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14 more COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba as hospitalizations hit new high

As Manitoba’s daily COVID-19 case counts begin to stabilize, the province’s chief public health officer warned those numbers are still too high for its health-care system to sustain, as he announced a record 351 people in hospital with the illness.

“We can’t rest at these numbers, even though we’ve seen some minor improvements,” Dr. Brent Roussin said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We still have too much strain on our ICUs and hospitals and too much strain on our health-care professionals.”

There are now 51 people with COVID-19 in intensive care in Manitoba, making up nearly half of the province’s total 106 critical-care patients, Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said at the news conference.

Of the 78 people in Manitoba on ventilators, 44 have the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, she said. As of Wednesday morning, Manitoba’s critical-care program was working at 147 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity.

Fourteen more people with COVID-19 have died in Manitoba, Roussin announced Wednesday, while another 277 have contracted the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

It has now been three weeks since all of Manitoba moved to the critical red level of the province’s pandemic response system.

Code red restrictions that went into effect on Nov. 12 included new rules limiting gatherings and closing non-essential businesses. Even tighter restrictions, banning gatherings in private homes and barring sales of non-essential goods even in businesses deemed essential services, were brought in on Nov. 20.

Premier Brian Pallister said on Tuesday his “gut feeling” was that those restrictions would likely be extended past the expiry date of Dec. 11 — though he said he would defer to Roussin, who said again on Wednesday that it’s still too early to make an announcement on that.

Once Manitoba starts seeing the lower daily case counts those restrictions are meant to help achieve, the province will need to figure when it will be safe to start resuming non-urgent medical procedures, after hundreds were postponed to free up hospital capacity, Roussin said.

“We don’t just want our health-care system to sustain the amount of COVID cases that are coming towards it. We want to have our health-care system functioning for non-COVID issues,” he said.

“We need to get back to surgeries, we need to get back to diagnostic imaging, and the only way to do that is get these numbers down.”

WATCH | ‘Time will tell’ what transmission level is tolerable, Manitoba’s top doctor says:

Whether there’s enough hospital capacity to safely reintroduce non-urgent procedures is one of the most important factors to take into account in determining what level of COVID-19 spread could be considered acceptable, says Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer. 0:42

Outbreaks were declared at three more sites in Manitoba on Wednesday: the Morris General Hospital, the Rosewood Lodge Personal Care Home in Stonewall and Carpathia Children’s Centre in Winnipeg, Roussin said.

Meanwhile, outbreaks previously declared at St. Paul’s Personal Care Home in Dauphin and the Kekinan Centre in Winnipeg are now over, he said.

Deaths linked to outbreaks

Manitoba’s most recent COVID-19 deaths include a woman in her 40s from the Winnipeg health region and seven others linked to outbreaks across the province.

Five of those are connected to sites in Winnipeg: two women in their 80s at the St. Norbert Personal Care Home, a woman in her 80s at the Golden Links Lodge, a woman in her 90s at the Bethania Mennonite Personal Care Home and a woman in her 90s at the Charleswood Care Centre.

The other two — women in their 80s and 90s — are linked to Rest Haven Nursing Home in Steinbach.

The remaining deaths announced Wednesday are two men in their 60s, two men in their 70s and two women in their 80s, split evenly between the Southern and Winnipeg health regions.

The latest fatalities bring Manitoba’s total deaths linked to COVID-19 to 342.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is now 13.2 per cent. In Winnipeg, the rate is 14.5 per cent, Roussin said.

The latest cases bring the total number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Manitoba to 17,384. Of those, 8,072 have recovered and 8,970 are considered still active — though Roussin has previously said that number is inflated due to a data entry backlog.

Nearly three-quarters of the cases announced Wednesday (200) are in the Winnipeg health region. There are 28 new cases in the Northern Health region, 24 in the Southern Health region, 15 in the Interlake-Eastern health region and 10 in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

Sites where there were possible COVID-19 exposures are listed by region on the province’s website.

There were 2,182 more COVID-19 tests completed in Manitoba on Tuesday, bringing the total done in the province since early February to 360,039.

WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Dec. 2, 2020:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Wednesday, December 2, 2020. 52:50

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