A Winnipeg epidemiologist says a study of 5,000 samples taken during a second wave of COVID-19 in Houston, Texas, could provide Manitoba with valuable information.
“In the second wave, when there was a very large increase in cases, there was a new strain, and that strain was not more deadly,” said Cynthia Carr of EPI Research.
According to the research, the same people with the same underlying conditions still face the greatest risks of hospitalization or death, but the new strain did not seem to be more infectious, Carr said.
Carr told 680 CJOB she’s concerned about Manitoba’s increasing numbers, which raise some serious questions.
“Are the socially distancing rules not being adhered to enough? Or is something about the virus changing that is allowing it to become more transmissible?
“Of course, research keeps looking into that because viruses do mutate all the time.”
Manitoba health officials had their hands full over the Thanksgiving weekend, with 97 new cases identified Saturday, 54 on Sunday, and 77 on holiday Monday.
Saturday and Monday each saw two new COVID-19-related deaths, including a man in his 40s — the province’s youngest coronavirus victim to date — as well as the news that a Winnipeg police officer and staff at three Manitoba jails have become infected.
Carr said the federal government’s COVID Alert app, which recently became available to Manitobans, is crucial among the increased cases the province is seeing.
“The more people participate in downloading this app on your phone, the quicker you would be alerted if you might have been identified as a close contact,” she said.
To deal with increased demand for COVID-19 tests, Manitoba opened a new drive-thru testing site on Nairn Avenue Tuesday. The site has capacity for 200 daily tests, increasing to 400 tests a day as of Thursday.
Premier Brian Pallister responded on Thursday to concerns about long waiting lines that have left Manitobans frustrated or simply turned away. Pallister said he intends to open more testing sites and train more staff.
“I have never found it difficult to admit my own failures when it comes to sports, business or political life and I am perfectly willing to take charge of my own improvement,” Pallister said.
“I have to now tell you that I believe Manitobans deserve to get an improved system with better testing, shorter lineups (and) faster response times.”
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