8 more deaths of Manitobans with COVID-19, 111 more hospitalizations reported in 1st weekly update

Manitoba reported eight more deaths of people with COVID-19 on Thursday and 111 more people with the illness admitted to hospital, in the first of its now weekly coronavirus updates.

No details about the people who died — such as their age or sex — were provided in the report, which reflects data from the week of March 20 to 26. 

The province has stopped updating the various online dashboards it had used to keep the public informed about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and testing numbers throughout the pandemic. That shift was announced last week.

Over the past few weeks, the number of deaths reported varied, from five in the last weekly update to 24 around the beginning of March.

Manitoba also changed its definition of what’s considered a COVID-19 death earlier this month.

The province is still reporting data on COVID-19 hospitalizations, but it also looks a little different now.

Instead of painting a complete picture of how many COVID-19 patients are currently in hospital, the data now presents a snapshot of how many people were admitted during a given week.

The latest weekly update included the 111 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 16 being ICU admissions, over the March 20 to 26 period.

Despite the change in how much data is made public, the province is still tracking total hospital and intensive care numbers linked to the illness, Health Minister Audrey Gordon said Wednesday.

“Public health monitors a variety of different viruses…. It’s very extensive, and as the conditions vary, [as] they fluctuate and trend up and down, they decide on the frequency of the release of the information,” Gordon said at a news conference.

“I can have conversations with them about the frequency and they decide as a public health agency how often they will release that information. They’ve now decided it will be weekly because the numbers are trending down. And I support that decision.”

Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon says the province is still tracking total hospital and intensive care numbers linked to COVID-19, even though it’s not making them public anymore. (Thomas Asselin/Radio-Canada)

The latest update shows another 979 cases of the illness confirmed during the week the report covers. That represents a bit of a drop from the previous few weeks, when weekly case counts were above 1,000.

The update also shows a slight drop from the previous week in the average number of lab tests done each day (982, down from 1,023) and the weekly test positivity rate (13.9 per cent, down from 14.5).

But those numbers don’t include people who do rapid antigen tests at home, as Manitoba continues to severely restrict access to PCR tests.

The update also shows a COVID-19 outbreak declared at the Boyne Lodge care home in Carman, Man., during the week the report covers.

Provincial testing sites to close

Thursday’s update comes as Manitoba announced several changes in how PCR testing in the province will work moving forward.

Starting Friday, public health will no longer notify people about their positive PCR test results, a memo from Shared Health sent Wednesday said. That task will be handed to primary care providers who order the tests — which are more sensitive than rapid tests — for their patients, the memo said.

The update from the organization, which oversees health care delivery in Manitoba, also said all provincial testing sites will close on April 15.

That shift comes as testing volumes at the sites drop to about 200 swabs a day across the province, the memo said.

Testing sites at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Dakota Medical Centre and the Minor Illness and Injury Clinic’s drive-thru site in Winnipeg will stay open for a period of time after the other sites close.

Shared Health said it’s aiming to have more information on the change for health-care providers by next week.

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