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Situation Update

Since our last update on Friday, 577 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified, including 92 today. This brings the total case count in Manitoba to 26,540.

The five-day test positivity rate is 10.1%, the same as last Friday. In Winnipeg, the test positivity rate is 8.4%, down from 10.3%.

There are currently 3,100 active COVID-19 cases. This is a significant drop from the 4,582 reported on Friday, but officials explained this is due to catching up on a backlog of recovered cases.

There are 302 COVID patients in hospital today, down from 315 on Friday, including 35 patients in ICU. ICUs are still stretched at 146% of normal capacity.

Twenty-two more COVID-related deaths have been announced since Friday, including eight today. So far, 748 Manitobans have died from COVID-19.

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

The Manitoba First Nations pandemic response team’s tracking has found that over half of active cases today are among First Nations populations, on- and off-reserve.

Cause for Optimism?

Other than New Year’s Day, this is the first time new daily cases have fallen below 100 since mid-October.

Yesterday, Dr. Brent Roussin expressed some optimism about improving surveillance data, but cautioned that we are not out of the woods yet.” He cited high levels of hospitalization and the risk of a post-holiday surge as reasons to be cautious. Dr. Jazz Atwal, his deputy, reinforced this message today as he called the trend encouraging.”

So far, public health has identified 538 cases related to holiday gatherings, and those cases have 2,879 contacts identified.

Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer, Lanette Siragusa, said officials are cautiously optimistic numbers have stabilized and will continue to go down.” 

Hospitals are still strained, but the situation is improving. An outbreak that had shut down the Morris ER on Dec 8 is resolved and the ER reopened yesterday.

As we reported to you last week, elective surgeries are gradually resuming, with an additional 60 planned this week at HSC, Concordia, Misericordia and Pan Am. Southern Health is planning to increase slates next week, starting at Boundary Trails, Portage la Prairie and Carmen hospitals.

What is going on elsewhere?

Ontario issued a stay-at-home order, effective Thursday as models show the province is at a dangerous point” with COVID.

Ontario is facing a similar situation to the one Manitoba faced late last year. The test positivity rate is increasing – at 7.8% today – and hospital capacity is becoming more dire.

Premier Doug Ford said the province is in crisis” and the health system is on the brink of collapse.” New restrictions further limit group sizes and operating hours for non-essential businesses.

Quebec has similar restrictions in place as it sees a surge in hospital admissions and community spread as well.

Vaccine Update

The province expanded eligibility for the vaccine today to include health care workers of any age in emergency departments and urgent care centres.

Eligibility for other physicians groups remains unchanged, including those working directly with patients in:

  • Critical care units (any age)
  • Acute care facilities (hospitals) born on or before December 311975
  • Long-term care facilities born on or before December 311975
  • COVID-19 immunization clinics or testing sites (any age)
  • Designated COVID-19 hospital wards (any age)
  • Labs handling COVID-19 specimens (any age)
  • Provincial or federal correctional facilities (any age)

Over the last few days, eligibility was also expanded to include paramedics and other emergency medical response providers born in 1975 or earlier, as well as home care workers born in 1965 or earlier.

Today, officials reported the wait time to book an immunization appointment was down to 10 – 15 minutes, but there was still no report on when an online alternative would be available. Appointments are now open for the Brandon supersite opening on Monday at the Keystone Centre.

Do you want to help immunize? Doctors Manitoba has set up a simplified process for physicians to submit an offer to help with the immunization rollout. Submit your name here and we will share with provincial authorities. Help may not be needed in the short term, but we are told a lot of assistance will be needed as the rollout ramps up over the next several weeks.

Yesterday, 94-year old Maggie Watson became the first personal care home resident to receive the vaccine. Ms. Watson is a resident of Oakview Place in Winnipeg. The Pfizer vaccine was used at Oakview where 120 individuals were immunized yesterday, while the Moderna vaccine is being used at other PCHs.

Meanwhile, the federal government has secured another 20 million vaccine doses from Pfizer, which means 80 million doses combined of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be delivered in 2021. This is enough to immunize all Canadians. Health Canada is still reviewing additional vaccines, including the Oxford-Astrazeneca candidate and another from Johnson & Johnson.

An independent vaccine tracker estimates that 70% of the 545,000 doses delivered to provinces and territories have been administered. In Manitoba, they estimate 40% of doses received in the province have been administered.

Manitoba officials explained some doses are being held to support the opening of the Brandon immunization centre on Monday, and have also said some doses are being retained as a precaution because vaccine shipments have been unpredictable. The federal government is now publishing delivery schedules by province.

Right Doctor at the Right Time

Dr. Brent Roussin has been the medical lead on Manitoba’s pandemic fight since the start, but he was only about half a year into the top public health job when COVID-19 appeared on his radar. Between his work in northern First Nations and his primary care experience in Winnipeg, he became interested in the determinants of health and pursued a calling to improve public health.

The father or two has been practicing medicine for two decades and added a Masters in Public Health and a law degree along the way. He has been a familiar and steady voice through the pandemic, taking the time to attend webinars with physicians and hear their concerns and suggestions.

Read our profile of Dr. Roussin online, or in your latest issue of Rounds.

ICYMI: Vaccine Webinar Takeaways

Last week, 400 physicians attended a special Doctors Manitoba webinar with Medical Officers of Health Dr. Joss Reimer and Dr. Tim Hilderman, provincial medical leads on the COVID vaccine.

In case you missed it, check out our top 10 takeaways from this webinar, including information about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, physician eligibility, and the doctor’s role in the immunization rollout.

Find the top 10 takeaways here.