COVID-19 Update – February 9, 2021

Situation Update

Since our last update on Thursday, 392 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified including 75 new cases today. This brings the total case count in Manitoba to 30,360.

The five-day test positivity rate is 5.4%, down from 6.7% on Thursday. It is 4.3% in Winnipeg, up from 3.6%.

There are currently 1,597 active COVID-19 cases province-wide. This is down significantly from 3,340 last week, but Dr. Brent Roussin attributed this to catching up on closing active cases as recovered.

There are currently 266 patients in hospital today related to COVID-19, up slightly from 264 on Thursday. This includes 33 patients in ICU.

Sixteen more deaths related to COVID-19 have been identified, including three today. A total of 853 Manitobans have died due to COVID-19.

You can learn more in today’s public health bulletin.

New Variant Found in Manitoba: The UK variant, B117, has been found in Manitoba. This has been shown to be more transmissible and possibly more deadly than other variants. Dr. Brent Roussin reported today that genomic sequencing confirmed the case last night. The individual has fully recovered, and none of the case’s five household contacts have become a case. The sole case was related to international travel, and officials noted they have no evidence of further transmission within Manitoba. Concerning variants have already been identified in seven other provinces.

Vaccine Update

Yesterday, we announced that the province is now accepting applications from medical clinics and pharmacies interested in offering the COVID-19 vaccine. See our update yesterday for full details, including the administrative requirements and remuneration details. Clinics and pharmacies will not offer the Pfizer or Moderna products at this time. Instead, clinics will offer a more stable vaccine option, likely the AstraZeneca product, once it is approved by Health Canada.

We recommend applying, even if you are not yet sure about offering the vaccine in your practice. So far, over 40 clinics have applied and likely many more pharmacies. We ask clinics to let us know when they apply by emailing covid19@doctorsmanitoba.ca, so we can notify you about updates, offer guidance, and advocate for those clinics and physicians participating.

Health care worker appointments resume
With Pfizer shipments resuming to Canada, the province has restarted booking first dose appointments at super sites immunization clinics, with appointments available starting February 20 in Winnipeg and February 22 in Brandon. Those second-dose appointments originally scheduled between February 15 and 17 are being rescheduled. There has been no change to eligibility, with the current criteria available here.

Eligible First Nation health care workers, along with traditional healers and knowledge keepers, can also make an appointment at pop-up sites operating in Winnipeg this week.

Mobile teams have completed immunizations at all PCHs in Manitoba, with 8,252 first doses administered. Teams will return to each facility starting this week to administer the second doses, a process expected to take until the end of this month. The mobile teams are also visiting higher risk congregate living sites.

Meanwhile, a pop-up clinic in Churchill is immunizing elders in the long-term care wing of the hospital, eligible health care workers and individuals in the community over the age of 70.

So far, 49,373 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Manitoba, including 15,546 second doses. This means about 1.4% of adults in the province have been fully immunized.

Restrictions

Today, the province unveiled which restrictions will be loosened, effective this Friday at 12:01AM. There were few changes from what was proposed last week.

The changes, which the Premier described as “cautious,” will allow:

  • Restaurants to resume indoor dining at 25% capacity until 10PM, limiting groups to individuals from the same household;
  • Outdoor rinks to be used for casual and organized games;
  • Gyms, fitness centres and yoga studios to reopen at 25% capacity, with other indoor facilities reopening for individual instruction only;
  • Places of worship to hold regular services at a maximum of 10% capacity or 50 people;
  • Libraries to reopen at 25% capacity, as well as museums and galleries which were not originally proposed;
  • Personal services, such as nail spas or tattoo parlours, to reopen at 25% capacity; and
  • Photographers, videographers and the film industry to resume services with specific protocols in place.

The new public health orders will also clarify that self-help groups for addictions or other behaviours can operate within 25% capacity of the facility where meetings take place.

Dr. Brent Roussin stressed the importance of continuing to follow the fundamentals to stop the spread of the virus, especially staying home when ill, even with mild symptoms. He explained that the level of community transmission has improved to the point that these restriction changes are supported from a public health perspective, but not following public health advice risks returning to a lock down.

The province received over 33,000 public responses to the proposed changes. Doctors Manitoba collected feedback from physicians and submitted these views yesterday to provincial officials:

  • Physicians are still very concerned about someone close to them being infected, with 81% stating they are somewhat or very afraid about this. Note: you can review Doctors Manitoba’s Guide to Protecting Your Family for more information.
  • The medical community continues to be concerned about hospital capacity, with 44% of physicians believing loosening restrictions could overwhelm hospitals, but 56% believing the hospital situation has improved enough to proceed with caution.
  • The majority of physicians supported most of the proposed changes to varying degrees.

The new restrictions will apply to all regions of the province, including Northern Manitoba. Two thirds of physicians were concerned about this approach, especially with a recent surge in cases in the North. While some communities, like Pauingassi First Nation, are still dealing with a surge in cases, the regional number of new and active cases across Northern Manitoba has been improving.

You can view a summary of physician feedback here.

Virtual Care

Physicians are reminded that virtual visits can only be submitted to Manitoba Health for payment if both you and the patient are located in Manitoba during the visit.

This applies to all patients including new and previously seen patients from Northwestern Ontario and Nunavut. We understand in some cases Manitoba Health has paid claims for services provided to patients from these regions. We have repeatedly raised this issue with Manitoba Health, but their position remains that these services are not insured by Manitoba Health. Consequently Manitoba may claw back or audit these payments at a future date.

If you have questions, please contact us at covid19@doctorsmanitoba.ca.

Virtual Care Webinar
Register now for an exciting webinar on virtual care! The webinar will focus on the past, present and future of virtual care and is being hosted by the Manitoba Institute of Patient Safety.

The webinar will feature Dr. Gigi Osler, a local surgeon who also co-chaired the Canadian Virtual Care Task Force, and our very own CEO, Ms. Theresa Oswald.

When: March 24, 2021, from 6pm to 7pm
Register: Advance registration is required.

COVID Assessment Clinics

In Winnipeg, physicians continue to have access to regional assessment clinics for COVID positive or suspect patients. If your clinic is not equipped to see positive or suspect patients in-person, and a virtual visit is not appropriate, you can refer your patient to a regional COVID-19 assessment clinic.

You can learn more about these clinics, including eligibility, in the WRHA Model of Care. A referral is required, and the referral information is available here.

Thank a Resident!

It’s Resident Awareness Week!

Take a moment this week and send a card to a resident you work with to say thank you, using a Doctors Manitoba e-card!

Residents have stepped up during COVID-19 in so many ways. We appreciate their hard work always, and especially during the pandemic. Join us in saying thank you!

Read our feature about how the pandemic has impacted residents from our recent issue of Rounds. Dr. Lerly Luo talks about how she has pitched in, and how she and her peers have found a new balance during the pandemic.