Manitoba has recorded its lowest daily COVID-19 case count since prior to the second wave, leading the province's top doctor to declare it will soon become a "disease of the unvaccinated."
Only 11 new cases were detected across the province Monday: the lowest daily count since Sept. 17.
The highest number of infections continues to be among men in their 20s. Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said it could be because men tend to have lower vaccination uptake than women, and vaccination rates are generally lower in younger age groups.
"As we move forward, this is going to be a disease of the unvaccinated, so it’s just another reason to continue to encourage all eligible Manitobans to get vaccinated as soon as possible," Roussin said Monday.
The more contagious Delta variant currently accounts for about 30 per cent of Manitoba's COVID-19 cases, and that number is climbing.
"It’s going to be our dominant strain here in the near future. We’re seeing clusters related to it, we’re seeing clusters that involve fully vaccinated people. However, in those clusters, we’re not seeing severe outcomes in those fully vaccinated people," Roussin said.
Promised provincial projections that estimate the impending impact of the Delta variant are coming within the next couple of weeks, Roussin said, adding public health officials will also announce back-to-school plans in a week or so.
Roussin declined to comment Monday on whether students can expect cohorts, masking and distancing as a normal part of the next school year. He said the best thing to do, especially considering children under 12 are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, is for everyone around them to get vaccinated.
"If we have staff and eligible students vaccinated, we’re going to see much less transmission occurring," Roussin said.
Asked if Manitoba's low case counts and test positivity rates could result in an earlier loosening of public health restrictions — even if the targeted 80 per cent of Manitobans don't have at least one shot of vaccine by the August long weekend — Roussin said officials are not yet set on an answer.
"We don't have a final decision on when the next loosening will come in. It is going to be based on a number of indicators, but vaccine is so important that we really want to hit that target."
More "uncertainty" could be on the horizon this fall, as the flu and other respiratory illnesses circulate, along with COVID-19, Roussin said.
Two more Manitobans have died of COVID-19, the province announced Monday.
A man in his 80s in the Winnipeg health region died of the Alpha variant Saturday; a man in his 50s in Southern Health died Sunday.
Despite recent deaths of Manitobans in their 30s, the number of people dying of COVID-19 has dropped dramatically. Provincial data shows most of Manitoba's total infections are among men aged 20 to 29 (about 6,000 cases). But older people are still much more likely to be hospitalized or die.
The current five-day test positivity rate was 1.8 per cent in Winnipeg and three per cent across the province.
There were 62 new cases reported Saturday; 30 on Sunday.
Of the 11 cases reported Monday, five were in Southern Health, three in Winnipeg, two in Interlake-Eastern, and one in Northern Health.
There were 528 actives cases in the province; 55,756 people are listed as recovered. As of Monday, 1,172 Manitobans had died due to COVID-19.
There were 110 pandemic patients in hospital, including 26 in intensive care.
An outbreak has been declared at the Bethesda Regional Health Centre in Steinbach, while an outbreak was declared over at Deer Lodge Centre's L4W unit in Winnipeg.
— with files from Kevin Rollason
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.