Manitoba hasn’t yet reached the peak of Omicron infections, the province’s top doctor has indicated.

Manitoba hasn’t yet reached the peak of Omicron infections, the province’s top doctor has indicated.

Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Wednesday it’s likely the province is still approaching its highest transmission and hospitalization rates, but it’s still too early to know for certain.

"It would be reasonable to expect that peak in the near future if we maintain the same trajectory as other regions, but right now I can’t point to any specifics in our data that suggest that we have reached that," he said.

At this time, no new public health restrictions are coming into effect, and no changes are being planned to the five-day isolation period for vaccinated Manitobans who test positive, Roussin said.

When asked how he can be confident Manitoba’s current COVID-19 restrictions are enough, the doctor said health officials are considering the strain on hospitals and looking at what’s happening in other provinces.

"It’s not about a stationary level of confidence. We follow the data and continually re-evaluate our response."

Supply of the newly approved Pfizer COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid is on its way to Manitoba.

An initial shipment of 1,100 doses is expected and additional doses have been requested, Roussin said. An online process is being set up to determine who will be administered the medication, with first priority going to those who are at highest risk of becoming seriously ill, he said.

The pill has to be taken within five days of symptom onset, so potential consumers will need to get tested early and go online to provide positive PCR or rapid test results, which will be reviewed by a medical professional before the prescription drug is given. As of Wednesday, the initial supply of Paxlovid had not yet arrived.

"There will be a clear process online, and we really need to ensure people are being tested at their first signs of illness, especially if they’re high-risk, so that we can get that medication in their hands in that very short window," Roussin said.

<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, urged Manitobans over the age of 50 to receive their booster dose as soon as possible.</p><p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, speaks at a press conference at the RBC Convention Centre supersite on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. For Katie/Danielle story. Winnipeg Free Press 2021.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, urged Manitobans over the age of 50 to receive their booster dose as soon as possible.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, speaks at a press conference at the RBC Convention Centre supersite on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. For Katie/Danielle story. Winnipeg Free Press 2021.

The number of Manitoba deaths from COVID-19 infections rose by 12 Wednesday, as hospitalizations continued to increase.

Public health officials reported the deaths of 10 Winnipeg residents, including: three men and three women in their 80s, a man in his 70s, two women in their 60s, and a man in his 40s.

A man in his 70s from Prairie Mountain and a man in his 70s from Southern Health also died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the province’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, urged Manitobans to get their booster dose as soon as possible, saying officials are currently most concerned about people in their 50s and 60s.

"We really can’t ignore what we’re seeing in the hospitals," Reimer told a media briefing Wednesday afternoon.

The risk of experiencing a severe case of COVID-19 goes up over the age of 50, she said, adding less than 61 per cent of Manitobans over 50 are currently protected by a booster shot.

The immunization clinic at Winnipeg’s downtown RBC Convention Centre will begin accepting walk-in clients Thursday, and in-school immunization clinics are also resuming.

The second round of vaccines for children ages five to 11 also begins this week. National recommendations on third doses for youth 12 and up are expected later this month.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 631 people in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 11 from Tuesday. There were 50 patients with the virus in intensive care, two more than Tuesday.

There were 919 new cases confirmed through PCR testing. The test-positivity rate in the province was 33.1 per cent. Just 3,047 tests were processed Tuesday.

The province is no longer tracking the majority of positive COVID-19 cases because PCR testing is limited and Manitobans using rapid tests can’t report their results.

COVID-19 outbreaks were declared at St. Boniface Hospital (M2), River East Personal Care Home, Concordia Hospital (N3 East), Health Sciences Centre (PX2 East) and Gillam Hospital.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.