Though Manitoba recorded its fewest number of daily cases in two months, the province isn’t out of the woods yet.
Just 124 new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Manitoba on Monday, the lowest daily total since April 19, when 109 cases were announced.
Speaking at his regularly scheduled Monday afternoon media briefing, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said despite the average number of cases declining, the province’s health-care system is still under a lot of strain.
"Despite those decreases in numbers, we’re still seeing our hospitalization and ICU numbers remain high," Roussin said. "We’re likely to see that continue for a couple weeks to come because that’s a lagging indicator. In the past several days, we’ve seen those overall numbers of people in ICUs seem to have stabilized, but it’s still at that extremely high number.
"Again our data is showing the vast majority of people being admitted to ICUs are unvaccinated. Not trying to cast any blame on people — there are lots of reasons someone might not have gotten vaccinated as of yet — the point being showing that benefit to vaccine, that we’re not seeing any Manitobans vaccinated and protected being admitted to ICUs."
Monday’s COVID-19 bulletin stated that the number of people in Manitoba’s ICUs because of COVID-19 is 60. A further 26 Manitobans are currently being treated in ICUs in Alberta and Ontario. Another 26 Manitobans have been returned to the province after their condition improved.
The doctor also said that the delta variant of the virus poses a risk to Manitoba, being more severe and more transmissible than other variants.
Seventy-eight cases of the delta variant have been detected in Manitoba so far, but those numbers haven’t been updated since Saturday.
The danger of the delta variant is even more reason why Manitobans should continue to be vigilant against the virus and get protected from it via vaccination, Roussin said.
"This is exactly why our reopening plans are so cautious," Roussin said. "Because we know if Manitobans continue to get vaccinated as soon as possible, if they continue to follow the fundamentals and the public health orders, we’re going to be in a position to continue our reopening plans. If we slow our progress with vaccine, if we see a spike in numbers again, it’s going to put our reopening plans in jeopardy."
Asked how Manitoba’s experiences with the second and third waves of the pandemic might change its approach to a spike in delta variant cases or a fourth wave, Roussin said there wouldn’t be too many changes and that the vaccines have been the biggest factor in what changes public health have made so far.
"If we start seeing numbers rise again, we need to focus on those who have not yet been vaccinated, so we’re going to have to do that more targeted approach and try to reach those that have for whatever reason been more difficult to get shots in arms," he said.
He said it was still too early to tell if recent vaccination incentives the province has announced, like vaccination cards and a vaccination lottery, have made an impact on vaccination rates. However, Roussin did say that Manitoba should be on track to hit the vaccination milestones it set in order to remove some of the current restrictions in place on Canada Day.
Last week, Roussin and Premier Brian Pallister said that the first phase of Manitoba’s reopening plan would be implemented if the province reached 70 per cent of people aged 12 and older receiving their first COVID-19 vaccine dose and 25 per cent receiving their second dose by Canada Day.
On Monday, Manitoba’s online COVID-19 dashboard listed the 12-and-older vaccination rate as being at 69.3 per cent.
As of Wednesday, Ontario will be eliminating its border restrictions with Manitoba. Despite the removal of that barrier, Roussin said the buffer zone where Manitobans could travel as far east as Thunder Bay and back without having to self-isolate has not been reinstated.
The only way to prevent the 14-day quarantine upon return from domestic travel is to apply for a vaccination card, which Manitobans are eligible to do two weeks after they receive their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
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