Manitoba announces 18 COVID deaths, 2nd-highest one-day jump

Manitoba announced 280 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and 18 more deaths — the second-highest number of deaths reports on a single day since the start of the pandemic.

The deaths include a man in his 40s and two women in their 50s from the Winnipeg region, one of them related to an outbreak at Health Sciences Centre, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at his Wednesday news conference.

More than half of the 18 deaths are related to outbreaks at hospitals or personal care homes.

That includes two at Winnipeg’s Park Manor Care Home, which is in the midst of one the worst current coronavirus outbreaks at a Manitoba personal care home. Almost 80 per cent of its 82 residents tested have positive for COVID-19.

Since the start of the pandemic, 438 Manitobans have died from the illness.

The latest update comes as provincial officials announced that 900 critical-care workers will be the first people vaccinated in Manitoba. 

There are now 300 people in the hospital with COVID-19, down 11 from Tuesday, with 38 in intensive care, health officials said.

The current provincewide test positivity rate is 13.5, up slightly from Tuesday. In the Winnipeg region, the test positivity rate is 14.5 per cent. 

Manitoba has now recorded 19,655 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Of those, 5,348 are considered active, though that number may be inflated by a data-entry backlog the province is currently working through.

Vaccine on the way

Health Canada announced early Wednesday that it has approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, after scientists finished a two-month review of the company’s clinical trial data.

Roussin said Manitoba is expected to receive 237,600 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and another from Moderna, which is awaiting approval, between now and the end of March. That would be enough to vaccinate more than 100,000 people, or roughly seven per cent of the province’s population.

However, both Roussin and Pallister stressed that the good news won’t immediately address the serious, ongoing strain COVID-19 is putting on Manitoba’s health-care system, and that Manitobans need to remain vigilant. 

“This next month is not going to be easy either. Don’t let your guard down. I’m confident that we can do this work together,” Pallister said. 

The vaccine news comes just a day after Roussin and Premier Brian Pallister announced Manitoba’s public health orders will be extended until Jan. 8, with some exceptions.

Under those orders, holiday gatherings will be barred in Manitoba this year, though the province added some exceptions to its updated public health order — including allowing drive-in religious services.

Non-essential items will still not be allowed to be sold in-person at stores that remain open, the officials said, though some items (like school supplies) will be added to the province’s list of essentials.

Holiday-themed items, including Christmas decorations, will also be available through in-store shopping, and thrift stores will be allowed to open to sell all items under the revised orders.

Pallister said on Tuesday while the original public health orders, which took effect last month, have been effective, restrictions are still needed.