COVID-19 Update — May 25, 2021
Today’s message includes:
- COVID-19 surveillance and vaccine updates
- Hospitals continue to be stretched beyond capacity
- Public health orders extended
- Insurance reminders
- Jets a welcomed distraction and other Things to do
COVID-19 Surveillance Update
Since our last update on Friday:
- Daily cases remain alarmingly high: 1,542 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified, including 259 new cases identified today. The total case count in Manitoba now stands at 49,046.
- Test positivity down slightly: the five-day test positivity rate is 13.8%, down from 14.1%. It is 15.9% in Winnipeg, down from 16.1%.
- Active cases up: There are 4,945 active COVID-19 cases province-wide, up from 4,855. Over half of active cases are variants of concern.
- Hospitalizations increase even further: There are 314 people in Manitoba hospitals due to COVID-19, up from 296. This includes 79 people in Manitoba ICUs, plus there are 18 in Ontario ICUs for a total of 97 in intensive care.
- Thirteen new deaths related to COVID-19 have been identified, including two today. The total number of deaths is now 1,035.
Vaccine Second Doses
Second dose appointments for Pfizer and Moderna can now be booked by individuals who:
- Are Indigenous (age 12+)
- Have a high risk medical condition, such as severe heart failure, liver cirrhosis, HIV or Down syndrome, among others
- Are on dialysis, chemotherapy or other immunosuppressive medications
- Receive home care four or more times per week or 24/7 community living disability services.
We sent an update about second doses to the tens of thousands who signed up for updates at ManitobaVaccine.ca where we will continue to post updates. Later this week, it is anticipated that people will become eligible to book their second dose based on the date they received their first dose.
Hospitals Beyond Limits
The situation in Manitoba hospitals continues to be very serious. As of today, there are 126 patients in Manitoba ICUs, including 79 linked to COVID. Fourteen of these 79 COVID cases in ICU are under 40 years.
These numbers do not include Manitoba patients transported out of province for intensive care. As of today, there are now 18 patients that have been sent to Ontario hospitals, up from five on Friday. This includes five in Thunder Bay, three in Ottawa, two in Sault Ste. Marie, two in North Bay, two in Windsor, and one each in Sudbury, London and Owen Sound. Tomorrow could see the first patient transferred to Saskatchewan for care, and officials are also preparing for patients to be sent to North Dakota as another contingency.
So far in May, hospitals have admitted 170 patients to ICU due to COVID-19, compared to 50 in April. Yesterday alone, ICUs admitted 12 patients.
Shared Health confirmed today that more “non-critical” surgeries are being postponed to allow nurses to be redeployed. These steps will support opening six more ICU beds, bringing total potential capacity up to 146, more than double the 72-bed baseline. We also heard today that the hospital “crunch” is now impacting cardiac surgeries too.
We continue to hear from physicians who are very concerned about hospital capacity, and frustrated they haven’t received more information about the contingency plans.
Last week, we submitted recommendations to provincial officials including calling on them to appeal for out-of-province help to expand capacity locally, rather than transport out-of-province. The Premier requested help, and we understand the federal government has offered contact tracers through Statistics Canada, as well as 12 critical care nurses who will help to open three more ICU beds. Canadian Armed Forces will help with transporting patients out of province for care, and one to two epidemiologists and three lab technologists from Health Canada will also help out.
We have drawn attention to the issues facing not only ICUs, but also ERs, where nursing coverage is also a top concern among physicians.
Over the weekend, we shared with critical care physicians a letter the CMPA sent to the Premier and Health Minister raising serious concerns about the lack of a triage protocol, as well as transfer protocols and a general lack of information and engagement has been a source of a lot of distress for physicians, especially as the situation has evolved rapidly with make-shift ICU space and patients being sent out of province. We continueto work with health system leaders to make any existing protocols transparent, and to ensure doctors are supported and covered during a very challenging time. You can view CMPA’s letter and our response here.
Public Health Orders Extended
The most recent public health orders, imposed for the May long weekend and due to expire tonight, will be extended until Saturday at 12:01AM at the earliest.
These orders include:
- Outdoor gatherings with anyone from outside a household are not allowed. This also applies to playgrounds, golf courses, parks and sports fields.
- Only one person per household is allowed to enter a business.
As per the prior order, gyms, restaurants, bars, personal services, museums, galleries and libraries remain closed. Retail stores continue to only operate at 10% capacity or 100 customers, whatever is less. Indoor public gatherings are not permitted and social visitors are not permitted on private property.
Dr. Roussin urged Manitobans to stay home and limit their contacts with others outside of their household, as he has repeatedly over the last several weeks. He stressed the need to go over and above what might be in a public health order. This was reinforced on the weekend with an emergency message sent to cell phones and other devices, normally reserved for Amber Alerts and immediate natural disasters.
A listing of current public health orders are available here.
Doctors Manitoba has joined many physicians in urging Manitobans to follow public health advice and stay home. Earlier today, a small group of six specialists echoed this view, but also called for stricter lock-down measures. We hear from many physicians who are worried about the pandemic situation every day, concerned about ICU and ER capacity, or concerned about the growing massive backlog in surgeries. Some raise concerns about the impact restrictions have on the mental and physical health of their patients, and others are worried increasingly tough restrictions aren’t effective as non-compliance becomes an increasing issue. Whatever your concern, please continue to share your views with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to listen and to help.
The Premier faced criticism today for what some see as blaming Manitobans for being hospitalized. He cited three issues, related to what he called “personal responsibility,” for contributing to the current situation, pointing out that many recently hospitalized patients:
- Did not follow public health measures, which he described “as strong or stronger than Ontario’s” restrictions,
- Did not seek testing when they first showed symptoms, instead waiting until their condition had worsened enough to require hospital care, and
- Were not vaccinated.
“You’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem,” Premier Brian Pallister said as he called on Manitobans to follow the public health orders. “There is an element of personal responsibility here and it needs to be confronted.” He said that 70% of COVID-19 hospitalizations right now were not vaccinated, and 43% had not sought testing before presenting to the hospital for care.
Others have criticized this “blame” and pointed out that many just became eligible for the vaccine in recent weeks, and it can take a few weeks to develop an immune response.
If you are a new resident, or you are pursuing a fellowship, we have important reminders for you about insurance coverage.
Effective January 1, 2021, physicians completing a fellowship are eligible for disability coverage with a non-taxable benefit of $11,000 per month. Applicants do not need to provide proof of income, but do need to prove good health. Contact Mark or Gord from our insurance team for more details.
Congratulations and welcome to new resident physicians who begin their residencies on July 1, 2021! PARIM Insurance, which is operated by Doctors Manitoba, has launched its Insurance Enrollment Campaign with a goal to have all new residents signed-up for their lifestyle insurance by June 30, 2021. This includes disability, life and accident insurance. Click here to learn more.
Go Jets Go
We heard from a lot of doctors today that exciting Jets games over the long weekend provided a much-needed escape from the current pandemic situation. The team at Doctors Manitoba joins many of you in celebrating the Jets’ wins and their advancement to the next round of the playoffs. Go Jets Go!
If Jets games aren’t your thing, we have alternatives to help you find something enjoyable to do right now. We compiled a list of 34 other things you CAN do during these latest public health restrictions. Take a look!