wastewater data – Winnipeg Free Press

COVID-19 transmission in parts of Winnipeg nearly quadrupled over Thanksgiving weekend, recent wastewater surveillance data suggests.

Viral load in the city’s sewage spiked dramatically at the north and south end treatment plants last week. The seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 viral load went up 285 per cent in the north and 106 per cent in the south Oct. 9-13.

The west end had a 17 per cent increase in viral load, according to municipal wastewater data published by the federal government Oct. 18.

Trend graph of the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 viral load in Winnipeg wastewater, as of Oct. 13, 2022. (Health Canada)

A Canadian wastewater surveillance network gathers the data for the feds and has urged caution in interpreting short-term changes in it, however, the Winnipeg locations are among 10 across the country where sewage shows an increase in viral load.

The data showed no decline in transmission anywhere in the country last week. Of the 26 neighbourhoods being monitored across Canada, 16 showed no change and 10 showed an increase in viral load.

Wastewater data is one of the only tools that can give Manitobans an idea of current COVID-19 transmission levels. The rate of pandemic hospitalizations, which typically lag at least two weeks behind transmission rates, are not yet reflecting any spike. (The most recent provincial epidemiological report noted a slight decrease in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. )

Although Manitobans are being encouraged to stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 and flu vaccinations to curb a possible fall/winter surge, bivalent dose uptake remains low and public health orders haven’t changed.

Earlier this week, some politicians faced public scrutiny for sticking to public health orders and not requiring masks at the annual NDP convention in Winnipeg.

New Democratic Party Leader Wab Kinew and Alberta counterpart Rachel Notley were the subject of criticism on social media, after Notley posted a selfie of the pair maskless at the convention dinner.

Ahead of her keynote address at the RBC Convention Centre, Notley also posted a photo of herself maskless aboard an airplane.

Mask use at the three-day affair was encouraged but not required, a Manitoba NDP spokesperson said Wednesday. While some attendees and MLAs chose to wear masks during debate sessions, most did not.

“We communicated to delegates ahead of the event that vaccination was required,” the spokesperson said. “We arranged the large space to allow for social distancing, provided sanitizing stations and encouraged masking.

“We will continue to follow public health advice and encourage all Manitobans to do so as well.”

In contrast, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont has started wearing a mask more frequently around the Manitoba legislature, owing to the increase in COVID-19 infections, to keep himself and others safe and set an example as leader, caucus spokesperson Colin Roy said in a statement.

Tory Premier Heather Stefanson, meanwhile, said she will mask up in indoor public places if she has a sniffle or is feeling under the weather.

“I will absolutely wear a mask to protect others,” Stefanson said. “Lately, I haven’t been wearing (a mask) because I’ve been feeling pretty good. Ready to get out there and get going.”

— with files from Danielle Da Silva


Katie May

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