‘My biggest concern is losing our vigilance’: Manitoba removes COVID-19 numbers from website

Numbers for hospitalizations, ICU admissions and other COVID-19 information will no longer be accessible to Manitobans.

The province has removed the COVID dashboard and vaccine stats from its website.

Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist with EPI research, told 680 CJOB on Tuesday she was surprised by the change.

“Even when I go into the open data portal, the only data I can see right now is vaccination,” she said. “I can’t see any of the other data that was routinely available and frankly, really helpful.”

Read more: More transmissible BA.2 subvariant on the rise in Manitoba, experts say

Carr worries the absence of data might lead to a false sense of security amongst Manitobans.

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“We certainly don’t post the numbers of colds, but we do post influenza every year. People may not know that, but during influenza season, those numbers of cases are posted as well as outcome,” she said.

“So I just think, we understand there’s been less testing, but it’s still important to understand how many tests are being done, what the positivity rate is among those being tested. Who does that test group represent?

“And again, the outcomes in terms of mortality and hospitalization, because my fear is we’re also kind of stalled on that vaccination side.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 still impacting Manitoba care homes' COVID-19 still impacting Manitoba care homes

COVID-19 still impacting Manitoba care homes

Carr says her biggest concern is a lack of caution around the virus.

“We understand that the variants develop in living bodies,” she said.

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“So if we go back to my biggest concern, (it’s) losing our vigilance, forgetting that if we feel any symptoms, we need to stay home and away from other people (and) forgetting that, you know, masks are pretty easy to put on.”

According to Carr, Manitoba isn’t at the endemic stage with COVID-19 just yet.

“Endemic means that the virus is more predictable, we have a better understanding of what might happen,” she said.

“Endemic does not mean the virus isn’t serious. It just means it’s more predictable. So it’s really important for people to remember. At this point, I am not confident that we could say, that it’s entirely predictable.”

Read more: Canada’s top doctors still recommend wearing a mask — even as provinces ditch mandates

Carr says if cases pick up again in the fall, Manitoba might reach the endemic phase, but that has yet to be seen.

In response to the province’s COVID-19 dashboard being removed and the emergence of the BA.2 Omicron variant, Manitoba Liberal MLAs Dougald Lamont, Cindy Lamoureux and Dr. Jon Gerrard have written to Premier Heather Stefanson, Minister Audrey Gordon and chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin to reinstate “basic pandemic precautions.”

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“We are very concerned that unless you change direction, there is a real and dangerous risk that we will see yet another surge in cases that will once again be overwhelming Manitoba’s health system, resulting in unnecessary deaths, preventable disability through long covid, and more delayed surgeries,” said Dougald Lamont, Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface.

According to the release, the Manitoba Liberal Caucus is requesting the government restore the COVID-19 dashboard, the daily reporting of wastewater testing for viral load and provide better access to PCR tests whose results get reported to public health.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba ‘in transition’ with COVID situation, Roussin says at last regularly-scheduled briefing' Manitoba ‘in transition’ with COVID situation, Roussin says at last regularly-scheduled briefing

Manitoba ‘in transition’ with COVID situation, Roussin says at last regularly-scheduled briefing – Mar 16, 2022

The Liberal Caucus are also encouraging the province to consider launching a campaign to encourage booster shots and mask use, in addition to making masks freely available.

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