Health officials to deliver COVID-19 update as Manitoba death toll mounts, hospitals near capacity

Manitoba health officials will release the latest details about COVID-19 in the province today after a weekend with nearly two dozen reported deaths and a record number of people with the illness in hospital.

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health, will join Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin at 12:30 p.m. CT to provide an update on the coronavirus in Manitoba.

CBC News will live stream the news conference here, on CBC Gem, and on Facebook and Twitter.

The news conference comes after a weekend with 22 reported COVID-19 deaths, half of those linked to outbreaks at care homes.

The already-strained health-care system saw the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals rise to 288 on Sunday, with 52 of those patients in intensive care. Both of those are records, and 60 more people were in hospital this past weekend than were the weekend prior.

The entire province was moved into code red, or critical, under its pandemic response system a week and a half ago. Private gatherings haven’t been allowed inside homes since Thursday, nor has the sale of non-essential items in-store, following widespread closures of restaurants, bars and non-essential businesses.

Despite the latest restrictions, more than 4,200 new cases have emerged under code red, and Manitoba has struggled to alleviate the pressure facing hospitals. 

All but four days in the past month have seen record high numbers in hospital and the system is at or near capacity. Hospitals continue to add a few ICU beds every week, but Siragusa and Roussin have repeatedly stressed the demands facing the system can’t be sustained.

There are hundreds of cases tied to care home outbreaks — nearly 30 such outbreaks have occurred so far — and rising case numbers across the province.

Some private care homes are facing staffing shortages due to workers testing positive and have resorted to asking family members of residents to come help feed and monitor their loved ones. 

About a quarter of all deaths are linked to two Winnipeg care homes. About 90 per cent of all deaths have been people over age 60, though two 30-year-olds and a 20-year-old died last week.

So far, 229 people have died of COVID-19 in Manitoba. Nearly half of those have been announced since code red came into effect Nov. 12.

More than 13,500 people in Manitoba have tested positive since March; over 70 per cent of all cases to date have emerged in the past month.

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