Manitoba reports 276 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths over four days

Sun lights up the hair of a man wearing a mask as he crosses Portage Avenue in Winnipeg on Monday. Manitoba averaged 70 new cases of COVID-19 a day since last Thursday. KEVIN KING / Winnipeg Sun

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Since Thursday, Manitoba has found 276 new COVID-19 cases and is reporting three deaths in that period.

The deaths were a woman in her 60s from Winnipeg linked to an B.1.617.2 (delta) variant of concern and two women in the 70s in the Interlake-Eastern health region. That brings the total number of deaths in people with COVID-19 to 1,202.

Meanwhile, changes were announced to self-isolation rules while the province’s chief public health officer warned that Manitoba is “very likely” in the early stages of the fourth wave of the pandemic.

“It is very likely that we are in the beginnings of a fourth wave,” said chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin at Monday’s COVID-19 and vaccination update.

The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 3.2% provincially and 1.6% in Winnipeg. As of 9:30 a.m. Monday, 276 new cases of the virus have been identified since Thursday: 105 cases on Friday; 72 cases on Saturday; 58 cases on Sunday and 41 cases Monday, bringing the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba to 59,368.

“We’re going to see variability in testing numbers as well as transmission,” said Roussin, when asked about Friday’s spike in numbers. “We may see on a number of days if there’s a number of contacts turned into cases so when you’re having relatively low numbers we can expect to see day-to-day variability. So it’s important to follow the trends and things like test positivity and of course severe outcomes such as hospitalizations and ICU admissions.”

Of Monday’s cases, there were 21 in the South (17 not fully vaccinated), 12 in Winnipeg (9), five in Prairie Mountain (4), two in the North (1) and one in the Interlake (1).

On Monday, Roussin announced changes to the self-isolation requirements. The self-isolation period for close contacts has been reduced from 14 days to 10, but still requiring self-monitoring for the additional four days.

“The incubation period — the time taken between exposure to the virus and when you develop symptoms has not changed,” said Roussin, noting that research has shown that if there is negative test within the first 10 days of isolation there’s less than a 1% chance of developing infectious COVID. “It’s still 14 days although what we’ve been seeing is that the risk of becoming a case is much greater in the early parts of that incubation period. If someone hasn’t become a case within 10 days, it’s very less likely that they will become a case after that.”

The changes, Roussin said, aligns Manitoba with other provinces as well as the United States.

“The evidence allows the shortening of the self-isolation period which allows people to get back to school, work a bit sooner,” he said. “(There’s) not a significant increase in risk.”

The province will also begin exempting individuals identified as contacts from self-isolation if they are asymptomatic and fully immunized or if they have been infected within the past six months at the time of their exposure. Previously, it had been three months. Roussin added that this could change if they start to see widespread community transmission.

As well, testing for asymptomatic close contacts will be changed to seven days from the current 10 to align with the new self-isolation guidelines. The new measures will be implemented over the next several weeks.

The province, Roussin said, is also gearing up for the respiratory virus season. Last year, Manitoba saw very few cases of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and no deaths from influenza. Public health also saw a record flu vaccine uptake of 31.5%, up from 26.3% the previous season.

There are currently 569 active cases while 57,597 individuals have recovered. Sixty-nine Manitobans remain hospitalized including 14 patients receiving intensive care. A total of 1,739 laboratory tests were completed Sunday, bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February 2020 to 951,975.

Twitter: @SunGlenDawkins

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