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Can’t know if omicron wave has peaked in Manitoba due to incomplete testing data, says chief public health officer

The provincial government declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Gillam Hospital Jan. 19.
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It's difficult to say if the current wave of COVID-19 has peaked in Manitoba because rapid test results are mostly unknown, says chief public health officer.

Manitoba’s chief public health officer said Jan. 19 that there isn’t enough evidence available to know whether the omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has peaked in Manitoba.

Confirmed cases and test positivity rates don’t mean the same thing now that they did when all Manitobans with symptoms were being encouraged to be tested, since results of self-administered rapid tests aren’t being captured.

“That’s not something we can rely on,” Dr. Brent Roussin said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

The number of new confirmed cases in Manitoba on Wednesday was 919 and the five-day test positivity rate was 33.1 per cent, but COVID-19 linked hospitalizations were up to 631, including 50 people in intensive care, and 15 more deaths were announced for Tuesday and Wednesday, making the total number of Manitobans who have died with COVID since the pandemic began 1,478.

Northern Manitoba had 79 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 on Jan. 19 and 39 northern residents with the virus were in hospital, three of them in intensive care. There are eight northern health districts with more than 100 confirmed active cases of COVID, including Thompson/Mystery Lake, with 167.

An COVID-19 outbreak at Gillam Hospital was declared by the province on Wednesday. Other northern outbreaks include Northern Spirit Manor personal care home in Thompson and the Nisichawayasihk Personal Care Home, as well as the obstetrics and neonatal unit at Thompson General Hospital.

The number of vaccinated Manitobans being infected by omicron continues to rise. 82 per cent of current cases affect people who have received two or three doses of COVID-19 vaccine, while 72 per cent of those in hospital have received two or three vaccines doses, compared to 24 per cent of patients who have not received any. 43 per cent of patients in intensive care are unvaccinated, but 40 per cent have had two doses of vaccine and 13 per cent have had three. 40 per cent of deaths linked to the virus in the past six weeks have been people with two doses of vaccine compared to 31 per cent who were unvaccinated and 21 per cent who had three doses.

About 78 per cent of eligible Manitobans five and older have had two or three doses of COVID-19 vaccine compared to only 15 per cent who have had no doses. 53.3 per cent of children aged five to 11 have had one dose of vaccine and those who got it right after it was approved for children in Canada are now becoming eligible for their second doses.

Despite the fact that vaccines are not providing as good of protection against omicron as they did against other strains of COVID-19, Roussin said being vaccinated is still the best defence against the virus and particularly against severe outcomes resulting from infection. He also said in-person schooling remains the default option despite the severity of the current pandemic wave.

“I think we’re going to do whatever we can to have the kids remain in school as long as we can,” he said.