WINNIPEG -- Manitoba has passed 500 deaths since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as the province announced nine new fatalities on Tuesday.

The death toll is now 508.

Seven of the deaths are from the Winnipeg region, including two men in their 70s, one linked to the Saul and Claribel Sinkin Centre, two men in their 80s, one woman in her 80s connected to the outbreak at the Mark manor Care Home, a woman in her 90s from the Charleswood Care Centre and a man in his 90s from the Holy Family Personal Care Home.

The other two deaths are women in their 90s, one from the Interlake-Eastern Health Region linked to the Kin Place outbreak and the other is from the Prairie Mountain Health Region connected to the Fairview Home outbreak.

Manitoba also added 272 new cases, pushing the total to 21,535 since early March.

Of the new cases, 130 are from the Winnipeg area, 53 from the Northern Health Region, 49 from the Prairie Health Region, 25 from the Southern Health Region and 15 from the Interlake-Eastern Health Region.

There are currently 5,762 active cases and 15,265 people have recovered from the disease.

Manitoba hospitals have 311 people with COVID-19, 44 of whom are in intensive care.

The test positivity rate in Manitoba sits at 14.2 per cent and it has a dropped in Winnipeg as it sits at 13.4 per cent.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, was asked why the test positivity rate continues to be so high, even though case numbers have been dropping.

"We have been very vocal about asymptomatic people going for testing, so we are testing mostly symptomatic people right now," said Roussin during a phone news conference on Tuesday. "We're not seeing a lot of other viruses causing symptoms."

He added that it is concerning when the rate is that high.

"What we have to consider is, are we just missing a lot of cases out there, because we just picking up on such a high positivity? But we aren't seeing that translate into increasing hospitalizations over time."

Roussin reiterated that if Manitobans have symptoms, even mild ones, they should stay home and isolate but also get tested.

On Monday, 1,561 tests were performed, bringing the total to 392,078 since early February.

The talk that continues to be the main focus in the province is the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine that is set to be administered for the first time in Manitoba on Wednesday.

Health officials said they have been taking all the appropriate steps needed to ensure the first batch goes smoothly.

Dr. Jas Atwal, who is a medical officer of health in Manitoba, said they are making sure they have the ability to keep the vaccine at the right temperature before it is used.

"We've ordered in extra freezers to be distributed throughout (Manitoba)," said Atwal. "We're taking baby steps looking at how we are administering the vaccine. Obviously from an appointment basis, to the logistics surrounding how clients flow through."

Atwal said the first 900 are being viewed as a test to make sure the system is better when the range of people who can get the vaccine grows.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Health Canada is getting closer to approving the Moderna vaccine and the doctors were asked what this could mean for Manitoba.

"What information we have been provided is that the vaccine distribution will be done a per capita basis," said Atwal, who noted they don't know the exact number that could come from this new approval.

Roussin said there are plans in place to receive more vaccines next week, but he said they don't know the number that will come in the second shipment yet.