The trajectory of Manitoba's fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic puts it on a path to potentially see hundreds of new daily cases and dozens of patients in intensive care units by the end of the year.
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said current trends in daily case numbers and hospitalizations are in line with the "severe" scenario set out in pandemic modelling released in August.
"Our fourth wave was more delayed than what early projections had shown, but we're certainly on the trajectory of the severe outcome, severe trajectory right now," Roussin said.
"We're in a trajectory right now that could take us to a place where we'll see quite a significant amount of strain on our health care system, unless we change it."
The province's modelling laid out three potential scenarios, labelled as controlled, severe and extreme.
Under the severe scenario, the model estimated Manitoba could see as many as 500 cases per day, and more than 100 COVID-19 patients in ICUs by mid-December. The normal, pre-pandemic ICU capacity for all patients in Manitoba is 72.
The seven-day average number of new cases has increased by more than 50 per cent over the last two weeks, from around 60 cases on average per day on Sept. 21, to more than 90 cases per day on average.
In that same amount of time, Manitoba's provincial five-day test positivity rate has risen from 2.3 per cent to 3.7 per cent, while hospitalizations have risen from 71 to 96.
Roussin's warning about Manitoba's pandemic trajectory comes one day before new public health restrictions come into effect, largely targeting the unvaccinated.
The restrictions include a new rule limiting capacity in stores in the Southern Health region, which currently has the highest number of active cases in Manitoba, despite comprising just 15 per cent of the province's total population.
The region also has the lowest vaccination rate in the province.
"What we do know is the provincial rate is going up, because we're seeing increasing transmission," Roussin said.
"The most significant transmission right now is occurring in the Southern Health region, which is also significantly contributing to our ICU admissions."
Businesses in the Southern Health region will be limited to 50 per cent of their regular capacity.
The rules also limit private indoor gatherings to two households, and outdoor gatherings on private property to 10 people, if anyone attending hasn't been fully vaccinated despite being eligible.
The only way to avoid the worst outcomes in the severe scenario, Roussin said, is if Manitobans follow public health guidelines meant to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
"These orders are not going to have much of an effect unless there's adherence to them," Roussin said.
Part of the solution might be increased enforcement, with the laying of fines against people and businesses that don't follow the rules, but ultimately Manitobans need to follow the guidance of public health officials, stay home when ill, get tested, and get the vaccine, Roussin said.
"I think that's what we're counting on, Manitobans seeing the trajectory we're on … and to change, to follow these directives, and to do whatever they can to decrease the chances of transmission of this virus, or we are going to be into a very, very significant fourth wave here."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cameron MacLean is a journalist living in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience covering news in the city and across the province, working in print, radio, television and online.
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