On a Monday, Feb. 1 COVID-19 conference, Manitobans were informed that hospitalizations have steadily declined since a spike last November that threatened to overwhelm Manitoba’s healthcare system. Siragusa, Shared Health’s chief nursing officer and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief health officer shared a sense of optimism. There are no variant cases of COVID within the province as of Feb. 1, and Manitoba’s health system, once stretched beyond anything previously seen, has come out the other side of this crisis.
Roussin stated, “The province is testing travellers returning from outside of Canada, screening for the variant strain of the coronavirus and none has shown up so far.”
Even as Manitoba’s case numbers decline, the message from health officials is to expect a “slow, cautious re-opening.”
Monday’s COVID-19 hospitalizations at 255 is 133 patients fewer than there were just two and a-half months ago when 388 people were being treated for the virus on Nov.18. There were 129 in ICU then and now there are still 102 patients in intensive care due to COVID-19. Siragusa reminds us that the baseline for ICU beds is 72 so, although the situation is improved, it is not back to normal.
Siragusa said, “The critical care numbers are not going down as quickly as we thought they would… when you have to be intubated and the lungs are affected, it takes some time to recover from that.”
There are 26 personal care home outbreaks in the province, which includes residents and staff. But that does not mean active cases in all situations; 22 of those facilities have only one or less active cases; 14 of the listed facilities had contacts and were within the incubation period.
COVID among health care workers was a big problem in early to mid-December when 83 workers tested positive at one point. Now, as of Jan. 28 only 16 healthcare professionals have tested positive, 10 of those are in the Winnipeg region, four in Prairie Mountain and two in the Southern region.
As the load on health facilities and staff lightens, those who were deployed to help with care home and critical care nursing are gradually being returned to their home units.
Necessary but non-emergency operations and medical procedures are resuming in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba including in Brandon, Carman and Thompson. Surgical beds that were used for COVID patients are being freed to become beds for surgery patients once more. However, Manitoba’s caseload of operations and procedures is 5,000 cases behind, Siragusa reported.
“The improved numbers across the board is [due to] the efforts of all Manitobans making personal sacrifices over the days, weeks and months,” said Siragusa. “We want to keep going in this direction… Continue following the restrictions as we wait for this vaccine to be distributed.”
In the northern communities, Siragusa said “there has been great collaboration with our First Nations partners, they are proactive, doing everything they can to minimize the spread in their communities.” She listed a number of agencies who have responded to help First Nations communities. People there who test positive and have chronic underlying conditions are being transported out when they have to isolate, so they are closer to acute care.
Roussin said, “Epidemiology support and community nurses helping with contact tracing,” have been important pieces to keep cases at a minimum in the isolated communities.
Restrictions to shopping for only necessary items in the Northern health region has been lifted because it was resulting in more travel to areas where shopping was not restricted.
It is expected that new health orders will be issued on Feb. 12. Factors that will influence those orders include not just lowered hospitalizations but a forward look, based upon the number of tests being done, the number of positive cases and the number of people in isolation.