The province of Manitoba reported 742 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
It’s the highest single-day case count since the beginning of the pandemic.
The seven day COVID case count average is sitting at 401.
Four new cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed for a total of 22, and one new death has been confirmed.
The five day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 12.6 per cent provincially and 14.7 per cent in Winnipeg.
COVID outbreaks have been declared at two personal care homes in the city, West Park Manor and Heritage Lodge. The outbreak at Holy Family has been declared over.
Health officials are once again urging people to change holiday plans in an attempt to avoid straining the health care system, and, as case counts continue to rise, Manitoba’s top doctor is hinting at more restrictions.
“Manitobans need to prepare that next week, we probably won’t have large gatherings,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, during a Friday morning news conference.
Manitoba’s latest public health orders limiting gathering sizes took effect on Tuesday and are in effect until Jan. 11.
Roussin said Friday’s case numbers are similar to what is being reported across Canada. The exact case number will be known at 12:30 p.m. when the province releases its bulletin.
“These increased case counts mean we’re going to be seeing increased demand on our testing system,” Roussin said, adding the current testing backlog for results is approximately 10,000 tests
Roussin adds the case count is likely an underestimate due to the testing backlog, and plans are being discussed to increase testing capacity.
He said the rising case numbers are due to Omicron, and with the high case numbers, the province should expect to see “significant strain” on the health-care system. Roussin said in the past week, 14 new COVID-19 patients were admitted to intensive care units.
“Given that we’re still learning about Omicron, we cannot rely on some of the reports of Omicron being less severe, because we have so many more cases being transmitted,” he said. “We know this will strain our health-care system; we know we have to keep these numbers down.”
Roussin said people under 40 and those without underlying conditions who develop cold or flu symptoms should presume they have Omicron, and need to stay home, notify contacts and self-isolate.
Because of the testing backlog and increased case counts, Roussin is urging Manitobans to change holiday plans again, and limit their contacts.
“If you’re going to three or four gatherings this weekend, it should be down to one,” he said. “If you’re having 10 people over, we should limit that number further. We need to adjust our plans on the go here, because we’re seeing rapid transmission of Omicron throughout the province.”
Roussin said people with underlying conditions should not attend gatherings this weekend.
BOOSTER ELIGIBILITY CHANGES
The province is once again expanding eligibility for certain people to receive COVID-19 boosters quicker.
Dr. Joss Reimer, the head of the province’s vaccine task force, said people who are over 50 years old who received their second dose before the end of July are eligible to receive a booster dose.
Reimer said it is natural for immune response to weaken, which is why people should receive a booster shot.
“What we have seen is the waning is more substantial against an infection with Omicron,” she said, noting they’re seeing more people who have received two doses of the vaccine getting infected.
As of Thursday, 18 per cent of Manitobans have received booster shots, Reimer said.
Reimer said being vaccinated and receiving a booster can help reduce hospitalization and the severity of infection.
NDP URGES MANITOBANS TO LISTEN TO ROUSSIN
Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew, responding to the news conference, said he understands the frustrations of Manitobans about the health orders and the changes.
He urged Manitobans to follow Roussin’s advice to limit gatherings.
“Given the absolutely critical crisis in our hospital system right now, we have no choice but to listen to the advice Dr. Roussin is providing,” he said. “To do anything else, I think, is irresponsible.”
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