ‘incidental’ COVID-19, could actually have been triggered by COVID-19. We know that the rate of heart attacks is higher after COVID-19 infection.”

Hospital staff continue to leave the system due to burnout, which further adds to the strain, he said.

“I’m a little bit getting tired of the rhetoric of ‘we need to learn to live with this,’ which partially is true, but it means we need the resources to live with it.”

Lagacé-Wiens expects Manitoba will see an increase in COVID-19 numbers in the fall as kids return to school.

Increasing cases

Thursday’s COVID-19 report marks the third week in a row Manitoba has reported an increase in severe outcomes due to the illness.

A total of 347 new cases were confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests — 90 more than the 257 reported last week.

This is an undercount of the true number of infections, due to the limited access to PCR tests, which are the only ones recorded by the province.

The weekly test-positivity rate also went up to 20.8 per cent, compared to 17.9 per cent the previous week.

Seven new outbreaks were reported last week, including four in long-term care facilities and three in hospitals. That’s an increase from six the previous week.

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