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Situation Update

Since our update yesterday, 111 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified. This brings the total case count in Manitoba to 27,740.

The five-day test positivity rate is 9.9%, down from 10.6%. It is 7.4% in Winnipeg.

There are currently 3,088 active COVID-19 cases, down from 3,108. This includes 279 COVID patients in hospital today, down from 289, with 37 patients in ICU.

Eleven more deaths related to COVID-19 were announced today. A total of 783 Manitobans have died due to COVID-19

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

Restrictions Update

Public health released their recommendations today on easing public health restrictions. The current code red restrictions are set to expire this Friday night.

Dr. Brent Roussin explained that our numbers are heading in a good direction,” but stressed a gradual and cautious approach to reducing restrictions is needed to avoid a spike in cases that would require a reinstatement of restrictions.

The public health recommendations focus on modest changes in three areas: household limits, retail operations, and non-regulated health providers and hair stylists. This is consistent with feedback we received from physicians and submitted to public health, a summary of which is included below.

The proposed changes to public health orders would allow:

  • Household gatherings: two visitors (family or friends) indoors and up to five visitors outdoors on private property.
  • Retail operations: maintain the current occupancy limits to reduce traffic, but allow all retailers to open and sell all goods (eliminate the essential items list)
  • Health and hair services: non-regulated health providers, barbers and hair stylists to reopen with limits and a requirement to collect contact info for potential tracing.
  • Funerals: up to 10 attendees in addition to the officiant
    These changes would not apply to the Northern Health Region, where there has been a surge in cases recently.

Further feedback is being sought from Manitobans before the recommendations are finalized into new public health orders. Dr. Roussin reassured Manitobans that the recommendations on easing restrictions are guided by science, and the survey responses help to understand public views, concerns and ultimately improve the province’s ability to support public compliance. Feedback can be submitted to the province online.

The new public health orders will be announced later this week and will take effect on Saturday. Dr. Roussin explained the orders will likely be in place for three weeks, allowing time to review the impact and determine what the next step might be in a gradual reopening.

Physician Views on Easing Restrictions
On Friday, we asked you to share your views over the weekend on easing restrictions, using an abbreviated version of the lengthy provincial survey. We had very strong engagement from physicians, with well over 500 responses!

We submitted your views yesterday to provincial officials, and we see the changes proposed today by public health largely consistent with physicians’ views.

Overall it seems that physicians, like Manitobans more broadly, support more cautious and gradual options, though doctors tend to favour cautious approaches more than the general population:

  • 90% of physicians agree it is important the health care system is stable before restoring services. Most Manitobans concurred, with 80% agreeing.
  • 91% of physicians agree the province should reopen gradually, preventing a yo-yo return to restrictions in future; 85% of Manitobans agreed.
  • When it comes to using a regional approach to restrictions, 73% of physicians support this compared to 85% of Manitobans.

Manitobans and physicians had similar priorities when it came to other restrictions, with stronger support for non-essential shopping, seeing non-regulated health professionals, and visiting a barbershop or hair salon.

Other options, such as resuming indoor faith-based services, did not receive strong support from Manitobans or from physicians. Public health recommendations do not propose any changes to indoor gatherings at places of worship, which Dr. Roussin stressed is not a reflection of the importance of these events” but rather the nature of the virus. He noted that prolonged indoor contact is how this virus spreads.”

You can see the full results of the physician feedback we received for more information.

Further details on the public health recommendations and a summary of the public survey feedback are included in a provincial news release. Over 67,000 Manitobans responded to the provincial survey.

Vaccine Update

Manitoba received word today that shipments of the Pfizer vaccine will be even lower than they thought during the manufacturer’s production slow down. Canada will not receive any doses from Pfizer next week.

The province still reopened the appointment phone line today and will continue to book appointments as it reassesses its inventory. No changes to eligibility criteria were made today. Existing criteria can be found here.

Yesterday, we released five recommendations on how physicians can help improve the immunization rollout based on feedback from over 500 doctors who completed our vaccine survey (see survey report here). Our advice includes working with physicians to address vaccine hesitancy, publishing the full prioritized eligibility list, and enlisting physicians to be immunizers, both in provincial super sites” and also in doctors’ officer.

Our recommendations received wide media coverage, including on CTV News, the Brandon Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg Sun, and CBC.

But more importantly, your advice is having an impact.

It appears that there will be action responsive to all recommendations, though many details still require further work and collaboration. Dr. Joss Reimer, the Medical Lead on the provincial vaccine implementation task force, said we’re going to take the information that they provided and take that back to the task force.” Work is already underway on publishing a prioritization list for vaccine eligibility and planning to offer the vaccine in doctors’ offices. Provincial officials are also open to working with physicians to identify their patients who should be immunized first and developing tools and resources to support physicians.

Physician Immunizers in Super Sites
Doctors Manitoba has confirmed physicians can apply to work in provincial immunization super site, which is also responsive to advice we heard from physicians.

Based on our feedback, Shared Health has introduced a streamlined application process for physicians:

  • For physicians with an existing RHA appointment: Simply email physicianinfo@​sharedhealthmb.​ca with your name, preferred contact information and primary RHA and indicate you want to help with the immunization rollout.
  • For physicians without an existing RHA appointment: Complete this form and include your CMPA card and a void cheque for payments.
  • For non-registered physicians (e.g. retired): If you are not interested in renewing your license, you can be hired as an employee but must go through the lengthier application process like other health professions.

We were informed that remuneration for physician immunizers will be paid at the sessional rate (e.g. $98.60/hour for GPs), with rural and northern premiums applied based on where the immunization work is located.

Do You Work in Rural or Northern Manitoba?

If you work primarily in the Interlake-Eastern, Prairie Mountain or Northern health regions, we want to hear from you!

As part of our Physician Health and Wellness Community of Practice pilot project, we have distributed a survey that will ultimately help us to enhance physician health and wellness. We need your input. Let us know about strengths and needs in your region.

Complete the survey online by Friday.