COVID-19 is showing no signs of slowing down in the province of Manitoba, as public health officials revealed 438 new cases and nine additional deaths related to the virus on Friday.
One of the deaths announced on Friday was a Winnipeg man in his 20s, who is now the youngest person to die of the illness in Manitoba.
"We have to maintain our focus that these are not just numbers," said chief provincial public health officer Brent Roussin during the recent news conference. "These are people. This was a son. A Manitoban."
Another recent fatality belonged to a man in his 80s from the Prairie Mountain Health region, with his case being linked to the ongoing outbreak at Gilbert Plains Personal Care Home.
With this latest update, the province is now tallying a dismal 207 COVID-related deaths, which is a steep increase from the 75 fatalities that were reported on Nov. 1.
Overall, Winnipeg comprised the lion’s share of the new COVID numbers on Friday, with 247 cases being relegated to that health district alone.
While PMH only sported 27 new cases during this recent health briefing, it still marks an noticeable increase from the 13 and eight new cases that emerged on Thursday and Wednesday, respectively.
Plus, earlier this week, Fairview Personal Care Home in Brandon also declared an outbreak, with the facility now contending with 18 cases alone.
Another alarming statistic Roussin revealed during Friday’s news conference was the fact that the City of Steinbach is sporting a 10-day test-positivity rate of 40 per cent. For comparison’s sake, the province-wide test-positivity rate currently sits at 13.7 per cent.
"In Steinbach alone we have three personal care homes that have declared outbreaks," Roussin said. "There have been 24 deaths in the community since the start of the pandemic."
Last weekend, Steinbach was the site of a massive anti-mask protest that attracted hundreds of participants, including RM of La Broquerie Reeve Lewis Weiss. However, Roussin said it was too early to tell whether any new cases could be directly linked to this event.
Roussin also went on to say that the province’s overall COVID numbers this past week are concerning, with the province regularly tallying over 400 new cases a day.
"Our healthcare system can’t be sustained at that level," he said. "We need to change this around and we need to change it around now."
Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa talked about how these increased numbers impact healthcare workers, revealing that the rate of hospitalization due to COVID-19 increased by 338 per cent in less than four weeks.
"We are all tired of this virus," she said. "But, most of all, we are tired of reporting the cruelest impacts of this virus. It took 248 days for Manitoba to record 100 COVID deaths and it took only 13 days for us to double that amount."
In response to this, Roussin and Premier Brian Pallister announced on Thursday that the provincial government would be instituting its strictest health orders yet: restricting social gatherings to households and banning the sale of "non-essential" retail items in stores.
Roussin admitted that the second health order will be an inconvenience during the busy Christmas shopping season, especially with Black Friday being around the corner.
"These Black Friday sales are tempting," he said. "Hopefully people can take advantage of them online or curbside pick-up, but non-essential items will not be sold in person. I encourage you to shop local and online as much as possible."
While the current situation does look grim, Roussin mentioned that Manitobans can make it through this second wave by just sticking to the fundamentals.
"This isn’t going to be forever," he said. "We can overcome this like we did in the past. We know exactly what to do. We stay home, we’ll keep our contacts low and we won’t be like this forever."
Manitoba is now contending with 7,629 active cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, bringing the total lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba to 12,482 since the pandemic began.
Because of increasing COVID-19 numbers throughout this second wave, the Manitoba government decided to move the entire province into the Pandemic Response System’s code red (critical) designation as of Nov. 12.
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson