Health officials in Manitoba are reporting another four deaths linked to COVID-19 and 329 new infections.
The latest victims include a man in his 40s from the Interlake-Eastern Health region, a woman in her 70s from the Southern Health region, and two women from the Winnipeg area, one in her 70s and the other in her 80s.
Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s deputy chief provincial public health officer said, all four had been stricken by the Alpha variant, the strain that first emerged in the UK previously referred to as B.1.1.7.
Their deaths bring the province’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,071, including 84 fatalities linked to the more-contagious variants.
With another day of hundreds of new cases reported, Atwal said the province is unlikely to see a major loosening of COVID-19 restrictions when the current public health orders expire at the end of next week.
He said while no final decision has been made, the province will likely only make minor changes to rules that have banned most social gatherings and forced many businesses to close.
“I think we’re in a tough spot here still,” he said.
The latest cases, which include 203 infections in Winnipeg, bring the total number of cases reported in Manitoba since March 2020 to 52,261, after three were removed due to a data correction.
Another 38 of the new cases were found in the Southern Health region, 28 came from the Prairie Mountain Health region, and 30 each were reported in the Interlake-Eastern and Northern Health regions.
The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 11.4 per cent provincially and 13 per cent in Winnipeg. There are 4,191 active cases across the province, according to provincial health data.
The fact daily case counts are down from last month when they rose above 600 one day, is a reason for some optimism, Atwal said, but the demand for intensive care beds could still rise slightly before levelling off.
As of Friday morning 293 people in hospital as a result of novel coronavirus and 106 patients in ICUs connected to the virus, including 41 currently receiving care in other provinces in an attempt to free up ICU bed space in Manitoba.
Since Manitoba started sending critically ill COVID-19 out of province for care May 18, health officials say 11 have been sent back to Manitoba hospitals.
Meanwhile Atwal said a new outbreak has been declared at a Manitoba health facility.
Health Science Centre, WRS3 in Winnipeg has been moved to red, or critical, on the province’s pandemic response system.
A previously declared outbreak at The King’s School has ended, he added.
A provincial website tracking variants of concern (VOC) shows 221 new variant cases have been confirmed in Manitoba, bringing the total number of VOC cases reported since February to 12,004. The site says 2,560 variant cases remain active across Manitoba.
Manitoba reported 360 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths Thursday.
On Thursday health officials also reported the death of a woman in her 50s who had been transferred to Ontario on May 23. It’s the second death of a Manitoba COVID-19 patient who had been sent out of province.
While daily infection rates have dropped in the last two weeks, the number of people in intensive care could increase another 10 per cent by next week before starting to drop, Atwal said Thursday.
On the vaccination front, Manitoba expanded eligibility for second doses Friday. Anyone who received a first dose on or before April 25 can now book a second shot, up from April 20.
–With files from The Canadian Press
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