Manitoba announced 329 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths on Friday as yet another province stepped in to take critically ill patients to ease the strain on Manitoba’s health system.
All of the deaths — one man and three women — are linked to the B.1.1.7 variant, now called the alpha variant, that was first found in the U.K.
They are a man in his 40s from the Interlake-Eastern health region, a woman in her 70s from the Southern Health region, a woman in her 70s from the Winnipeg health region and a woman in her 80s from the Winnipeg health region.
The total number of deaths in Manitoba due to COVID-19 is now 1,071. That includes 84 linked to more contagious variants.
The Winnipeg health region has 203 of the newest cases, the Southern Health region has 38, the Interlake-Eastern health region has 30, the Northern Health Region has 30 and the Prairie Mountain Health region has 28.
The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 11.4 per cent provincially (down from 11.5 on Thursday) and 13 per cent in Winnipeg (down from 13.2).
The seven-day average case count in Manitoba has declined to 306. It peaked at 482 on May 22 and has declined almost every day since.
“Our day-to-day cases are getting a bit better, but our health-care system is still struggling,” said Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief provincial public health officer, urging people to continue to abide by the current health orders.
“There are too many people in ICUs, both in Manitoba and outside of the province, struggling for their lives. Manitobans have the power to help stem the third wave. It is up to all of us to take steps to protect each other.”
Alberta takes patients
A total of 106 Manitobans are receiving intensive care for COVID-19, including 65 within the province (a decrease of three) and 41 outside the province: 37 in Ontario, two in Saskatchewan and for the first time, two in Alberta.
Over the past few weeks, 11 patients who had been in out-of-province ICUs have improved and since returned, including one who came back on Thursday, the province said in a news release on Friday.
However, there are two who died at out-of-province hospitals.
On Wednesday, the province announced the first death of a COVID-19 patient who had been transported for care outside of Manitoba — a man in his 30s who had been at an Ontario hospital since May 20.
On Thursday, they announced a second. That patient, a woman in her 50s, had been moved out of the province on May 23.
Yet another patient, a woman in her 30s, died in a Manitoba hospital after a failed attempt to airlift her to a hospital in Ontario last week.
Another 221 cases involving more contagious coronavirus variants have also been identified, the province’s data dashboard says. The variants now account for 61 per cent of the 4,191 active COVID-19 cases in Manitoba.
An outbreak has been declared at Health Sciences Centre WRS3 in Winnipeg.
Meanwhile, a prior outbreak at the King’s School in Winnipeg has now been declared over.
Heat wave relief
Due the current heat wave, a few minor amendments were made to the health orders to allow municipalities to repurpose facilities like libraries and community centres as cooling centres, where people can find relief from the temperatures outside.
It has also allowed for taps to be turned on at spray pads, outdoor swimming pools and wading pools.
Those measures are intended for vulnerable people who need to cool down and don’t have other options. They are not meant to be used recreationally, Atwal said.
“If you have air conditioners, a pool or a sprinkler at home, the community pool or splash pads are not to be used as a family outing,” he said.
“Restrictions on gatherings and interactions with people who do not reside at the same private residence continue to apply.”
The orders are in effect until at least June 12.
Atwal said he can only envision subtle changes, at best, to public health orders when the current ones expire.
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | June 4, 2021: