Modeling data released Friday shows Manitoba’s infection rate and hospital admissions to exceed the worst-case trajectory. This is the same data the government relied on when it announced on May 7 that it would further restrict the size of gatherings and shut down restaurants, gyms, libraries and other businesses. On May 12, schools in Winnipeg and Brandon were also closed.
It was too late to stop the rise of the third wave. By the time the province changed public health orders on April 20 and tightened them significantly on May 9, the number of daily cases and hospitalizations were already far above the model’s worst-case scenario. But because the province has rarely released its epidemic modeling data, it’s unclear how long officials knew Manitoba’s outlook was so dire.
The models released on Friday were completed in late April, and before that, the province relied on a model that showed a much slower pace for rising infection rates and intensive care hospitalizations, said a provincial spokesperson. They had two different models – an extreme and a conservative – and relied on the slow growth projections, the spokesperson said.
In the best-case scenario, Manitobans can expect another two to four weeks of increasing hospitalizations and at least one more week of daily increases in the number of cases before the number begins to decline, said Dr. Jazz Atwal, the province’s deputy chief public health officer, when he released the models.
Atwal said the province plans to publish its projections regularly. He agreed that releasing such troubling data earlier could have convinced more Manitobans to follow stricter public health orders.
“Maybe for some, maybe if they saw a model sooner it would change that behavior. Obviously we talked about it, we stressed the importance of this one, we had acute care colleagues (showing) how busy the hospitals are, “said Atwal. .
” It’s hard to say. You know, maybe it would have helped in some situations. In other situations, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference either, ”he added, saying some people would break the rules no matter what.
The projections take vaccination rates into account, but they do not include the potential effect of the new restrictions that went into effect on May 9. The projections likely underestimate the impact of highly transmissible variants, Atwal said, adding that it is possible that rates of positivity testing in Manitoba will exceed 15% in the coming weeks.
“High vaccine use is what will keep Manitobans going back to summer as they remember summer,” Atwal said.
The fact that the number of cases and hospitalization rates in Manitoba are approaching the worst extreme cases in months makes it even more surprising that severe restrictions have not been put in place, said the Winnipeg medical microbiologist, the Dr Phillippe Lagacé-Wiens.
He and many of his colleagues have called for faster action since the Conservative government slowly began to reopen in late January. He said he believes all non-essential businesses should shut down immediately.
It will be nearly two months before Manitobans see improvement, he predicted, but not before we hit higher highs for intensive care admissions and infection rates than in Wave 2 .
“If we had implemented more stringent interventions much earlier, when we started seeing these slight increases in cases, we probably wouldn’t have been that long,” he said.
NDP leader Wab Kinew said he did not understand why the government took so long to release its modeling data.
“Manitobans may have been able to turn the tide faster,” Kinew said. “Manitobans are ripe. They can handle the truth, and when we get that information out to people, it helps us all.
The following restrictions were to be in effect until May 12
The following restrictions were to be in effect until May 12:
• all households can only have two designated visitors inside
• outdoor gatherings on public and private property limited to a maximum of 10 people, including household members
• Faith-based gatherings limited to 25 percent capacity or 50 people, whichever is lower, with interior mask controls in place, except when household groups are seated at a service, are sufficiently far from other groups and not not sing
The province tightened its restrictions, which were to be in effect for four weeks:
• no visitors will be allowed in private households, whether inside or outside, with a few exceptions, in particular by authorizing a visitor for people living alone
• no indoor gatherings will be permitted and outdoor gatherings of a maximum of 10 people will be permitted in outdoor public spaces only
• denominational gatherings will be limited to a capacity of 25% or a maximum of 10 people, whichever is lower, with the use of an inner mask required
• meals on the patio will be limited to groups of four people only without any household restrictions
• food courts in shopping malls and shopping centers will have to close
• Gyms and fitness centers continue to be limited to 25% of their capacity, but individuals, clients and staff will be required to maintain a physical distance of three meters from others.
May 9 (for a period of three weeks)
As the number of daily virus cases skyrocketed, the province tightened the rules again. The following restrictions are in effect for three weeks:
• Outdoor gatherings in public places that include people from more than one household are limited to a maximum of five people.
• restaurants, bars and patios will close in-person meals, but may offer take-out and delivery
• gymnasiums and fitness centers will close
• casinos remain closed and VLTs will close
• museums, galleries and libraries will close
• indoor community, cultural and religious gatherings are prohibited
• personal services such as beauticians, barbers, salons and tanning salons will be closed
• indoor sports and recreation, including extracurricular activities, will close
• outdoor sports and recreational activities will have a maximum of five participants and organized team games will not be allowed
• dance, theater and music schools will close
• day camps will close
• Retail stores, markets and garden centers will be allowed to open at 10 percent of capacity, up to a maximum of 100 people, and shopping centers will be open to a maximum of 10 percent of capacity
On several occasions, public health officials have said household gatherings are responsible for most of the spread of the virus, but community transmission is a significant risk in the province. In 45 percent of all cases, there is no information on how COVID-19 was transmitted, according to provincial data from April 25 to May 1. Unknown (community transmission) was present in 23 percent of cases, and contact tracing was still pending in 21% of cases.
Atwal said some infected Manitobans are not being honest with contact tracers about how they got it, while others admit they broke the rules.
“We have a lot of proof of that,” he said.
The pace of vaccine rollout is accelerating and appointments for the second dose are expected to start being booked before May 22. On Wednesday, all adults in Manitoba became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, and on Friday, youth ages 12 to 18 became eligible.
Manitoba reported 491 new infections on Friday. Of those, 328 were in Winnipeg, where the rate of positivity testing was 14.2%.
As of Friday morning, 239 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, including 67 in intensive care.
– with files from Danielle Da Silva and Carol Sanders