There are 173 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba on Friday and two more people have died from the illness, the province says in a news release.
More than one-third of the new cases — 64 — are in the Northern Health Region, which has been hit hard by outbreaks in recent weeks.
Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate is up slightly to 9.3 per cent, the release says, while Winnipeg’s is down to 6.2 per cent.
The deaths are two people in their 80s, the release says; a woman linked to Niverville’s Heritage Life Personal Care Home and a man connected to Winnipeg’s Southeast Personal Care Home.
There are also 56 new cases in the Winnipeg health region, the release says, while the remaining new infections are split between the Interlake-Eastern health region (33), the Prairie Mountain Health region (11) and the Southern Health region (nine).
Those deaths bring Manitoba’s total to 795.
People working in all Manitoba schools will have access to a rapid testing site in Winnipeg starting Monday. The site at 1066 Nairn Ave. opened on Jan. 18 to staff working in five divisions, but is now open to all school staff, the release says.
That includes anyone who works directly with students, including teachers, educational support staff, bus drivers, custodians and child-care staff in school-based facilities, the province said when the first site opened.
People going to that site need to either have symptoms of COVID-19, be identified as a close contact of a school exposure or live with someone who has symptoms, the release says. Appointments need to be made ahead of time by phoning the province’s general appointment line, which is listed on the province’s website.
Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Manitoba are now up slightly to 274, from 268 on Thursday. Thirty-nine of those people are in intensive care, the release says, five more than on Thursday.
An outbreak has been declared at the Pembina Manitou Health Centre and Personal Care Home, the release says.
Previously announced outbreaks are now over at Morden’s Tabor Home, Selkirk’s Tudor House Personal Care Home and Winnipeg’s Deer Lodge Centre Lodge 4 East, West Park Manor Personal Care Home, St. Amant Health and Transition Services and the Carpathia Children’s Centre.
The latest update comes hours before Manitoba’s latest set of pandemic rules come into effect one minute after the stroke of midnight on Saturday. The latest public health orders will allow most Manitobans to have two designated people over as visitors and permit stores to sell non-essential items again.
Those rules will apply everywhere but northern Manitoba, which will remain under the current heavy restrictions because of a spike in cases in recent days and significant COVID-19 outbreaks in several communities.
The military was deployed to Garden Hill First Nation earlier this week to help the community get a handle on skyrocketing cases.
Since Jan. 11, there have been 818 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Northern Health Region. The massive region is Manitoba’s most sparsely populated, with a 2019 population just shy of 77,000.
As of Friday, that part of the province has a COVID-19 infection rate of 4,225.50 cases per 100,000 people, Manitoba’s online dashboard says — about four cases for every 100 people.
That’s by far Manitoba’s highest infection rate, and more than double the province’s second-highest of 2,087.63 in Winnipeg — or about two in every 100 people.
Places like restaurants and gyms still must stay closed to in-person services.
The rules that take effect Saturday will stay in place for three weeks before being evaluated again.
The changes come more than two months after Manitoba brought in its tightest pandemic restrictions yet, banning most household visitors and barring stores from selling non-essential goods.
Two cases were removed from Manitoba’s total on Friday because of a data correction, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 28,260, the province’s news release says.
To date, 24,204 people in Manitoba have recovered from COVID-19, while 3,261 cases are still considered active, though health officials have said that number is inflated by a data entry backlog.
There were 2,070 COVID-19 tests done in Manitoba on Thursday, bringing Manitoba’s total number of swabs completed to 461,250 since February.