Manitoba reported its second highest ever daily COVID-19 count Friday and health officials say another three Manitobans with the virus have died.
Friday’s 594 new infections come just a day after Manitoba reported a record-setting 603 new cases.
Health officials also say another two ICU patients with COVID-19 have been transferred to hospital in Northern Ontario to free up beds in Manitoba.
That brings the number of critically-ill patients with novel coronavirus who’ve been moved out of province this week due to over capacity to five.
“The decisions are not being made lightly,” said Manitoba’s chief nursing officer, Lanette Siragusa of which patients are being chosen for transfer.
“As we admit 10 (new ICU patients) on a daily basis, like we did yesterday, we need to be able to make sure we are stable to manage the incoming flow and those long-stay patients.
“Our critical care team is looking closely at who are stable patients who could be appropriate for this transfer, if need be.”
An official with the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has told Global News room can be made for as many as 20 Manitoba patients at hospitals throughout Northern Ontario, if needed.
Earlier this week Siragusa told 680 CJOB provincial health officials are also talking to officials in Saskatchewan about the possibility of moving patients there too.
The number of people in intensive care hit a record 131 Wednesday before dropping to 125 Thursday. Before the pandemic, Manitoba’s capacity was 72.
As of Friday morning, Siragusa said 129 people were in ICUs across Manitoba. The number doesn’t include those who have been transferred out of province.
The number of people in hospital connected with COVID-19 climbed to 296 Friday, up five from the day before.
Health officials said two of the deaths announced Friday — a woman in her 50s from the Interlake-Eastern Health region and a woman in her 90s from the Prairie Mountain Health region — are linked to the B.1.1.7 variant of concern, first identified in the United Kingdom.
The death of the third victim, a woman in her 80s from the Prairie Mountain Health region, is connected to an outbreak at the Russell Health Centre.
The Winnipeg region saw the most new cases Friday with 420 infections reported, as has been the case for weeks now.
Another 55 new infections were reported in the Southern Health region, 54 were found in the Prairie Mountain Health region, 39 came from the Interlake-Eastern Health region, and 26 were reported from the Northern Health region.
Since March 2020, 1,022 Manitobans with COVID-19 have died and 47,504 people have contracted the virus, according to provincial data.
The five-day test positivity rate is 14.1 per cent provincially and 16.1 per cent in Winnipeg as of Friday morning and the province says 4,855 cases remain active.
Health officials also reported 434 new confirmed cases of variants of concern Friday.
Since February Manitoba has now recorded 8,070 variant cases, and 45 deaths have been linked to the more-contagious strains.
According to a provincial online database keeping track of variants of concern, the vast majority of the province’s VOC cases — 3,800 — are the B.1.1.7 strain, 29 are the B.1.351 variant first found in South Africa, 72 are the P.1 variant, first identified in Brazil, and are the B.1.617 variant first detected in India.
The province says 4,151 VOC cases remain as of yet unspecified on the province’s website. There are currently 2.683 active variant cases in Manitoba.
The latest cases and deaths come after weeks of rising daily case numbers and dire warnings from health officials that Manitoba’s health-care system would not be able to handle a surge in hospital admissions related to the virus.
Manitoba has also had the highest per capita rate of new COVID-19 infections in the country in recent days.
In response to the rising case counts and swelling ICUs, the Progressive Conservative government tightened restrictions Thursday for the fourth time in the past month by banning virtually all social gatherings, even outdoors.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday to discuss the province’s COVID-19 situation.
Manitoba needs up to 50 critical care nurses, 20 respiratory therapists and up to 50 contact tracers from Statistics Canada, Pallister said after the meeting.
“This is going to be, we hope, a temporary thing and a short-term thing, but the sooner we get a little bit of backup help here, the better,” Pallister said.
Pallister said officials from the two levels of government have been discussing the idea of bringing in staff from other provinces for about a week. He said the prime minister was supportive of the idea.
Meanwhile, officials say all Indigenous people in Manitoba can start booking an appointment for a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on May 24.
–With files from The Canadian Press