The rampant spread of COVID-19 continued to drive up sick time among health-care workers, as nearly 73,000 hours were lost to illness in the past week in Winnipeg alone.

Winnipeg Free Press

Delivering Crucial Information.
Right Here.

Support this work for just $3.92/week

The rampant spread of COVID-19 continued to drive up sick time among health-care workers, as nearly 73,000 hours were lost to illness in the past week in Winnipeg alone. 

Between Dec. 29 and Jan. 12, use of sick time by staff in the capital city was up 21.2 per cent compared to the previous pay period, representing a total of about 146,000 hours, a spokesperson for Shared Health said in a statement Friday.

"High levels of COVID activity in our province are continuing to impact our workforce in the same way it is hitting others in the province, resulting in a significant increase in staff off sick over the past two weeks."

Shared Health was unable to say how many hours were lost due to COVID-19-related illness or isolation, as that is not tracked.

In response, staff are being offered payment in lieu of vacation if they have time booked in January, while changes to public health orders shortening isolation for COVID-19 positive workers have boosted resources, the spokesperson said. 

Provincial data show 985 health-care workers tested positive for COVID-19 between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1. The number of staff who have tested positive since that date was not shared as data is no longer reliable, the spokesperson said. 

The province declared 11 new outbreaks at health-care facilities across the province Friday, including: four long-term care facilities in Winnipeg, three hospital wards (including a cancer ward at the Children’s Hospital), and four rural long-term care facilities. 

Shared Health was not able to provide information about the number of cases connected to the Children’s Hospital outbreak on Friday citing stretched human resources. 

As of Friday, COVID-19 was spreading in 17 hospitals or health centres and 37 long-term care homes. 

A record 517 people were in hospital with COVID-19 on Friday, an increase of 18 from the day before. There was a net decrease of two COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, to 45. 

Five more pandemic deaths were also announced: a woman in her 60s, a woman in her 70s and a man in his 80s, all from Winnipeg; a woman in her 70s from Interlake-Eastern; and a woman in her 90s from Southern Health. 

The province also provided additional details about the nine deaths reported Thursday. 

They include: a man in his 60s, a woman in her 70s, two women in their 80s (one connected to the outbreak at Fred Douglas Lodge), and a man in his 80s connected to the outbreak at Poseidon Care Home, all from Winnipeg; a man in his 50s and a man in his 70s from Interlake-Eastern; a man in his 80s and a man in his 90s from Southern Health. 

According to the province’s risk dashboard, 65 per cent of the deaths due to COVID-19 reported in the past six weeks were people who were not vaccinated, representing 54 Manitobans. The data was current as of Jan. 12. 

Twenty-five per cent of reported deaths were in fully vaccinated people (21) and seven per cent were in boosted people (six). Two people had one dose. 

Public health declared outbreaks at Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg, on wards CH4 and CH5, to be over. 

Another 1,215 new COVID-19 infections were confirmed through PCR testing out of 2,487 tests. The five-day test positivity rate in Manitoba was 42.6 per cent. 

However, the number of reported cases is a significant under-count of infections in the community due to limited PCR testing and the widespread use of rapid antigen tests to diagnose COVID-19. Rapid antigen test results are not routinely collected by the provincial government. 

The province reminded Winnipeggers a new COVID-19 test site has opened in the city. Appointments to pick up rapid antigen tests are available at 820 Taylor Ave. 

People will be turned away if they are not eligible the province warned. Proof of appointment, either an electronic or paper copy of confirmation email, will be required. 

Friends and family members of people who need rapid COVID-19 tests will not be permitted to pick up tests for symptomatic people who make the appointment. Clients must be present for their appointment, the province said.

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.