Northern Manitoba continued to lead all health regions in the province in the number of new COVID-19 cases on Jan. 15, accounting for 84 of 191 new cases.
Five new deaths were reported in the province on Friday, including a male in his 70s from the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA). He was a resident of the health district that includes Lynn Lake, according to information on the province’s COVID-19 website. There have now been 760 deaths in Manitoba since the pandemic was declared in the province last spring and 27 northern residents have died.
The provincial website says there are 1,345 active cases of COVID-19 in the NRHA, though provincial public health officials have said repeatedly that the number of active cases is actually probably lower than the numbers provided online.
Most of the health districts in the north reported new cases on Friday, including 11 in the Thompson/Mystery Lake district and eight in the health district that includes Lynn Lake.
“It’s definitely a concern,” said chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin when asked about the trajectory of new cases in the north. “We’ve seen high test positivity rates. We’re seeing cases in some First Nations communities and other remote communities so we know that if the virus is in remote communities there is much more risk for transmission. There’s a lot of work being done by the communities, by our rapid response teams. There’s a lot of work to ensure alternate accommodations are available. It’s certainly a concern from a public health view and we know that the restrictions are still required in those areas.”
Roussin did not say whether or not the current trend in northern cases would mean that current restrictions would stay in place for the region even if they begin to be eased in other parts of the province.
“We haven’t made any final decisions yet on the upcoming review of the orders,” Roussin said. “We need to take that approach that’s going to protect Manitobans. It’s definitely on the table.”
When asked about concerns that the Thompson vaccination supersite will be located several kilometres out of town by the airport with no public transit access, Premier Brian Pallister said the rationale for putting it there was “very logical and eminently defensible.”
“They’re getting an access centre, one of three communities in the province that will get a supersite, which is pretty good,” said the premier. “There’s a lot of other communities that would be really happy to have one in their area.”
He and Pallister also said questions about the site's location would be better directed at the vaccination task force.
“Remember the planning is very difficult due to the nature of these vaccines,” said Roussin. “They’re very hard to store and so it’s not a simple task to plan these sites.”
There are 284 Manitobans in hospital due to COVID-19, 166 of whom are past their infectious period. Thirty-five of those hospitalized are in intensive care units, including 19 who are no longer considered infectious. There are 24 northern residents in hospital due to the virus including two who are no longer infectious and three in intensive care.
Pallister said the government is seeking Manitobans’ input on gradual lifting of restrictions through a survey at https://engagemb.ca/restartmb-pandemic-response-system.