New case numbers drop over holidays in Manitoba, health officer urges caution

Don’t get too excited yet, but Manitoba’s COVID-19 numbers appear to be dropping.

The province has had case numbers consistently in the 100s over the holiday and new year season, including 118 new cases reported Jan. 4.

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While the cases have showed a noticeable decline, so has the number of tests conducted province-wide. Manitoba completed 1,275 tests Jan. 3, good for a test positivity rate of just over nine per cent - an improvement over the last three months, but still far higher than rates seen earlier in the pandemic.

“We’re starting to see our case numbers coming down, and while our restrictions are due for review, we need to ensure that this is not the time we relax our efforts against this virus,” said Manitoba chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

“Our test positivity rates are still quite high, our hospitalization and ICU numbers are still high and it’s also too early to tell what effect gathering over the holidays may have had on the numbers.”

Current Manitoba COVID-19 restrictions are set to expire at the end of this week. Roussin said it was still to early to suggest that any changes may come.

“It’s premature to right now, determine any changes to our restrictions. We’re going to continue to monitor the impact of those holiday gatherings throughout this week and we haven’t yet landed on new restrictions,” he said.

Roussin also said all Manitobans returning from international travel should be tested after arriving in Manitoba - once on arrival and again a week later.

“We’re just wanting to ensure all international travellers are testing. This testing is in addition to other requirements under the federal national quarantine act,” he said.

Five more deaths from COVID-19 were reported Jan. 4, all in the Winnipeg region. Within the north, only five new cases were reported Jan. 4, including a new case in the Flin Flon/Snow Lake/Cranberry Portage/Sherridon district. The district has two active cases as of Jan. 4, just one day after the district dropped down to one active case. It is unknown where in the district the new case is.

The brunt of the 978 remaining active cases in northern Manitoba are in three health districts, each in remote communities. Between the three districts - Shamattawa/York Factory/Tataskweyak/Split Lake, Island Lake and Bunibonibee/Oxford House/Manto Sipi/Gods River/Gods Lake - 771 people are positive as of Jan. 4, according to provincial data. The epicentre of COVID-19 in the north is still Shamattawa, where Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel who were sent to the community to assist first responders and health workers left town Jan. 2. According to a CAF spokesperson, only 33 people in the community now have active cases of COVID-19. Provincial statistics do not yet reflect that information - during the pandemic, Manitoba government statistics have shown considerable lag time in showing case data from remote communities.

According to the government data, 254 people are actively ill with COVID-19 in Island Lake - with community spread centred around Red Sucker Lake - while 192 people are ill in the Bunibonibee/Oxford House district.

In the rest of the north, cases have stayed relatively low. The Thompson/Mystery Lake district now has 44 active cases, despite there being two active outbreaks in the community - one at the Northern Spirit Manor and another at the medical, surgical and pediatric ward of Thompson General Hospital.

Five outbreaks are still considered active by provincial health authorities. Including the two in Thompson, three other facilities are under “red” pandemic restrictions - the Rod McGillivary Care Home on Opaskwayak Cree Nation, the St. Paul’s Residence in The Pas and the Northern Lights Manor in Flin Flon. At least three cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the Flin Flon manor. Twenty-one deaths have been tied to COVID-19 in northern Manitoba - 688 Manitobans in total have lost their lives.

Province-wide, 4,423 people have active COVID-19 cases and 340 people are hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 245 people who still have active cases and 95 people who have tested positive but still require care due to health complications. There are 41 people in intensive care due to COVID-19, including 35 people who still have active cases.

 

Saskatchewan

Manitoba’s western neighbour hasn’t shared the same luck. Saskatchewan’s numbers have steadily trended up, with the province reporting 286 new cases Jan. 4 and two more deaths. One of the deaths was reported in the far north east health zone, reported by the Saskatchewan government as a person in the 80+ age group. It is unknown if the person lived in the far north east 1 zone, which contains La Ronge and communities closer to the centre of the province, or in the far north east 2 zone, which contains Creighton and other communities near Flin Flon.

Out of the 286 new cases, 46 were found in the far north east zone, including eight in the far north east 2 zone. The zone containing Creighton, Denare Beach, Pelican Narrows, Sandy Bay and other area communities has 48 active COVID-19 cases according to the provincial government.

A community outbreak in Pelican Narrows issued by the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority back on Nov. 23 is still in effect, but cases in the community are at lower levels than in the past. As of Dec. 31, the community’s health centre reported six total remaining active cases, but five of those were new as of Dec. 31. More recent numbers were not available as of press time.

 

Cases by northern Manitoba district active cases recoveries deaths total cases
Bay Line 6 9 0 15
Bunibonibee/Oxford House/Manto Sipi/Gods River/Gods Lake 192 38 5 235
Churchill (covered by Winnipeg Regional Health Authority) 0 1 0 1
Cross Lake/Pimicikamak 15 108 1 124
Flin Flon/Snow Lake/Cranberry Portage/Sherridon 2 34 1 37
Gillam/Fox Lake 2 4 0 6
Grand Rapids/Misipawistik/Moose Lake/Mosakahiken/Easterville/Chemawawin 3 186 3 192
Island Lake 254 72 4 330
Lynn Lake/Marcel Colomb/Leaf Rapids/O-Pipon-Na-Piwin/Granville Lake 4 17 0 21
Nelson House/Nisichawayasihk 3 11 0 14
Norway House 32 8 0 40
Pukatawagan/Mathias Colomb 6 5 0 11
Sayisi Dene/Tadoule/Barren Lands/Brochet/Northlands/Lac Brochet 5 12 0 17
Shamattawa/York Factory/Tataskweyak/Split Lake 325 30 0 355
The Pas/Opaskwayak/Kelsey 82 330 7 419
Thompson/Mystery Lake 44 246 0 290
Unknown district 3 70 0 73
Case totals as of Jan. 4 978 1181 21 2180

 

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