Most Manitobans likely to be exposed to Omicron in near future, says Atwal

The province is moving away from COVID prevention and is now focusing on mitigating the risk of Omicron, as most Manitobans will be infected with the variant in the near future, say health officials. Marney Blunt reports.

The province is moving away from COVID prevention and is now focusing on mitigating the risk of Omicron, as most Manitobans will be exposed to the variant in the near future, say health officials.

Premier Heather Stefanson, Health Minister Audrey Gordon, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Jazz Atwal and Head of the Vaccine Task Force, Dr. Joss Reimer, spoke to media Wednesday.

Most people will become infected in the near future, said Atwal, adding those who are at-risk need to get vaccinated and boosted if possible.

Reimer pointed to Manitoba statistics that show the risk of death is 63x more likely if someone is not vaccinated.

Stefanson confirmed that children and teens will return to school on Monday, Jan. 17, but Reimer said that children are at very low risk from Omicron.

“I know how stressful this is. I can tell you every parent on the paediatric advisory committee is anxious, like all parents.”

While the Premier said her government is taking advice from public health on restrictions, it is also taking advice from other Manitobans, including the business community.

She would not say whether or not public health recommended more stringent restrictions before the current public health measures were extended.

Stefanson said that turnaround times for PCR tests is now below 48 hours.

The province will now focus on different numbers, said Gordon.

“We will now be putting a greater focus on system load and not new cases,” said Gordon.

Global News has been focusing on hospitalizations rather than case numbers for the past two weeks.

Manitoba is reporting another increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past 24 hours, and it breaks a previous record.

The 38-person increase brings the province to 454 COVID patients in hospital, a new record. The former pandemic high of 445 patients was on Dec. 5, 2020, which was before vaccines were available to Manitobans.

Four additional people have died.

Four more people have been admitted to Manitoba ICUs with the virus, bringing that total to 46, public health officials said Wednesday.

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The province also reported 1,478 new cases, however, that number is not accurate, due to changes in how the province is collecting COVID-19 case data. Most Manitobans who request a test will receive a rapid antigen test, and the results are not recorded. Those who test positive and meet specific criteria are then given a PCR test, which is recorded.

The backlog of tests has been cleared.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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