There are 292 new COVID-19 cases and 15 more deaths linked to the illness in Manitoba on Wednesday, health officials announced hours after the Manitobans got their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

While the vaccinations represent a “glimmer of hope,” Dr. Brent Roussin said, the chief provincial public health officer urged people in the province to keep following public health orders.

“We’ve been dealing with this virus for nine months. We’re going to have to deal with it for many more months. But today, we start fighting back,” Roussin said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We’ve made it this far; we can’t let up at this point.”

The most recent deaths include two people in their 40s, Roussin said: a man from the Winnipeg health region and a woman linked to the outbreak at Kin Place in Oakbank.

Two people in their 50s are also among the latest fatalities: a man from the Interlake-Eastern health region and a woman linked to the outbreak at Concordia Hospital’s N3W unit.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s acting deputy chief provincial health officer, reminded people to keep the province’s consistently high hospitalizations linked to the novel coronavirus in mind as the COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Manitoba.

“It’s a surreal moment, but we are still at a point where it is critical,” Atwal said at the news conference. “We still need people to stay at home.”

There are now 404 people in hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19, with 329 of them still infectious, Atwal said. There are 53 COVID-19 patients in intensive care, with 46 of those patients considered infectious, he said. 

Among the intensive care patients, 35 are on ventilators, including 32 who are still considered infectious, Atwal said.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate, a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive, is now 13.6 per cent, Roussin said, down from 14.2 per cent on Tuesday. In Winnipeg, that rate is now 13.7 per cent.

Outbreaks at four sites across the province have now been declared over: St. Paul’s Residence in The Pas, the Flin Flon Personal Care Home, the Winnipegosis Personal Care Home and the Bethesda Regional Health Centre medicine unit in Steinbach.

Care home deaths

The deaths announced Wednesday, which bring the province’s total fatalities linked to the illness to 523, include eight connected to outbreaks at care homes and health-care sites across the province: Fairview home in Brandon, the Swan Valley Health Centre, and Charleswood Care Centre, St. Norbert Personal Care Home and Park Manor Care Home in Winnipeg.

Three of the deaths announced Wednesday — a woman in her 80s, a man in his 90s and a woman in her 100s — are linked to Park Manor. Two others — a woman and a man in their 70s — are connected to the St. Norbert care home.

A man in his 70s from Fairview, a woman in her 70s from the Charleswood care home and a man in his 80s linked to the Swan Valley Health Centre are also among the latest fatalities.

The remaining deaths announced Wednesday are three men: one in his 80s from the Southern Health region and two (in their 60s and 90s) from the Winnipeg health region.

One previously announced case was removed from Manitoba’s totals on Wednesday because of a data correction, bringing the total number of cases identified in the province to 21,826.

Just over half the new cases announced Wednesday (158) are in the Winnipeg health region, and another 47 are in the Northern Health Region. The remaining new cases are spread out among the Prairie Mountain Health region (35), the Southern Health region (28) and the Interlake-Eastern health region (24).

As of Wednesday, 15,506 people were listed as having recovered from COVID-19 in Manitoba, and 5,797 were still considered active — though Roussin has previously said that number is inflated because of a data entry backlog.

The province reached another grim milestone Tuesday, topping 500 deaths related to COVID-19. 

Though the province continues to face triple-digit daily case increases, a strained health-care system and high test positivity rates, health officials said Tuesday there are some signs of hope. 

Transmission of the virus is starting to decline, showing that restrictions are working, Atwal said on Tuesday.

Sites where there were possible public exposures to COVID-19 are listed by region on the province’s website.

Another 2,399 COVID-19 tests were completed in Manitoba on Tuesday, health officials said, bringing the total done in the province since early February to 394,501.

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