293 new coronavirus cases, 13 more deaths in Manitoba — including 6 at Charleswood care home

There are 293 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba today, and another 13 people have died from the illness, Manitoba’s top doctor says.

There are now 298 people in hospital with COVID-19 in Manitoba, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference on Thursday, marking a small drop from 300 on Wednesday. That number includes 43 in intensive care, which is up from 38 the last two days.

It’s the first time in more than two weeks that Manitoba has had fewer than 300 people with COVID-19 in hospital (on Nov. 24, there were 292).

Manitoba’s critical-care program is currently running at 165 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity, with 119 of its beds in use, a spokesperson for Manitoba Shared Health said.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate, a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive, is down slightly to 13.3 per cent from 13.5 per cent on Wednesday. In Winnipeg, the rate is now 13.9 per cent.

The most recent deaths include nine linked to outbreaks at care homes, including six connected to Winnipeg’s Charleswood Care Centre and another two linked to the city’s Park Manor Care Home.

Those deaths bring Manitoba’s total fatalities linked to COVID-19 to 451.

The latest deaths linked to the Charleswood care home are two women and two men in their 80s, and a woman and a man in their 90s.

The fatalities announced from Park Manor are a woman and a man in their 80s. Another care home death — a woman in her 70s linked to Villa Youville in Ste. Anne — was also announced on Thursday.

The remaining deaths announced on Thursday are three men in their 70s (from the Southern, Winnipeg and Interlake-Eastern health regions) and a man in his 80s from the Winnipeg health region.

One previously announced case of COVID-19 was removed because of a data correction, bringing Manitoba’s tally to 19,947 cases detected.

The province has declared an outbreak at the rehabilitation and surgery unit at the Boundary Trails Health Centre in Winkler.

To date, 14,116 people are listed as having recovered from COVID-19 in Manitoba, while 5,380 cases are considered active — though Roussin said that number is still slightly skewed because of a data entry backlog.

Just over half of Thursday’s new cases (152) are in the Winnipeg health region. There are 49 in the Southern Health region, 41 in the Northern Health Region, 39 in the Interlake-Eastern health region and 12 in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

The mobile COVID-19 test site at 1181 Portage Ave. in Winnipeg is set to close on Friday, while a new site downtown at the Garrick Centre will open on Monday. That new site will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

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

Another 2,558 COVID-19 tests were done in Manitoba on Wednesday, bringing the total number of tests completed since early February to 380,664.

More vaccine details next week

Thursday’s update comes a day after Roussin announced a vaccine against the illness could be in the arms of roughly 900 Manitoba health-care workers as early as next week.

He and Premier Brian Pallister said at a Wednesday news conference that Manitoba’s first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, set to arrive in the province next week, will be reserved for health-care workers in critical-care units.

The initial 1,950 doses of the two-dose vaccine, approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, will be enough to immunize roughly 900 people against the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, they said.

More details on exactly who among critical-care workers will be eligible for the first round of vaccinations is expected to be available next week, Roussin said on Thursday.

More shipments are expected to arrive in the province later this month or early next, he said.

By the end of March, he expects the province will have received enough doses — of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and one from Moderna that’s still being reviewed by Health Canada — to vaccinate roughly 100,000 Manitobans, or about seven per cent of the province’s population.

At the same news conference, Pallister called out a southeastern Manitoba reeve for denying the pandemic’s existence, mistaking COVID-19 for influenza and questioning the efficacy of vaccines. The premier likened Rural Municipality of La Broquerie Reeve Lewis Weiss’s comments to those made by people who believe the Earth is flat.

Meanwhile, Roussin made the second-highest one-day COVID-19 death toll announcement on Wednesday, as the total number of people in Manitoba who have died because of the illness rose by 18. More than half of those fatalities were linked to outbreaks at hospitals or personal care homes, officials said.

Later Wednesday, a Canadian Armed Forces plane landed on Shamattawa First Nation with additional medics and rangers to help with the remote community’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead said roughly 25 per cent of the community’s 1,300 people have tested positive for the illness. As of Wednesday, 48 people had been removed from the community to isolate in Winnipeg, said a statement from Indigenous Services Canada.

Redhead on Tuesday penned an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling on the federal government to move elders out of the fly-in community about 745 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Earlier this week, Manitoba health officials announced that the province’s latest set of pandemic restrictions will mostly stay in place until Jan. 8, officially outlawing holiday gatherings of people from different households.

Pallister said restrictions that took effect last month have worked — but they’re still needed.