‘Too early to start a victory lap,’ health official says as Manitoba reports 158 COVID-19 cases, 5 deaths

A daily case tally below 200 and Manitoba’s lowest test positivity rate since early November made for another “encouraging” COVID-19 update on Wednesday, but the province isn’t in the clear yet, the acting deputy chief public health officer says.

“The actions taken by Manitobans [are] making a difference. However, it is too early to start a victory lap,” Dr. Jazz Atwal said at a news conference.

Atwal announced 158 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths on Wednesday and cautioned against Manitobans letting their guards down amid lower case counts.

“If we let up now, all the hard work for the past several weeks could be for nothing,” Atwal said. “We could be back to where we started in November.”

The province’s daily new case tallies have been hovering near or below 200 for the past week, after months of much higher daily case numbers.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate dropped to 9.6 per cent on Wednesday, the lowest it’s been since Nov. 9. In Winnipeg, the rate dropped to 7.4 per cent.

Wednesday’s update also included a surge in new COVID-19 cases in northern Manitoba, which made up nearly half that day’s tally.

Some communities in the region have been hit especially hard, including Lynn Lake, which had 37 of Manitoba’s new cases on Wednesday, and Thompson, which had 14, Atwal said.

Lynn Lake, more than 800 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, had a population of less than 500 people as of the 2016 census. Thompson, which is about 650 kilometres north of Winnipeg, had a population of just under 13,000.

A man in his 50s from the Northern Health Region is among the province’s latest deaths, which bring Manitoba’s total fatalities to 753.

The other deaths announced Wednesday are a Winnipeg man in his 70s linked to the Southeast Personal Care Home and three people in their 80s: a Winnipeg woman linked to the Charleswood Care Centre outbreak, a man in the Prairie Mountain Health region linked to the McCreary/Alonsa Health Centre outbreak and a Winnipeg man in his 80s not linked to any outbreak.

There are now 289 COVID-19 patients in hospital in Manitoba, including 36 in intensive care.

There are 70 new cases in the Northern Health Region, 61 in the Winnipeg health region, 12 in the Prairie Mountain Health region, eight in the Southern Health region and seven in the Interlake-Eastern health region.

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Winnipeg’s Extendicare Tuxedo Villa personal care home, while the outbreak at the city’s Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre personal care home is now over, the province says in a daily COVID-19 news release.

As of Tuesday, 12,409 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been given in Manitoba, according to another provincial news release.

Three previously announced cases were removed from Manitoba’s total on Wednesday because of a data correction, the daily news release says, bringing the number of infections detected in the province to 26,695.

There were 1,778 COVID-19 tests completed in Manitoba on Tuesday, bringing the total number of swabs done in the province to 443,683 since early February 2020, the release says.

Public places where there were possible COVID-19 exposures in Manitoba are listed by region on the province’s website.

To date, 23,014 people in Manitoba have recovered from COVID-19 and 2,928 are still considered active, though health officials have said in the past that number is inflated because of a data entry backlog.

Wednesday’s update comes one day after Manitoba reported its lowest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases since mid-October. On Tuesday, the province announced 92 new infections.