Stay-at-home order not off table if COVID cases don’t recede, Manitoba’s top doctor says

Manitoba’s new COVID-19 cases continue to stay well above 400 and if no downturn shows soon, tighter restrictions could be on the way once more, the chief provincial public health officer warned Monday.

“We’ll continue to follow these numbers through the week to see if we get any indication of a peak occurring. But we don’t take things off the table if we’re going to protect Manitobans,” Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said when asked if a stay-at-home order is on the horizon.

“We wouldn’t remove any options.”

Roussin announced 430 new COVID-19 cases and another death — a man in his 60s from the Southern Health region — on Monday.

The Winnipeg health region has the most new infections again, with 313, while the Southern Health region is next with 44.

There are 37 new cases in the Northern Health Region and 18 each in the Interlake-Eastern health region and Prairie Mountain Health region.

WATCH | Roussin on why restrictions still important as more Manitobans get vaccines:

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said Monday COVID-19 vaccine uptake in the province is moving in the right direction and the impact of protection can already be seen among older populations — but until a larger proportions of Manitobans have had their shot and their immunity has developed, public health restrictions are still necessary. 1:39

“We need to bring down these numbers. There’s far too much strain on our health-care system,” Roussin said, urging people to follow public health orders.

“This has been 15 months that we’ve been dealing with COVID-19, but we certainly need to stay focused.

“It’s the nature of these variants that caused a very quick upturn in numbers and we’ll be watching for the peak, which we are hoping will come quite shortly.”

The total number of Manitobans who have died of COVID-19 is now 1,011.

A new outbreak has been declared in the medical unit of the Bethesda Regional Health Centre in Steinbach. The facility has been moved to the critical level on the provincial pandemic response system.

The current five-day test positivity rate is 12.7 per cent provincially (up from 12.3 on Sunday) and 14.3 per cent in Winnipeg (up from 14.1).

9 people under 40 in ICU

The total number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 is up seven, to 264. Of those, 73 are in intensive care, an increased of two since Sunday.

Nine of the people in ICU are under the age of 40.

On Sunday, as Manitoba announced 534 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, it overtook Alberta as the province with the highest infection rate per capita.

Manitoba now has a seven-day average daily infection rate of 33.1 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, says data compiled by Health Canada

Alberta’s daily infection rate dropped to a seven-day average of 32.9 COVID-19 cases per day.

The number of daily infections in Manitoba has surged in recent weeks, reaching a single-day provincial pandemic record of 560 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

Roussin was asked by reporters if a stay-at-home order is the next step, should cases not begin to recede.

He said nothing is off the table.

While the number of people receiving vaccinations is increasing — with the province opening eligibility to everyone 12 and older — health officials on Monday offered a word of caution.

Remember that it takes a while to build up antibodies against the virus, said Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health.

There have been 34 vaccinated people admitted to intensive care units in the province and nearly all contracted the virus within three weeks of receiving their first vaccine dose, she said.

“After about three weeks, the vaccine is around 90 per cent effective,” she said.

Vaccinations have greatly improved hospital staffing during COVID’s third wave, she said. Compared to the second wave, there are now very few outbreaks that take health-care workers out of the picture.

Working to create capacity

Some hospital burden has been reduced by sending patients to personal care homes as of April 20. The patients had already qualified to move into care homes, but were waiting for spaces to be made available.

Some of the moves may be temporary but most are long-term, Siragusa said.

As well, non-COVID patients from rural and northern areas who are currently in Winnipeg hospitals may be transferred to hospitals closer to home.

“Work is underway. The teams are looking at where there’s opportunities,” Siragusa said.

“Of course, families and loved ones will be informed along the way.” 

WATCH | Lanette Siragusa on Manitoba’s peak ICU capacity

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health, said Monday the province will soon hit its second wave peak in ICU occupancy, and outlined how the health system is responding to the surge in COVID-19 patients. 2:23

More elective surgeries are also being cancelled because health-care workers have been diverted to COVID care.

The health system is also relying on its virtual COVID-19 outpatient program, or VCOP, to free up beds in hospitals.

Siragusa described it as a virtual hospital where COVID patients can be monitored at their homes on a daily basis. If necessary, a paramedic will go to a home to reassess or stabilize a patient.

There are 35 virtual outpatients at the moment, with 16 of them receiving oxygen therapy.

Space has also been made in the adult emergency rooms at hospitals by opening the children’s emergency department at HSC last week to patients 17-19 years old.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | May 17, 2021:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Monday, May 17, 2021. 43:15