WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s deputy chief public health officer said the province is entering a critical situation in the COVID-19 pandemic this holiday season, as the province’s death toll pushed past 600.

On Wednesday, Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, announced 15 new deaths which bring Manitoba's total death toll to 605 since the pandemic first hit the province in March.

He reminded people about the importance of staying home and not gathering over the holidays.

“This holiday season will be a make-or-break in our COVID outlook for 2021,” Atwal said. “I’d like to wish everyone a happy, healthy holiday season, but as I’ve said before, don’t let holiday celebrations bring risk or harm to anyone.”

Eight of the deaths are linked to outbreaks at hospitals and care homes across the province.

Nine deaths related COVID-19 were reported in Winnipeg. Two of the deaths included men in their 40s, one linked to an outbreak at Grace Hospital’s Unit 3 North.

Two more deaths were linked to an outbreak at the Poseidon Care Centre, including a man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s.

The death of a man in his 80s was linked to an outbreak at the Park Manor Care Home, and the death of a woman in her 90s was linked to the Oakview Place Personal Care Home outbreak.

The remaining three deaths from Winnipeg were a woman in her 60s, a woman in her 80s, and a woman in her 90s. These deaths were not linked to any outbreak.

Two deaths in the Interlake-Eastern health region were reported, including a man in his 70s not linked to an outbreak, and a man in his 80s whose death is linked to the outbreak at Kin place in Oakbank.

Three people from Southern Health died from COVID-19. The death of a woman in her 70s is linked to an outbreak at the Portage District General Hospital Medical Unit in Portage la Prairie, while the death of a man in his 80s is linked to an outbreak at Morris General Hospital. The third death was a man in his 70s, not linked to an outbreak.

The Northern Health Region reported a woman in her 70s has died from COVID-19.

Health officials also announced 201 new cases, a slight increase in the number of cases announced this week.

On Monday and Tuesday, Manitoba reported 167 and 155 new cases, respectively.

The new cases reported on Wednesday include:

  • 15 in the Interlake-Eastern health region;
  • 31 in the Northern health region;
  • 14 in the Prairie Mountain Health region;
  • 23 in the Southern Health-Santé Sud health region; and
  • 118 in the Winnipeg health region.

Since March, there have been 23,381 COVID-19 cases in the province.

The five-day test positivity rate is 10.4 per cent in Manitoba, and 10.2 per cent in Winnipeg. A total of 2,208 tests were completed on Tuesday, bringing the total since February to 409,443.

Atwal said the messaging from public health remains to stay home, saying while COVID-19 affects everyone, it seriously impacts the most vulnerable in Manitoba.

“For many of us, we don’t have to look too far to find someone at risk for severe outcomes,” he said, specifically mentioning his own family members as examples.

Atwal later added, “the virus is harmful, it can harm your family, it can harm your friends, and it is harming your communities.”

There are currently 4,427 active COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, and 18,349 people have recovered.

Atwal said there are currently 259 patients with active COVID-19 cases hospitalized, along with 100 patients who are considered recovered from COVID-19, who need additional care. There are 37 active COVID-19 cases in the ICU, along with seven people who are considered recovered. Of the patients on ventilators, there are 30 people with active COVID-19 cases, along with six people who are no longer considered infectious.

“We still need to see those numbers come down,” said Atwal. “When we’re dealing with the acute care system, there were capacity issues. There still are capacity issues. The hospitalizations always trail our daily case numbers by seven to 14 days as well, so we still have a ways to go to get our hospitalization numbers down. Our case numbers still need to come down as well."

“We need to focus on maximizing our opportunity to have a good 2021. We need those case numbers down on a sustained basis, and then follow suit with those hospitalization numbers (coming) down. It would put us in a much better place to look to the future.”