201 new COVID-19 cases, 15 more deaths in Manitoba on Wednesday

There are 201 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba and 15 more people have died from the illness, health officials announced Wednesday.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is down to 10.4 per cent from 11.5 per cent on Tuesday. That’s the lowest it’s been since Nov. 9, when the provincewide rate was 9.5 per cent.

In Winnipeg, the test positivity rate is now 10.2 per cent, a provincial news release said.

Eight of the most recent deaths announced in Manitoba are linked to outbreaks across the province, including two at Winnipeg’s Poseidon Care Centre, the release says: a man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s.

There are a total of 359 patients in hospital with COVID-19, including 259 who are still considered infectious, Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s acting deputy chief public health officer, said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. Forty-four people are in intensive care with the illness, including 37 who are infectious, he said.

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There are also 36 COVID-19 patients on ventilators, with 30 of those people still considered infectious, Atwal said.

The COVID-19 outbreak in Unit 3 South at Winnipeg’s Grace Hospital has been declared over, the release says.

A total of 1,687 health-care workers in Manitoba have gotten their first vaccination against COVID-19 since doses arrived in the province last week, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical officer of health for Manitoba Health, said at Wednesday afternoon’s news conference.

More than half the new COVID-19 cases announced on Wednesday — 118 — are in the Winnipeg health region. The remaining cases are spread out across the Northern (31), Southern (23), Interlake-Eastern (15) and Prairie Mountain health regions (14).

The latest fatalities also include two Winnipeg men in their 40s, one of whom is linked to the outbreak at the Grace Hospital’s Unit 3 North.

The other deaths linked to outbreaks announced on Wednesday are a woman in her 70s linked to the Portage District General Hospital Medical Unit, a man in his 80s linked to Morris General Hospital, and a man in his 80s linked to Kin Place Personal Care Home in Oakbank.

They also include a man in his 80s linked to Park Manor Care Home and a woman in her 90s linked to Oakview Place care home, both in Winnipeg.

The remaining deaths announced Wednesday are two men in their 70s (from the Interlake-Eastern and Southern Health regions), a woman in her 70s from the Northern Health region and three women from the Winnipeg health region (in their 60s, 80s and 90s).

Those fatalities bring Manitoba’s coronavirus-linked death toll to 605, nearly half of which have been reported this month.

The update comes just hours after Health Canada announced it had approved a second COVID-19 vaccine for use in Canada.

The federal department has given the green light to Moderna’s vaccine after reviewing the company’s clinical trial data. The approval clears the way for thousands of doses to arrive in the country by the end of the month.

Isolated communities, including First Nations, are expected to have access to the Moderna vaccine. Because it doesn’t require temperatures as cold as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was approved two weeks ago, it’s considered a better option to transport further away from main distribution hubs.

Manitoba saw a drop in new COVID-19 cases this week, with the daily new case numbers falling below 200 on Monday and Tuesday for the first time since early November. Tuesday’s 155 new cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus continued a four-day downward trend.

The four COVID-19 deaths announced Monday marked the lowest single-day increase since the start of November, but another 18 fatalities were posted on Tuesday.

Earlier that day, Premier Brian Pallister urged people not to relax on following public health orders after some Manitoba health-care workers got their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last week.

He suggested 90 days — or about three months — as a realistic target for when the vaccine could be available to the province’s general population.

Atwal warned on Monday that despite a few days of low COVID-19 numbers, Manitobans need to stay vigilant and continue following public health orders.

“We can’t let these numbers lull us into a false sense of security,” especially during the holiday season, he said.

Possible public COVID-19 exposures are listed by region on the province’s website.

The new cases announced Wednesday bring the total number identified in Manitoba to 23,381. Of those, 18,349 are considered recovered and 4,427 deemed active, though Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin has previously said that number is inflated because of a data entry backlog.

There were 2,208 more COVID-19 tests done in Manitoba on Tuesday, bringing the total number completed since early February to 409,443.