Hospital admissions for COVID-19 appear to have peaked, Dr. Brent Roussin says

Manitoba COVID-19 statistics, such as the number of people being admitted to hospital and intensive care units, are trending in the right direction, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says.

“It does appear that we’ve had a peak” in hospital admissions related to the virus, he said at a news conference on Friday.

It was the first time Roussin has addressed the public about COVID-19 since April 7 and only the second time since regularly scheduled briefings ended in mid-March.

During the news conference, Roussin said despite the improved outlook, COVID continues to circulate throughout the province.

He announced revised eligibility for booster doses, shorter intervals between boosters and expanded access to the oral antiviral Paxlovid.

The current wave of the virus seems to be particularly stubborn, not trailing off as quickly as past waves, Roussin acknowledged.

“Especially in the hospital and the ICU, we see that the numbers certainly aren’t on a steep decline on the reports,” he said, with almost all sequencing showing the strain circulating right now is the Omicron subvariant BA.2.

While hospital admissions appear to be on a downward trajectory, Manitoba seems to be experiencing an increase in COVID-19-related deaths.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | May 20, 2022:

Manitoba government briefing on coronavirus: May 20

2 hours ago

Duration 15:27

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Thursday, May 20, 2022.

The provincial government’s weekly epidemiology report, released on Thursday, showed the total death toll from COVID-19 in Manitoba rose 66, from 1,847 a week earlier to 1,913.

At his last regularly scheduled news conference in March, Roussin said the virus would likely stick around for a long time, but Manitoba was moving into a new phase. The province had removed its mask mandate a day earlier and had lifted proof-of-vaccination requirements at the start of that month.

At the time, Manitoba’s death toll due to the virus was 1,721. Since then, there have been 192 additional deaths attributed to the virus.

Between Jan. 1, 2022, and May 14, almost four people per day (3.9) have died with COVID-19. That’s nearly double the number in the same calendar period in 2021, when the number was 2.1.

Roussin said it is difficult to say if COVID was the cause of the death or just something incidental because public health is not investigating every case the way it used to.

“It’s always tragic when someone loses a loved one, so not to downplay that in any way, but it’s very likely we’re seeing things that are incidentally related,” he said.

Roussin blamed that on the high contagion rate of BA.2 compared to other strains that were prevalent during previous waves.

About 79 per cent of people in hospital right now with COVID-19 were actually admitted for non-COVID reasons, he said.

Similarly, only about 40 per cent of ICU patients are actually there because of COVID.

“You see a lot of incidental type of infection because of that widespread amount of transmission going on,” Roussin said. “We are going to look at ways of better understanding this reported increase.”