The Delta variant of concern will soon become the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus in Manitoba, the province’s chief provincial public health officer said Monday.
Dr. Brent Roussin said the Delta variant, which is said to be highly transmissible and potentially more dangerous than previous variants of concern, makes up about 30% of recent cases in the province and will soon grow larger to surpass the Alpha variant of concern, which has been the dominant strain in the province for several months.
Roussin said Alpha still accounts for more than 50% of new cases, but that Delta, which was first found in Manitoba in February, is rising and will become the dominant strain, as it has in other jurisdictions in Canada.
“We’re seeing clusters related to it. We’re seeing clusters that involved fully vaccinated people,” Roussin said. “However, in those clusters, we’re not seeing severe outcomes in those fully vaccinated people.”
The province has reported three deaths due to the Delta variant. It is uncertain whether those individuals were vaccinated or not.
Roussin said COVID-19 as a whole will become a “disease of the unvaccinated” during his weekly news conference on Monday.
“It’s very likely we’re going to see COVID transmission occurring in the unvaccinated, and we’re going to see the severe outcomes in the unvaccinated,” he said. “Our messaging right now, we’re doing a lot of work on outreach, doing a lot of incentive work right now to try to get those rates up everywhere.”
As of last Sunday, the province had reported 375 breakthrough infections out of 740,023 fully vaccinated Manitobans, and just 42 hospitalizations. Of that, 11 people have died, including two people in the 60-69 age category and nine people aged 70 and over.
Among the fully vaccinated, there have been just 20 cases of the Delta variant reported.
The province is continuing to try and reach areas where vaccine uptake is low, including the RM of Stanley, where uptake is just 20.7% and has only moved up 0.4% in the past week.
“We know we have some Manitobans that still are hesitant,” Roussin said. “I encourage you to speak to your health-care provider to get information related to that, to answer any questions you may have.”
What’s the plan with schools?
Parents antsy to know what the next school year will look like in the province will have to wait at least another week, Roussin said on Monday.
Roussin said in the next week or two, plans would be laid out for the upcoming school year, which is set to begin in a little over a month.
As to specifics, including the need for cohorts and mask mandates, Manitoba’s top doctor wouldn’t comment, saying they are still reviewing the situation.
“We’re still looking at different scenarios,” Roussin said. “Of course, we work with a lot of different partners at the national level looking at guidance and what is going to be taking place.”
Children under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccination as no vaccine is approved for those ages.
Roussin said the best way to protect children against the virus is to have those around them vaccinated, if eligible.
“We know the younger children are much less likely to have severe outcomes,” Roussin said. “They are also less likely to be high transmitters of the virus. What we need is people at home to be fully vaccinated so if the virus is brought home, it is brought home to a home that’s fully vaccinated.”
Roussin also said it’s important for staff and other eligible students to be vaccinated, but said there is no mandate in place for staff, including teachers, to be vaccinated.