The number of new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba jumped again on Friday, as outbreaks in remote First Nation communities pushed the daily case count in the Northern Health region to its second-highest level since the start of the pandemic.
Another 10 people have died in Manitoba and the number of new COVID-19 cases hit 350, after staying below 300 every other day this week, Dr. Jazz Atwal announced Friday. The Northern Health region had 89 of those new cases.
Atwal, Manitoba’s acting deputy chief public health officer, filled in at the coronavirus briefing for Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin, who is taking time off over the holidays.
Half of the deaths announced Friday are in the Southern Health region, including a man in his 50s connected to the outbreak at the Morris General Hospital, as well a man in his 40s, a news release said Friday.
“It’s never easy to lose a loved one, and to lose a loved one around the holidays, and with the restrictions currently in place, is especially hard,” Atwal said.
There have now been 547 deaths in Manitoba due to COVID-19, nearly half of them within the last three weeks.
Six of the deaths announced Friday are connected to outbreaks. In addition to the death at the Morris General Hospital, there were deaths connected to the Kin Place care home in the Interlake-Eastern region, the Gilbert Plains personal care home, Salem Home in Winkler, the Charleswood Care Centre and the Convalescent Home of Winnipeg.
No adverse reactions to vaccine
Friday’s briefing happened hours after the provincial government announced it is preparing to receive a second batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, opening up appointments for 900 additional health-care workers starting next week.
The first 900 Manitobans to be vaccinated, all health workers, started getting shots on Wednesday of this week. At the 12:30 p.m. briefing, Atwal said nearly 600 of those workers had received the vaccine, with the rest expected to receive it by the end of the day.
So far, there have been no adverse reactions to the vaccine, Atwal said.
The head of Canada’s vaccine logistics operation, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, said Thursday that Canada’s shipment of vaccine may be able to vaccinate 20 per cent more people than originally thought. Pfizer had told the Public Health Agency of Canada that each vial contained five doses, but revised that estimate to six.
That estimate has borne out in Manitoba’s vaccination operation, Atwal said.
“We are getting, on average, six doses out of a vial right now,” he said. “So we are capitalizing on that and whether this continues on from Pfizer, but obviously we’re not wasting any dose.”
On Thursday, the province announced it will launch a pilot project to conduct asymptomatic surveillance testing in three personal care homes. The project is set to start Dec. 21 and run for four weeks.
Atwal said the province will wait until it has examined the results of the pilot project before deciding whether to expand asymptomatic further.
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Test positivity increases
The province’s five-day test positivity rate rose to 13.6 per cent, up from 13 per cent on Thursday, which was the lowest it had been in about a month.
The Winnipeg health region’s share of the new cases dropped, with 133, or about a third, of the new cases coming from the capital region, which had a test positivity rate of 13.1 per cent.
The high northern numbers are partly due to outbreaks in multiple remote First Nations communities, such as Shamattawa and Red Sucker Lake, Atwal said.
Currently, 54 out of 63 Manitoba First Nations have COVID-19 cases. On Thursday, the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba reported there were 1,118 active cases on reserves in the province.
Daily case counts had begun to trend downward, but hospitals continue to struggle with the number of patients needing care. The province’s critical care system has been running beyond its pre-COVID capacity for weeks.
Hospitalizations fell slightly to 378 on Friday, six fewer than on Thursday, with 305 patients still considered infectious. There were 50 total cases in intensive care units in Manitoba, up two from Thursday, with 43 still infectious.
Provincial data says there are 5,602 active cases in the province, and 22,397 people have tested positive since the start of the pandemic.
Labs completed 2,167 tests on Thursday.
An outbreak has been declared in the Thompson General Hospital’s MSP unit, while outbreaks have been declared over at Brooklyn Terrace Assisted Living in Steinbach, the Boyne Lodge Personal Care Home in Carman, and Riverview Health Centre, Concordia Personal Care Home, Pembina Place Personal Care Home, Southeast Personal Care Home and Actionmarguerite St. Vital, all in Winnipeg.
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