Manitoba’s top doctor says an announcement on the province’s plans to extend the current public health orders around COVID-19 should come early next week.
In the meantime, Dr. Brent Roussin is keeping tight-lipped on whether or not the new round of restrictions would be any less strict than those currently in place, or whether or not they will allow for groups to gather in homes over the holidays.
The province imposed orders banning large public gatherings, closing non-essential businesses and forbidding in-home gatherings with a few exceptions Nov. 12.
While the public health orders are scheduled to expire next Friday, Roussin has said some restrictions will remain in place because daily cases and hospitalization rates are still too high.
On Friday the province released modelling numbers that show Manitoba had been on track to hit 100 per cent intensive care capacity — with COVID-19 patients alone — by Nov. 23. That would have left no room for any other patients in need of a critical care bed, health officials noted.
Friday’s modelling numbers show for every 48 cases announced in Manitoba, three people end up hospitalized and one dies, meaning for every 480 cases reported, there are 10 deaths.
As of Friday, there were 361 people in hospital — up from 357 Thursday — with 55 people in intensive care due to the coronavirus, up three from the day before.
The province has been tracking four separate scenarios — ranging from “extreme,” where few restrictions are in place and compliance levels are low, to “controlled,” where strong restrictions are in place and the orders are followed — when it comes to restrictions and public compliance, health officials said Friday.
Under the worst case outlined in the modelling, health officials said Manitoba could have been seeing as many as 1,055 new cases a day by Sunday had the restrictions not been put into place.
Instead, daily case numbers have usually ranged between 300 and 500 since Nov. 12, with a handful of days seeing case counts below 300.
“Over the past few days, while we have seen COVID-19 case numbers drop down a bit within the projected range of case numbers, we are not out of the woods yet and must remain vigilant to prevent another spike,” Roussin said in a release.
The current modelling shows hospital admissions are in the upper end of the second — or “severe” — scenario, meaning we’re seeing numbers consistent with what would be expected if some restrictions were introduced, but compliance from the public was low.
Without improvement, that means health officials are projecting COVID-19 patients will regularly account for at least half of ICU occupancy by the end of the year.
Patients with the virus were already accounting for 48 per cent of ICU capacity as of Friday, said Manitoba’s chief nursing officer, Lanette Siragusa.
Siragusa said staff reassignments and redeployments, as well as cancellations of non-urgent procedures, have been able to free up hospital space and resources to allow the province’s health-care system to operate at 126 per cent of its normal, pre-pandemic capacity levels.
She said planning is also underway to expand ICU capacity to accommodate up to 173 patients, which would be 240 per cent normal, baseline capacity.
While Siragusa said public-health orders have meant the province narrowly avoided “catastrophic” impacts on the health-care system, she added that hospitals and front-line workers remain under pressure.
“Some Manitobans may feel they are not vulnerable to the most severe impacts of this virus. However, they need to understand our health system must care for all Manitobans in need of health services, not just those with COVID-19,” she said.
“Continued action is necessary to reduce the spread of this virus, and ensure we do not push our health system and our health-care providers beyond their capacity to treat not just COVID-19 patients but any Manitoban who needs care at this time.”
Despite the strict restrictions that have been in place for three weeks now, Roussin said the province has yet to see the “significant and sustained downward changes” to daily case numbers and hospitalization rates, and he expects the majority of the current health orders will need to stay in place
“It’s too early to say we are changing trajectory,” Roussin said.
“Manitobans themselves have the most important role in determining how successful these measures will be doing our part to reduce COVID-19 cases.”
Roussin said health officials are still working on exactly what the next public health orders will look like after the current ones expire.
Manitoba has had a surge of COVID-19 cases this fall and on Friday health officials reported 320 new cases and nine additional deaths.
Since March, the province has reported 18,069 cases of the novel coronavirus and 362 Manitobans with the virus have died.
–With files from The Canadian Press
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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