COVID cases on the rise in Winnipeg

Wastewater data is showing COVID-19 is rising in Winnipeg, with samples from Winnipeg’s West End showing high levels of the virus. Edward Djan has more.

COVID cases in Winnipeg are rising as flu season gets underway and more people gather together to celebrate the holidays.

All four Manitoba sewage sites that participate in wastewater testing are showing increases in the concentration of COVID-19 in samples. Three of those sites are in Winnipeg, with samples from the city’s West End showing high levels of COVID-19.

Data from the province is also showing both increasing case numbers and increasing test positivity rates.

“Many of us may have forgotten that simple actions such as wearing a mask if we are feeling under the weather, and we have to go out. The courtesy of wearing a mask when you are feeling a little sick, even if it’s not COVID really reduces the risk of transmitting these other viruses or even COVID-19,” said Dr. Philippe Lagacé-Wiens, a medical microbiologist at St. Boniface Hospital

The uptick in COVID-19 cases comes amidst flu season. While provincial data is showing cases of the flu are low right now, Dr. Lagacé-Wiens says cases of the flu are rising.

“Flu tends to come on very fast and hit quite hard all of a sudden. When COVID-19, flu, and certainly if RSV comes along and overlaps as well, it will cause a lot of stress on the hospital system.”

For pharmacists across Winnipeg, vaccine uptake for both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines are mixed.

“We try all the time to encourage everybody to get the flu shot and the COVID vaccine,” said Emad Ibrahim, a Pharmacist Manager at Crossroads Pharmacy.

Ibrahim says while he encourages people to get vaccinated, he hasn’t seen that many people receive one.

“We don’t have too many people asking for the COVID vaccine nowadays, for the flu shot, just a few people,” said Ibrahim.

For other pharmacies though, it’s the opposite case.

“It’s unfortunate we are not seeing the uptake I would have liked to see on vaccination. The ideal time to get vaccinated for these types of infections whether its COVID or influenza is before we get exposed,” said Lagacé-Wiens.

In a statement to CityNews, the province says increases in COVID-19 cases are expected as more people gather indoors.

The statement went on to say, “Manitobans can protect themselves and reduce the spread of respiratory viruses by getting vaccinated, staying home when sick, washing hands or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently, covering coughs/sneezes, wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, knowing if you are eligible for treatment, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.”

Lagacé-Wiens adds the ideal time to get vaccinated would have been two to three ago. “No time like now if you haven’t been vaccinated. We have the whole rest of the wave to contend with and influenza is just starting.”

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