Manitoba reports 2nd COVID-19 death tied to coronavirus variant, 1st variant case in north

Manitoba announced 135 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths Tuesday, as well as the first reported case of a more contagious coronavirus variant detected in the province’s north.

The number of cases stemming from variants in the province also jumped by 67.

That brings the total number of variant cases to 479, up from 412 on Saturday. The province only reports variant cases on its provincial dashboard from Tuesday to Saturday, so the uptick represents at least two days of data.

There are 154 active variant cases, up from 101, and 323 people have recovered, according to the province.

Of the new deaths, one is a man in his 80s from Winnipeg and is connected with an outbreak at Holy Family Centre.

The other death announced Tuesday is a Winnipeg man in his 60s. His death, which is linked to the B117 coronavirus variant originally detected in the U.K., brings the total number of variant-related deaths to two.

Eighty-nine per cent of the variant cases in Manitoba are the B117 strain, according to the province. About four per cent are B1351 and seven per cent require further confirmation.

The bulk of variant cases to date have surfaced in Winnipeg. Half are linked to close contacts and a quarter have no known source. The rest are tied to travel or require more investigation.

Two-thirds of new cases in Winnipeg

There are 138 people in Manitoba hospitals due to COVID-19, up from 135 on Monday. The number of people in intensive care remains at 33.

The provincial test positivity rate dropped slightly from 6.2 per cent to six per cent. It’s 5.7 per cent in Winnipeg, up from 5.6 per cent.

An outbreak has been declared at Fairview Personal Care Home in Brandon, and the facility has been moved to the red, or critical, level of Manitoba’s pandemic response system.

Of the 135 new COVID-19 cases announced Tuesday, the majority — 89 — were reported in Winnipeg, and 34 were identified in the Northern Health Region. Another five were reported in Prairie Mountain Health, five in Southern Health and two in the Interlake-Eastern health region.

There are 1,438 active cases in Manitoba.

Expect more restrictions soon

The announcements come one day after Manitoba’s chief provincial health officer suggested more restrictions would be coming soon in light of rising cases and test positivity rates. 

That rate has risen nearly two percentage points in two weeks, and the seven-day average for new daily cases is about 131, compared to 78 two weeks ago.

Dr. Brent Roussin said Monday those could include an outdoor mask mandate and clamping down on gathering restrictions.

The number of close contacts of positive cases is on the rise, and recent cases have been tied to play dates, house parties and private gatherings, he said.

Battle continues on First Nations

A number of First Nation communities are faring better than a few weeks ago, but at least some in the north are still battling high case counts, says the medical advisor to Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak’s health agency.

“A couple of them have had significant outbreaks and that’s what we’ve seen again for quite some time,” Dr. Michael Routledge, medical advisor to Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc., said during a conference call Tuesday.

“Once COVID gets established in one of our communities, it explodes.”

Those outbreaks are tied to overcrowding and other housing issues in First Nation communities, he said.

Routledge said test positivity rates also remain “stubbornly” high in some of the northern First Nations MKO represents — near the 15 per cent range — and concerns are growing as variants spread in the province.

“Just a reminder that while the vaccine is great … we’re not anywhere near the point of having effective herd immunity yet,” he said. “It really speaks to … the need to follow the public health recommendations.”

As of Tuesday, 20.7 per cent of adult Manitobans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the province says, up from 20.1 per cent on Monday. 

So far, 951 people have died of COVID-19 in Manitoba.