Province seeks input and adapts to vaccine slowdown

·7 min read

The province began engaging with Manitobans about their priorities moving past the current level red restrictions with a survey yesterday.

The longstanding critical-level restrictions, in place since November, tentatively expire on Jan. 22.

Premier Brian Pallister and chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced the survey during Friday’s daily COVID-19 update. When questioned about the government’s own ideas, both men said they would be shared early next week.

They also spoke of the importance of maintaining diligence in adhering to current restrictions.

“If we let up now, all this hard work and sacrifice from these past several weeks will be for nothing. We need to keep going in order to bring our numbers down and continue to reduce that strain on our health-care system,” Roussin said.

“We’ll consider ways to carefully reopen Manitoba. We must always consider the needs of our health-care system and limit the activities that we know cause the greatest risk. We need to remain vigilant, focus on those fundamentals.”

The survey can be found online at EngageMB.ca/restartmb-pandemic-response-system. As the province describes it — the Sun could not access the site late Friday afternoon — the survey asks questions about people’s perspectives on the risk of the virus, COVID-19 vaccines and their comfort levels with different activities.

The survey also asks about priorities to safely restore services, including possible changes to gradually expand retail shopping, reopen barbershops and salons, gyms and fitness centres, non-regulated health professions, restaurants, faith-based and ceremonial gatherings and organized recreation and sport, alongside possible increases to indoor, outdoor and household gathering sizes.

News of the survey came hours after the federal government acknowledged Pfizer would be experiencing disruptions with vaccine supply. For Manitobans, that means no new vaccination appointments, according to the Twitter feed of Dr. Joss Reimer, who is a member of the province’s task force.

From Pallister’s perspective, the approach the vaccination task force has taken — ensuring second doses were kept in reserve, as well as enough doses for the super site in Brandon — has been vindicated, despite widespread criticism of the province’s slow pace.

“We’re dedicated to getting it right, first. We’ll get it fast, later,” Pallister said, adding because of that new development, Manitobans cannot let their guard down.

Roussin pointed out that if Manitoba had continued in the direction of worst-case scenario modelling, prior to critical level red restrictions, he would have had to announce an additional 1,700 deaths.

Both he and the premier said it’s thanks to Manitobans adhering to the restrictions that those lives were saved.

Pallister also compared Manitoba statistics to those of the rest of the country and said Manitobans deserve to feel proud.

“According to Stats Canada, compared to every other jurisdiction outside of Atlantic Canada, Manitoba was the only province that sent the COVID curve down. That trend has continued over the past few weeks,” he said.

“Manitoba’s seven-day moving average, according to Stats Can’s most recent numbers, Canada’s average, week over week, is up 14.5 per cent, British Columbia up 11 and a half, Ontario is up 28 per cent, Saskatchewan is up 59 per cent and Quebec is up 10 per cent. Manitoba is down 18.7 per cent.”

While the numbers are encouraging, there’s no question small businesses are suffering, with some already permanently shuttered due to the harsh restrictions.

The Sun asked if there is a way forward that can include retail businesses reopening safely, in spite of the ongoing pandemic.

“I think that if you look at the trajectory that we had in November when we put in these restrictions, we can see that these restrictions have been quite effective, Roussin said.

“I do think that in retail settings, where we have capacity restrictions, and there is the ability to reduce that risk. And, so, that is something that we’re looking at. We’re going to be getting feedback on it, then we’ll have more to say next week.”

FRIDAY’S COVID-19 UPDATE

The COVID-19 update from the province on Friday saw five additional deaths listed, none of which from the Prairie Mountain Health region.

The province reported 191 new cases, as follows:

- Nine cases in the Interlake–Eastern health region;

- 84 cases in the Northern health region;

- 13 in the Prairie Mountain Health region;

- 14 cases in the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region; and

- 71 cases in the Winnipeg health region.

The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate was 10 per cent in the province, and 7.2 per cent in Winnipeg.

Lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba total 27,145, with 760 deaths, or 2.8 per cent of the total caseload.

There are currently 2,907 active cases in the province and 23,313 people who have recovered from COVID-19. The province has advised the active case count is actually less than their records show and that number will better reflect the current reality soon.

The province also reported 118 people are in hospital with active COVID-19, as well as 166 people in hospital with COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but continue to require care, for a total of 284 hospitalizations.

Sixteen people are in intensive care units with active COVID-19, as well as 19 people with COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but continue to require critical care, for a total of 35 ICU patients.

In the Prairie Mountain Health region, there are 219 active cases, with 1,524 recovered. There are 15 people hospitalized, of whom one is in intensive care, and a total of 43 deaths.

The Brandon district within Prairie Mountain Health has an active case count of 69, with 803 people having recovered and 19 deaths.

On Thursday, 2,025 tests were completed, for a total of 448,061 since February 2020.

» Source: Province of Manitoba

PRAIRIE MOUNTAIN HEALTH OUTBREAK NUMBERS

As of Jan. 15, the status of COVID-19 outbreaks in Prairie Mountain Health were as follows:

• Brandon Correctional Centre: 108 total cases, 18 staff infected, 90 non-staff infected, one active case, 107 recovered, zero death.

• McCreary/Alonsa Health Centre: 42 total cases, 14 staff infected, 28 non-staff infected, 36 active cases, two recovered, four deaths.

• Fairview Personal Care Home: 109 total cases, 41 staff infected, 68 non-staff infected, 0 active cases, 92 recovered, 17 deaths.

• Grandview Personal Care Home: 37 total cases, 12 staff infected, 25 residents infected, 1 active cases, 31 recovered, five deaths.

• St. Paul’s Personal Care Home: No information

• Dauphin Regional Health Centre medicine unit: No information

Note: An outbreak is considered over one incubation period (14 days) after the final active case.

» Source: Province of Manitoba

VACCINATION UPDATE

To date, 13,539 doses of vaccine have been administered, including 11,401 first doses and 2,138 second doses.

At this time, focused immunization teams are providing immunizations at personal care homes across the province. It is expected that all personal care home residents will receive their first vaccine dose by mid-February. At this time, 281 personal care home residents have been immunized.

Manitoba had expected to receive additional shipments of vaccine next week, including:

• 9,360 doses of Pfizer vaccine, based on six doses per vial; and

• 7,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

However, the provincial government understands Pfizer has announced there may be supply disruptions in the coming weeks, although no details have yet been shared by the federal government. Manitoba had anticipated these types of issues could arise, and the Vaccine Implementation Task Force is prepared to implement contingency plans if necessary. This could include the cancellation of future appointments depending on the duration and size of the supply interruption. Once additional information is provided by the federal government, it will be shared with Manitobans.

To date, a total of 38,890 doses of vaccine has been delivered to Manitoba. This includes:

• 31,590 doses of Pfizer vaccine, based on six doses per vial; and

• 7,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine, of which 5,300 doses have been allocated to First Nations communities.

» Source: Province of Manitoba

Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun