November has been the deadliest month for Manitobans diagnosed with COVID-19.

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November has been the deadliest month for Manitobans diagnosed with COVID-19.

The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has killed 266 people since the pandemic began — nearly three-quarters of them in the past 26 days.

On Thursday, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin listed the age and gender of 10 more people who died after becoming infected, and expressed his condolences to their families and friends.

"There have been 185 deaths due to COVID-19 in the month of November alone," Roussin said. "Seventy per cent of our total COVID-related deaths have occurred in the month of November."

Since March, the province has logged 15,288 known cases of the virus.

"We continue to reiterate these deaths are much more than numbers. These are loved ones that are sorely missed right now," Roussin said.

The latest deaths include six from Winnipeg: a man in his 70s; a man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s linked to the Maples care home outbreak; a man in his 90s linked to the Brightwater Senior Living of Tuxedo outbreak; and two men in their 90s.

Outside the capital, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 90s linked to the Menno Home in Grunthal outbreak have died. As have a man in his 50s linked to the Bethesda Regional Health Centre outbreak and a woman in her 70s from the Interlake-Eastern region.

Concordia outbreak

Manitoba Public Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Concordia Hospital's unit N3 West.

Manitoba Public Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Concordia Hospital's unit N3 West.

In a statement posted to the Winnipeg hospital's website, interim president and chief operating officer Katherine Graham said a "number of COVID-19 positive cases" on the family medicine unit are being investigated.

"Outbreak protocols have been implemented at the hospital to ensure the ongoing protection of patients, staff and visitors," the statement said. "Anyone potentially exposed are being identified and directed to self-isolate and, if necessary, will be tested, as we investigate the origins of the transmission."

Other Manitoba hospitals reporting COVID-19 outbreaks include:

— Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg (three units with 49 cases, as of Nov. 25);

— Grace Hospital, Winnipeg (two units with 10 cases);

— Victoria General Hospital, Winnipeg (three units with 86 cases, as of Nov. 25);

— Bethesda Regional Health Centre, Steinbach (23 cases, as of Nov. 25);

— Carman Memorial Hospital, Carman (11 cases, as of Nov. 25).

The grim statistics Thursday were followed by more concerning figures from Manitoba's top doctor.

Roussin said the five-day test positivity rate has reached its highest point so far — 14.8 per cent in both Winnipeg and provincewide — while hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are at a peak of 307 people, including 46 in intensive care.

While the daily case count was not near the record-setting 546 reported Monday — with 383 new infections, 202 of them from the Winnipeg region, added to the roll Thursday — only 1,502 tests were run at the province's laboratories Wednesday. It marks a significant drop from the 2,500-plus tests performed daily in the past week.

Roussin said the decline is a result of "timing issues" in the labs entering data into the public health system and would be reconciled Friday.

He said there were no targeted testing programs that would account for the increased positivity rate, which jumped nearly a percentage point overnight.

Community transmission of COVID-19 continues to make up a significant portion of the reported cases, Roussin said, and public health officials have been unable to track up to 50 per cent of the most recent infections back to their source.

In the Steinbach region, test positivity rates continue to hover between 30 and 40 per cent.

Southern Health reported 111 new cases Thursday, while Interlake-Eastern had 26, Northern Health had 29, and Prairie Mountain had 15.

"These numbers are numbers that we can’t sustain, certainly not in the long term," Roussin said, adding a proportion of these new cases will be in hospital in seven to 10 days.

"Right now, we’re seeing about that four per cent (hospital) admission rate, and one to two per cent ICU admission rate. So we can all do the math."

Dr. Anand Kumar, an intensive care physician with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and professor of medicine at the University of Manitoba, said the arithmetic of the pandemic continues to spur unease among staff in the province’s critical care units.

"I think the greatest anxiety in the ICU at this stage has been not so much where we are in the moment, but worry about where we could be if this isn’t just a blip in the numbers," Kumar said.

"I would say that the anxiety is about where we go on the curve. At 400 (daily cases), I think the system can handle it for some period of time," he said, adding he expected critical care to be under more stress at this point.

"But if we go to 800, then all bets are off. So we’re uncomfortably close, when you're talking about a logarithmic curve or an exponential curve."

In late October, Kumar was one of nearly 20 physicians who penned a letter to Premier Brian Pallister and Health Minister Cameron Friesen, calling for the province to implement full lockdown measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Manitoba.

The provincial government moved the Winnipeg region to red-critical level restrictions Nov. 2, with the rest of the province following suit Nov. 12.

Cases have continued to climb since in the weeks that followed, but Roussin said there are early signs of a slowdown, with a count doubling time of three weeks instead of two.

"At least the preliminary indications might suggest that the numbers of cases occurring in the community are stabilizing. If that’s the case, everybody breathes a big sigh of relief because we’ve avoided the worst," Kumar said.

"I’d rather not be hanging around the exponential part of the curve, so that would be the concern, and with Christmas coming up… I very much worry what will happen over Christmas."

— with files from Kevin Rollason

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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