Public Health is switching gears as cases increase to a community approach, saying their ability to contain COVID-19 is limited.

Premier Heather Stefanson, Health and Seniors Care Minister Audrey Gordon, Deputy Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Jazz Atwal, and Vaccine Implementation Task Force medical lead Dr. Joss Reimer are joining together to update the province on COVID-19 measures.

Atwal says to expect to see cases climb higher in the upcoming weeks. He says while Delta cases spread to an estimated three or four others, the omicron variant is likely to spread to 12-16 other people before detection.

"COVID-19 is no longer an emerging illness. It is here to stay and our ability to contain the virus is limited. It is highly likely that everyone will be exposed to the virus in the coming weeks," Atwal says. 

The doctor says with the Delta variant, three to four cases were missed per infection caught; omicron misses 12-16.

He says they will be switching from individual case management to a community approach as cases increase. 

Two new COVID-19 tests sites are opening in Winnipeg, a city seeing daily COVID-19 cases in the thousands.

"We are acting. We do not want people to die. Our goal is to save lives," Gordon says. "We do take it very seriously"

The premier says "it is up to Manitobans to look after themselves" as the provincial government works on a "balance" with the orders. 

"People have to learn to protect themselves. We have to learn to live with this," Stefanson says. "The government can't protect everyone out there."

Atwal and Stefanson would not say if stricter COVID-19 orders were recommended by Public Health. The premier says a lot of the advice early on in the pandemic was coming from Public Health.

"A lot of the emphasis was put solely at the feet of public health and that is a lot of responsibility in one place. I think what we need is to go have a more balanced approach moving forward. I certainly have been reaching out to the business community," she says, noting conversations with pediatricians about school.

"So it is not just falling at the feat of Public Health. At the end of the day, we will take advice from Public Health but we will be advice from other Manitobans as well."

While the province is switching to favour rapid tests over PCR tests, Stefanson says Manitoba needs more.

"I asked the prime minister and indicated to him that Manitoba certainly has an order in for more rapid antigen tests," Stefanson says.



Hospital capacity

Gordon says that out of the province's 454 COVID-19 hospitalizations one-third of them are hospitalized directly because of COVID-19, and the remaining two-thirds are people who came to the hospital for other reasons and tested positive.

"It is more important than ever that we continue to monitor the data identify assess and address our system needs in this ever-evolving landscape. We need to ensure that we continue to have ICU and hospital beds available and that we're working to support Manitoba's current and anticipated health system needs," Gordon says in the press conference.

She says they review if COVID-19 contributes to the patients' reason for the hospital visit. 

She says there is an escalating need for COVID-19 hospital care.

"The way that you stay out of the ER hallways and stay out to the hospital is to recharge your immunity by getting your third dose."

Stefanson says 



The province is urging Manitobans to get their third COVID-19 vaccine.

Reimer says the mortality rate per 100,000 people who are not vaccinated is 69, dropping to six with one dose of the vaccine, four with two doses, and one with three doses. 

hospital graphHospitalizations, ICU rates, and death rates dramatically drop with one COVID-19 vaccine. (Government of Manitoba)

Reimer says children younger than five will not be able to get a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine until "well into 2022." She says Moderna is also working on a vaccine for young children.

Reimer says "it looks like we will be waiting while" for vaccines for children under the age of five.



More to come