Health minister, top health officials to give COVID-19 update for Manitoba at 10 a.m.

Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon and two top health officials have called an unexpected news conference to give a COVID-19 update amid surging case numbers.

Gordon will be joined by Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin and Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force for the 10 a.m. conference.

CBC Manitoba will live stream it here and on Facebook and CBC Gem.

The last time Gordon and Roussin appeared together was Dec. 17 when they announced stronger public health orders. Earlier this week, Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief provincial public health officer, said more restrictions could be coming.

“We have been discussing what else public health needs to do to help protect the acute care system. We’re having ongoing meetings about that,” he said on Wednesday. “I think more recommendations are on the horizon.”

This past week the daily case numbers have climbed from 200 on Monday to 302 on Tuesday, 400 on Wednesday and then 556 on Thursday.

Atwal said those numbers are also likely lower than the actual number of cases because demand for testing has drastically increased, sparked by fears of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

That has resulted in long lines at test sites, prolonged waits for results and likely discouraged some people from even going. All of that makes it harder to get an exact picture of the true case counts.

The province announced Thursday that it has reached its capacity to process COVID-19 test specimens. The current testing backlog is estimated to be more than 7,500 specimens.

The turnaround time for results is four days or more, the province said, urging only people experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms to go to a testing site.

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