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‘We’re in the beginning of a third wave’: Vaccine task force lead says next actions are critical

Alberta Health Services hand sanitizer during COVID-19 pandemic. March 2021. File

Public health officials announced 179 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba today and 37 new screened or sequenced cases of the variants of concern (VOC) Friday.

The new VOC cases include 33 of the B.1.1.7 variant with 28 in Winnipeg, one from the Interlake-Eastern health region, three from the Prairie Mountain health region and one from the Southern Health-Santé Sud health region. Four VOC cases are still uncategorized, with three in Winnipeg and one in the Interlake-Eastern health region.

Today’s new cases include:

  • two cases in the Interlake-Eastern health region
  • 84 cases in the Northern health region
  • nine cases in the Prairie Mountain health region
  • seven cases in the Southern Health-Santé Sud health region
  • 77 cases in the Winnipeg health region

There are three new deaths today including:

  • a male in his 20s from the Northern health region
  • a male in his 60s from the Winnipeg health region
  • a female in her 70s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at Golden Links Lodge

The number of deaths in the province now sits at 949.

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Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate is 5.5 per cent provincially, and 5.1 per cent in Winnipeg.

Read more: Winnipeg to open 2nd vaccine supersite May 7

As of Friday morning, 56 people are in hospital with active COVID-19 cases, as well as 80 who are no longer infectious, but still require care — totalling 136 hospitalizations.

Intensive care unit (ICU) numbers are also nearing where they were during the peak of Manitoba’s second wave, according to a Shared Health spokesperson.

There are 14 people in ICU with active COVID-19 cases, and 21 patients who are no longer infectious, but still require care — totaling 35 COVID-19 ICU patients.

However, the spokesperson tells Global News the total number of patients in Manitoba ICUs remains well above the pre-COVID baseline capacity of 72 patients.

As of midnight, there were 104 patients in ICUs across the province.

At the peak of Manitoba’s second wave of the virus, there were 129 people in ICU.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead on the province’s vaccine task force, said Friday it looks like Manitoba is at the beginning of a third wave due to the increase in VOC cases.

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Read more: Calls to prioritize vaccines for essential workers in Manitoba amid rising COVID-19 variant cases

Reimer reiterated the fundamentals, saying now is a critical time in halting the spread of the virus and its variants.

“We’ve seen that variants can have more serious effects on younger people,” Reimer said. “We need to take these steps now.”

Reimer said the entire public health team is analyzing Manitoba’s current situation and looking at what happened in other provinces already experiencing third waves.

“It’s starting to become clear to us in public health that these increases over the last couple days are the initial signal that this could be starting in Manitoba,” Reimer said.

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The task force lead said the best way to prevent the third wave from being larger than it needs to be, is having as many people immune as possible, with even one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Even for those folks who have to wait for their second dose, they will be better protected of all the people around them have had their first dose,” Reimer said.

 

 

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