The number of Manitobans hospitalized from COVID-19 has nearly tripled in the last week.

Lanette Siragusa with Shared Health says there were 28 people in hospital last Monday, and 80 yesterday. And while many of those in hospital are elderly people, Siragusa says there are also children and teenagers.

Siragusa says they are monitoring the situation very carefully as it pertains to hospital admissions, but she assures the public that Manitoba continues to have capacity across the system, both in medicine and in Intensive Care. She says this is possible because they are coordinating these services across the province so that COVID-19 patients can be served closer to home when that is a safe option.

"However, if we continue to see increases like this, we will likely need to implement some of the measures that we took in the spring in terms of staffing, redeploying staffing," admits Siragusa. "So that we have enough capacity with beds and equipment for COVID patients and other patients as well."

According to Siragusa, postponing elective and non-urgent procedures or decreasing any type of health care services is the province's last resort. However, she says this is one way to free up the resources that may be required for COVID-19 or influenza.

"So, if that becomes necessary that is an option that we would have to look at," she adds.

Yet, Siragusa says from their planning in spring, they are still confident that they have adequate space and have procured the necessary equipment and supplies in case of a surge. She notes their inventory of personal protective equipment is in good shape and is continuously being replenished.

"For now, I will send a message to the health care workers that help is on the way," shares Siragusa. "And for the public, I want to assure you that our system remains capable of caring for people who get sick with COVID or any other illness."

Siragusa notes facilities are safe for the public to visit if they are in need of health care services. However, she urges Manitobans to be honest about their symptoms and exposure history when presenting for care.

"You will not be denied care, if you need care you will get care," she assures. "But sharing the information about your symptoms or if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will allow us to provide you with the appropriate care while ensuring the protection of our health care team who is taking care of you."

Siragusa is referring to the situation at one of their hospitals where an entire surgical team was forced to self-isolate at home for 14 days because of patients not being honest about their COVID-19 history.

Meanwhile, Siragusa says these next several months are probably going to be defining moments of our lifetime, with significant challenges. However, she says we are not powerless, we are not alone and this is not going to last forever.

"You may not be at significant risk but your loved ones may be and I implore you to think about them, this virus is demonstrating the vicious impact it can have on our most vulnerable," says Siragusa. "It brings fear to our very courageous health care workers who show up each and every day to be there in case you need them. So they are doing their part and the rest of us we need to do our part."