By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba is reporting higher rates of COVID-19 among health-care workers and younger people as the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads rapidly across Canada.
Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa of Manitoba Shared Health said 418 health-care workers tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
“This is nearly seven times the numbers seen (the previous)week,” said Siragusa. “These numbers reveal both the need to further protect our staff from COVID and to make every effort to return staff to work as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Among those infected are 96 nurses and nursing students, as well as 49 physicians or physicians in training, the majority of whom are yet to receive their third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, she added.
The remainder of cases are among varied support staff and other health-care professionals, such as allied health and emergency medical system staff.
The province is also reporting a 32 per cent increase in hospitalizations, with a “sizable number” of young people receiving care. Siragusa said 34 of the 190 COVID-19 patients in Manitoba hospitals are under the age of 40.
The province is facing its highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the third wave and expects further strain on its health system as cases continue to spike.
“The unvaccinated continue to drive the numbers in our care,” said Siragusa. “People who are not fully vaccinated (are) nine times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID and 26 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU.”
While hospitalizations rise, intensive care capacity is stable. She noted there were 30 people receiving critical care on Thursday morning, which remains unchanged from a week ago.
But intensive care spaces remain far above the pre-pandemic baseline.
To curb transmission to vulnerable residents, the government announced they would be limiting visitors to hospitals and care homes. Only essential care providers and designated family caregivers will be allowed entry.
“We absolutely recognize the importance of social visits and we are making this temporary measure while community transmission is so high,” said Siragusa.
There are now 8,418 active cases in the province after 1,123 new infections were identified on Wednesday. That is a record-high daily increase.
Earlier Thursday, the federal government announced more than $8 million in funding for Manitoba to help people who have COVID-19 to access safe isolation sites.
Kevin Lamoureux, MP for Winnipeg North, said in a news conference that the funding is to help create isolation sites across the province for people who would otherwise be unable to safely self-isolate.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge that for some Canadians physical distancing is not that simple,” he said.
Lamoureux, who spoke on behalf of Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, said the money could help create sites in Winnipeg, Brandon, The Pas, and Thompson.
The sites are to provide a range of services including meals, wellness checks and if needed, health-care supports, said Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon.
— By Alanna Smith in Calgary, with files from Erika Ibrahim in Ottawa