Manitoba health officials say COVID-19 is disproportionately hitting the southern health district as the province moves into a fourth wave of the pandemic.
The Southern Health region is home to roughly 15 per cent of the province’s total population, but the area — which also boasts Manitoba’s lowest vaccination rates — contributed to nearly half of the hundreds of new infections reported in recent days.
“We see what’s been occurring in our neighbours to to the west, so we knew that we were certainly at risk of seeing that (too),” Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said Monday, adding Manitoba is in the early stages of a fourth wave.
“We knew that despite a relatively high vaccine uptake province wide, we knew there was pockets of relatively low unvaccinated individuals.
“That put us at risk for a fourth wave and we’re starting to see those trends eventualize now.”
On Monday, health officials reported 366 new infections since Thursday, with 150 of them coming from the Southern Health region.
Of the 93 new cases on Monday, 46 were in the southern health region. Forty-one of those were among people who were not fully vaccinated.
As of Monday 84.7 per cent of eligible Manitobans have received one shot of vaccine and just over 80 per cent have received two doses, according to a provincial site tracking vaccination efforts.
But the site shows much lower vaccination rates in parts of southern Manitoba, including 24 per cent uptake in the RM of Stanley and 41.3 per cent in Winkler.
To make matters worse, Roussin said the area also has the lowest rates of testing in the province, meaning that too often people from the region are getting their first COVID-19 test when they are hospitalized.
“More than half of the people being admitted to ICU — their first test related to COVID is on that day of admission,” he said.
Read more: Manitoba reports 60 new COVID-19 cases
“There are people that are delaying being tested and out in the community while very ill.”
Manitoba was hit hard by a third wave that overwhelmed the health-care system. Some COVID-19 patients were transported to intensive care units outside the province for treatment.
The province had held off the fourth wave for months, largely by maintaining public health orders, including a mask mandate.
Manitoba was also the first province to roll out a proof-of-vaccination card, which is required for activities that include eating in restaurants and attending sporting events.
Roussin said health officials aren’t currently looking at putting stricter health orders in place in regions where the virus is spreading at higher rates, like southern Manitoba, but added he isn’t ruling out regional approaches if they’re needed.
Health officials also reported two new deaths Monday: a man in his 40s from the Southern Health region who died Sunday and a man in his 60s from the Winnipeg Health region, who also died Sunday.
Read more: Manitoba reports 70 COVID-19 cases, 1 death
Meanwhile, officials say 77 Manitobans are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 19 patients are in ICU as a result of the virus.
Since March 2020, 1,209 Mantiobans with COVID-19 have died and the province has reported 60,294 infections from the virus.
There are currently 646 known active COVID-19 cases across Manitoba. The five-day test positivity rate is 2.7 provincially and 1.2 per cent in Winnipeg.
— 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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