Manitoba’s top doctor says the province is seeing an increase in COVID-19 transmission, but for now, there’s no plan to bring back public health orders like a mask mandate.
At a COVID-19 update Thursday, Dr. Brent Roussin said waste water testing in Winnipeg is signaling an upward trend in transmission rates. And while test positivity and hospitalizations have also increased, Roussin said overall, hospitalization rates have plateaued.
The number of people who need intensive care or who die with COVID-19 has levelled off and is expected to remain stable in the coming weeks, Roussin added.
Instead of reinstating the mask mandate that was lifted along with all other COVID-19 restrictions last month, Roussin said those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine should get their their shot as soon as they can.
“Certainly we’ve used those mask mandates in the past, we know that masks are effective,” Roussin said Thursday, when asked if the increase in cases could mean a return to mandated masks.
“We still recommend that to Manitobans — especially if you’re at a high risk — but right at this point we don’t have plans on reinstituting that, but we always will be reviewing that.”
The province’s latest weekly epidemiology update, posted Thursday, shows six Manitobans with COVID-19 died the week of March 27 to April 2.
There were also 141 new hospitalizations reported in the week covered by the update, including 11 patients admitted to ICU.
He said the majority of Manitoba’s latest hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 are people over the age of 80.
On Wednesday the province announced it is following a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization by expanding eligibility requirements for people to get a second booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Those eligible include residents of personal care homes and in congregate settings, such as supportive housing and assisted living facilities.
As well, people ages 70 and older and First Nations, Inuit and Métis people 50 and older are eligible.
“Certainly our message is very clear that if you’re eligible for a vaccine, get that as soon as possible,” Roussin said.
Manitoba has reduced the frequency and detail of COVID-19 data it puts out in recent weeks and no longer releases data on how many patients are currently in hospital or ICU.
Roussin says the province is transitioning away from intense data reporting two years after the pandemic began.
–With files from The Canadian Press