Manitoba announced a slight jump in new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, as officials kept quiet about whether there will be any changes when the province’s public health orders expire Friday.
The current rules, which ban most gatherings and the sale of non-essential items, expire at 11:59 p.m.
But Manitoba’s acting deputy chief provincial public health officer hinted again there won’t be much change to the status quo come Saturday.
“I know not much has been said, but I wouldn’t interpret that [to mean] in any way that the orders will be lifted,” Dr. Jazz Atwal said on a conference call with reporters.
“We still have a high number of cases in acute care. We still have surgeries and diagnostics being deferred. We have staff who are allocated to acute care and ICU settings that are moved from other jobs, which affects other care.”
Atwal said details about what the new public health orders will include will likely be revealed Friday.
The province announced 208 new cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus on Thursday — a jump after daily new case counts stayed below 200 for days.
At the same time, Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate was down to 9.9 per cent, the province said in a news release, marking the first time that figure dipped below 10 per cent since Nov. 9. In Winnipeg, the rate was 10.5 per cent — down one percentage point from the day before.
Meanwhile, the province revealed in a recently published vaccine rollout plan that it does not expect to immunize everyone who wants a shot before year’s end. That document says only about 70 per cent of Manitobans will get both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine before 2022.
Atwal said those projections are based on numbers the province has right now, and are likely to change over the coming weeks and months.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said those projections show “a major failing” by the government to come up with a plan that will offer all Manitobans vaccination before the end of the year.
“Clearly, we need to see more investment, we need to see an improvement in the plan and we need to just be able to get to that 100 per cent mark,” Kinew said Thursday.
12 more deaths
The province also announced 12 more people have died from COVID-19, including a man from the Northern Health Region in his 30s and six others linked to outbreaks across the province, the news release said.
The deaths connected to outbreaks are a woman in her 90s from Brandon’s Fairview Personal Care Home, and five in Winnipeg: a woman in her 60s from the Convalescent Home of Winnipeg, a woman in her 80s from Concordia Personal Care Home, a woman in her 80s from the River East Personal Care Home, a man in his 90s from the Charleswood Care Centre and a woman in her 90s from Bethania Mennonite Personal Care Home.
The latest deaths, which bring Manitoba’s total to 717, also include a man from the Prairie Mountain Health region in his 60s, a Southern Health region woman in her 60s and three women — in their 50s, 70s and 80s — in the Winnipeg region.
A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at the McCreary/Alonsa Health Centre in McCreary, Man., the province’s release said, while an outbreak at Winnipeg’s Seine River Retirement Home is now over.
There were 2,132 COVID-19 tests done in Manitoba on Wednesday, the release said. That’s the highest number done in a single day since numbers were announced after Christmas on Dec. 27. Those tests bring the total number done in the province to 432,839.
About half the new cases announced Thursday (105) are in the Winnipeg health region, while just under one-third (60) are in the Northern Health Region, the release said. The remaining new cases are split between the Prairie Mountain Health and Southern Health regions (17 each) and the Interlake-Eastern health region (nine).
Seven previously announced COVID-19 cases were removed from Manitoba’s totals on Thursday, the release said, bringing the total number identified in the province to 25,742.
Sites where there have been possible COVID-19 exposures in Manitoba are listed by region on the province’s website.
There are now 319 COVID-19 patients in hospital (down from 329 on Wednesday), with 35 in intensive care (down from 37), Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said on the conference call. Twenty-six of those patients are on ventilators, she said.
Siragusa said as some of those numbers drop, conversations are underway about when to redeploy staff and reschedule medical procedures put on hold by the pandemic.
“It does trigger us to be talking about how we make some decisions in the future, being very cautious about waiting for the numbers, watching the trends, and working very much collaboratively with public health,” she said.
To date, 20,519 people in Manitoba have been deemed recovered from COVID-19, and 4,506 cases are still considered active — though health officials say that number is still inflated by a data entry backlog.
All-season shelters at 125 personal care homes in Manitoba will soon be ready to use, the release said. While the province remains at the critical red pandemic response level, the shelters will be used to allow one person to visit a care home resident at a time.
Sites that don’t have those shelters have identified spaces for visits with similar pandemic precautions in place, the release said. Masks will be required, physical distancing has to be maintained and visitors will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms or exposures.
All visits will be by appointment only, with more details coming from each care home in the coming days, the release said.
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