All Manitobans ‘highly likely’ to be exposed to virus in near future: public health

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All Manitobans ‘highly likely’ to be exposed to virus in near future: public health

Every Manitoba resident should prepare to be soon exposed to the novel coronavirus, as health officials warn they are not able to contain the Omicron-driven wave.













Every Manitoba resident should prepare to be soon exposed to the novel coronavirus, as health officials warn they are not able to contain the Omicron-driven wave.





Deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said COVID-19 and its now-dominant variant are here to stay, with new infections expected to rise for at least two more weeks.






“It is highly likely that everyone will be exposed to the virus in the coming weeks,” Atwal said Wednesday, during a briefing with Premier Heather Stefanson, Health Minister Audrey Gordon and vaccine task force lead Dr. Joss Reimer.





“Some Manitobans will have immunity from a previous infection or vaccines. This will make COVID cases less severe, but the sheer number of cases still has the potential to overwhelm our health-care system, which is something that we are monitoring closely.”





Three dozen more people battling COVID-19 were admitted to Manitoba hospitals in the past 24 hours, raising the number to 454 and setting a new pandemic record, the province announced.





Its intensive care units were treating a total of 102 patients, as of Wednesday morning, including 46 with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.





Atwal said public health’s approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic has switched once again to focus on working, living and learning with the virus — in much the same way people have managed seasonal influenza.





“Given the transmissibility of Omicron, it is not possible to manage cases at the individual level. We have to focus on managing the risk at the community level,” Atwal said.





“This new approach does not mean that public health has given up the fight against COVID-19.”





Atwal said updated pandemic modelling that takes Omicron into account had some issues related to severe outcomes that delayed the public release of the forecast. However, he said the model does show new infections to continue to grow for at least two weeks.





The variant is now dominant in all regions.





“Omicron has put a twist in it in relation to looking at severity,” Atwal said. “Obviously, we see lots of transmission. Our case numbers going up for at least the next seven days to 14 days, and looking at a decline likely there afterwards.”





Four pandemic deaths were reported Wednesday, all from the Winnipeg health region: a man and woman, both in their 60s; a woman in her 80s; and a man in his 90s linked to an outbreak at Prairie View Lodge.





Manitoba’s COVID-19 death toll rose to 1,429.






The province recorded 1,478 new cases and a test positivity rate of 47.2 per cent Wednesday, but those numbers vastly underestimate the current transmission of the virus. The majority of Manitobans are not eligible for PCR tests, and case numbers capture only positive results from those laboratory-processed samples, not rapid antigen tests.





Two new testing sites will open in Winnipeg this week (1300 Redonda St. and 820 Taylor Ave.) but most people will only be able to pick up rapid test kits at those locations.





Outbreaks were declared at six personal care homes: Pembina Place, Bethania, Deer Lodge Centre and St. Norbert, Betel Home in Selkirk and Rideau Park in Brandon.





Outbreaks were declared at four hospital units in Winnipeg: Health Sciences Centre unit GH4, Concordia Hospital unit N3W and Grace Hospital 4 North and 2 South.





— with files from Katie May





danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca