As case numbers begin to rise again amid the beginning of the fourth wave of the pandemic, the province is remaining tight-lipped on just how bad the virus is in the Southern Health-Sante Sud region, an area which is dominating case counts day after day.
As of Oct. 4, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the rising test positivity rate in the province can be traced to the Southern Health region but won’t say exactly what it is.
Provincially, the test-to-positive-case ratio sits at 3.8 percent, while Winnipeg hovers at 1.5 percent. Roussin said Southern Health makes up only 15 percent of the provincial population but now accounts for 30 percent of all new COVID-19 cases. He also said he was aware of a few outbreaks in the region but wouldn’t disclose where they are, or how many cases are associated to them.
Data from Oct. 4 shows there were 98 total hospitalizations and 18 ICU admissions with COVID-related illnesses. A spokesperson from Shared Health confirmed 41 patients who live in Southern Heath were in hospital, including 10 in the intensive care unit.
Regional restrictions, which went into effect on Tuesday, targeted the Southern Health region and those not vaccinated which saw gatherings limited if someone not fully immunized was present. All businesses in the RHA are also capped at 50 percent.
Roussin told reporters targeted campaigns to minimize community spread such as rapid testing is underway, but said the province is largely relying on the community to adhere to public health orders to slow the spread. If not, enforcement will be ramped up.
"These orders are not going to have much of an effect unless there’s adherence to them and part of adherence may have to be enforcement," Roussin said.
Focus on virus’ spread is misplaced: epidemiologist
One expert says the province’s focus should not be on the test positivity rate as a myriad of factors could affect it, therefore providing a misrepresentation of how many people are actually infected with COVID-19 within the region.
"People are showing up to the hospital really ill before being tested and that can skew the numbers," epidemiologist Cynthia Carr said.
"People aren’t being tested until they absolutely have to be, and if only 10 people are being tested and all 10 tests come back positive then that’s not representative of what’s actually happening."
Carr suggests the fear behind being tested, even when vaccinated, could be a contributing factor to the exponential spread of the virus. She said addressing the fear of getting tested should be the province’s — and residents’ — priority.
"Denying that you feel symptoms is not going to make the virus go away; ignoring things never makes them better, it just can make them much worse," Carr said.
"Early intervention saves lives."