Pandemic indicators in Manitoba show signs of increasing transmission, but long-term modelling continues to show hospital admissions on a plateau, the province’s chief public health officer said Thursday.
Dr. Brent Roussin held a news conference Thursday about the latest COVID-19 trends, the first time since March 16 that Roussin addressed reporters.
Wastewater signals are trending upward, test positivity rates are rising and hospitalizations are increasing, mostly among those 80 and older, he said.
“We’ve seen those increases in cases, transmission, wastewater, we’ve heard of the increases in hospitalizations, but our modelling continues to show a relative plateau in admissions,” Roussin said.
The current increase is being driven by the Omicron BA.2 subvariant, which health officials believe currently accounts for about 60 per cent of cases in Manitoba.
Data from the provincial government has shown Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant appears to be the dominant coronavirus strain in Manitoba.
Approximately 200 positive COVID-19 tests are being sequenced by the province each week, which is about 10 to 15 per cent of all positive test results, a provincial spokesperson said in an email to CBC News on Wednesday.
Manitoba posted its last daily COVID-19 data update on March 25. A weekly epidemiology report is now being released by the province every Thursday.
During the week ending April 2, 141 people were admitted to hospital with the coronavirus, an increase from 111 admitted the previous week.
The province’s test-positivity rate rose from 13.9 per cent to 18.6 per cent, and the province confirmed 1,359 cases, an increase of 380, or 39 per cent, over the 979 cases reported the week before.
The move to weekly reporting has been criticized by members of the provincial opposition and online by people in the health profession, but Premier Heather Stefanson said the weekly updates are enough to inform Manitobans about COVID trends.
Roussin defended the reporting change on Thursday.
“We’re not going to deal with this virus the same way we have for the last two years forever, and at some point we have to transition away from that intense data reporting to less frequently updating.”
The province is in a transitional stage, he said, but he would not say that the virus has reached an endemic stage in Manitoba.
“I think we’re still managing this in ways that aren’t necessarily just an endemic virus. We are constantly increasing our eligibility for vaccinations, we still have messaging, strong messaging for people,” he said.
The province on Wednesday also widened eligibility for fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Everyone age 70 and older, Indigenous people age 50 and up and all residents of personal care homes and assisted living facilities can get the shot six months after their last booster.
The move is based on recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which advised provincial governments on Tuesday to prepare to offer second booster doses.
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