Manitoba announced new changes to public health orders Nov. 12 in an effort to reduce transmission in the southern health region and among those 19 and under, the age cohort which is seeing the number of new cases climb most steeply.
The changes, announced by chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin and Health Minister Audrey Gordon, will limit in-person attendance at religious gatherings in the southern health region to a maximum of 25 people if proof of vaccination isn't required. If the facility has the ability to separate attendees into cohorts, the maximum could increase to 250 people or 25 per cent of the building’s capacity.
“They [the different cohorts] must no mingle in any way,” said Roussin. “They must have masks on at all times.”
For faith-based gatherings where proof of vaccination is required, the limits don’t apply. Some municipalities in the southern health region are excluded from this restriction because they are considered part of the Winnipeg region for some purposes.
This change takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 13
Youth aged 12 to 17 must have proof of at least one dose of vaccine or a negative rapid test from within 72 hours to participate in indoor recreation and sports starting Dec. 5. Tests must be obtained through participating pharmacies, Roussin said, not at provincial testing sites, which are intended for symptomatic people only. This restriction applies province-wide.
The chief public heath officer said the measures aimed at religious gatherings in the southern health region are based on where transmission is highest and vaccination rates are the lowest.
“We’re just following the epidemiology.”
Modelling based on current case numbers projects that Manitoba could be seeing 200 new cases of COVID-19 per day by early December in a mid-range scenario and three daily intensive care admissions, a number which is not sustainable, said Roussin.
Shared Health COVID-19 operations chief Monica Warren said the need to increase total ICU capacity to about 110 beds will result in some surgical procedures being cancelled beginning Nov. 19. The past week has seen the number of people in intensive care with COVID increase by 25 per cent and the number of total COVID-related hospitalizations go up more than 20 per cent.
“Most of these patients are unvaccinated,” she said. “We do expect COVID admissions to only continue to rise.”
Roussin said the province can’t do much more in terms of restrictions before it begins to affect the activities of fully vaccinated Manitobans while the health minister said more changes could be coming based on pandemic data.
“We may be back here as early as next week,” Gordon said. “Changes could be imminent at any time depending on what the numbers reveal.”
Manitoba reported 193 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, 96 of which affected unvaccinated people. The five-day test positivity rate was 6.1 per cent and there was one additional death since Wednesday, taking the total number of Manitobans who have died of the virus since the pandemic began to 1,269.
There are 145 people in hospital as a result of the coronavirus, including 30 in intensive care.
The north saw 15 new cases of the virus Nov. 12 and there are 11 northern residents in hospital, one of them in intensive care. The number of active cases in the region has dropped below 300, with the Norway House and Pukatawagan/Mathias Colomb health districts together accounting for more than 200.
55 per cent of Manitobans with active COVID-19 cases are unvaccinated, as are 54 per cent of the 110 patients in hospital with active infections. 91 per cent of the 23 patients in intensive care with active infections are unvaccinated.