Another St. B death as Manitoba officials give COVID-19 update

Manitoba health officials will give a COVID-19 update Wednesday, after days of steadily declining case counts, but death counts and hospitalization numbers that remain high.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin and Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa will give an update on the pandemic at 12:30 p.m. CT. 

CBC News will live stream the media briefing here.

Although daily new case counts have been dropping — from a high of 480 reported on Friday to 103 on Tuesday — record hospitalizations continue to strain the province’s health-care system.

On Tuesday, St. Boniface Hospital reported another death linked to a COVID-19 outbreak in three of its units. There have now been seven COVID-19 deaths at St. Boniface Hospital, five of which the hospital says can be attributed to the outbreak there. 

So far, 25 patients and 15 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in connection with that outbreak.

One other death involved a patient who had been transferred from Victoria General Hospital, which is also seeing an outbreak.

One more patient at Victoria tested positive for the illness, for a total of 41 as of Tuesday. There have also been 37 staff infections and one death related to the Victoria outbreak.

The province has declared outbreaks in 21 personal care homes, including three announced on Tuesday. So far, these outbreaks have led to 38 deaths and 373 infections.

The province announced five more COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, tied for the second-highest count in a single day.

Rising cases strain health system

Provincial leaders have been scrambling to contain the swelling case numbers to avoid overloading Manitoba’s health care system. 

Hospitals have been forced to cancel some non-urgent and elective procedures and add critical care beds, to make space for an expected surge of COVID-19 patients over the coming weeks. 

Hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 have set new records every day since Oct. 19, when there were 28 people in hospital, and rising precipitously to 130 on Tuesday. 

Intensive care unit capacity has been pushed to the brink. On Tuesday, there were 20 COVID-19 patients in ICUs in Manitoba, tied for the record high originally set on Saturday.

A group of 200 Manitoba doctors and scientists wrote a letter to the premier on Monday, saying the health system is overwhelmed and calling on the province to provide emergency funding to deal with the spike in cases.

That led to Health Minister Cameron Friesen questioning the motives of the doctors who wrote the letter, saying its timing “would have maximum effect in causing chaos in the system.”

On Tuesday, Premier Brian Pallister issued a call for Manitobans to volunteer to work in COVID-19 testing sites and health care facilities, leading to accusations he was using volunteers to avoid hiring more staff.