Manitoba reports 189 new COVID-19 cases, uptick in infections linked to delta variant

Manitoba reported 189 new COVID-19 cases and 41 cases of a highly contagious coronavirus variant on Friday.

That jump brought the number of B.1.617.2 cases identified in the province to 130, the province’s online variant dashboard shows.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s deputy chief provincial public health officer, says that spike in delta cases was partly because of a technical issue that prevented lab results from entering the public health information management system.

The latest numbers were manually entered on Thursday, Atwal said at a news conference Friday, adding that the data lag has not affected the province’s monitoring or management of those cases.

“We have a good idea of exactly how much delta variant is here right now,” Atwal said.

“Most of the delta variant cases are linked to travel or to household transmission, and we had a cluster as well.”

The variant dashboard shows that while 17 of Manitoba’s delta cases are thought to be linked to travel and 62 are close contacts of known cases, the sources of 27 cases remain under investigation. Another 24 delta cases — or roughly 19 per cent of the province’s total — are listed as unknown acquisition.

The delta variant is the same one a group of doctors sounded the alarm about earlier Friday, urging the province to reconsider its reopening plan that’s based on projections that have not factored in the delta variant.

That modelling unveiled last week hasn’t considered the effect of the P.1 gamma variant associated with Brazil, either — Manitoba reported 23 new cases of that strain on Friday, for a total of 192 known infections.

However, Atwal reiterated that the province is still working on including those strains in future modelling.

“This is why our path to reopening is cautious,” he said. “The delta variant, in particular, has a potential to be more transmissible and have more severe impacts.”

Manitoba’s reopening plan is tied to vaccination targets set for three holidays. The first is coming up on July 1, when the province aims to have at least 25 per cent of eligible Manitobans fully vaccinated.

On Friday, that figure had reached 22 per cent. Earlier this week, Manitoba met its other Canada Day target of having 70 per cent of people with at least one dose.

If the province achieves that goal, most businesses, services and facilities will be allowed to open at 25 per cent capacity or greater levels, officials said.

More variant deaths

Manitoba also reported the deaths of four women on Friday — all of whom had more contagious variants, the province said in a news release.

One was in her 30s and lived in the Winnipeg health region. She had a variant still listed as unspecified, the release said.

The other three had the B.1.1.7 alpha variant first seen in the U.K.: a woman in her 60s from the Prairie Mountain Health region, and women in their 60s and 80s from the Winnipeg health region.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s deputy chief public health officer, puts on his face mask after a COVID-19 update at the Manitoba Legislative Building. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

On Friday, the province’s variant dashboard showed 63 new cases of the alpha variant, which made up the biggest proportion of the province’s 166 newly identified variant cases.

That increase also included five new cases of the B.1.351 beta variant first found in South Africa and 34 cases listed as being linked to unspecified variants.

The latest deaths brought Manitoba’s total COVID-19 deaths to 1,115, the release said.

One previously announced death — a woman in her 80s linked to the alpha variant and an outbreak at the Seven Oaks General Hospital’s 3U4-7 unit — has been removed from that total after a data correction, the release said. That death was initially reported on June 16.

Friday’s new COVID-19 cases are spread among the Winnipeg health region, which reported 87 infections, the Northern Health Region, which has 38, the Southern Health region, with 26, and the Interlake-Eastern and Prairie Mountain health regions, which each have 19 new cases, the release said.

The five-day test positivity rate dropped to 8.3 per cent in Winnipeg and across the province, the release said. On Thursday, Manitoba’s rate was 8.8 per cent, while Winnipeg’s was 8.5.

There are now 258 Manitobans in hospital after getting COVID-19, the release said, which is a drop of eight since Thursday. 

That includes 80 patients in intensive care units, with 19 in hospitals in Ontario and one in Alberta as Manitoba frees up space in its strained health-care system. Among those 80 patients, 17 are under age 40, a Shared Health spokesperson said in an email.

Since the start of the pandemic, 55,098 Manitobans have tested positive for COVID-19. To date, 51,547 of them are considered recovered and 2,436 are still deemed active.

On Thursday, 2,122 COVID-19 tests were done in Manitoba. The province has now completed 811,572 of those swabs, the release said.

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