Two COVID-19 patients are receiving intensive care in Thunder Bay after Manitoban hospitals ran out of space.

After weeks of concerning trends and warnings from health officials, Manitoba's intensive care units have been stretched too thin. 

"The compounding effect of multiple days of admissions well over the norm and far beyond what we experienced during wave two has placed an extreme strain on our staffing resources," Shared Health says in a statement Thursday.

The provincial health system says between Thursday to Monday, 34 people were admitted into the ICU.

As of Wednesday morning, a total of 80 COVID-19 patients are in the ICU -- eight more than the province's pre-pandemic capacity of 72 critical care beds. Currently, there are 135 total ICU beds across the province, with 131 patients in those beds.

There are 293 people in the hospital with COVID-19.

Due to the lack of space and inability to increase ICU capacity, two COVID-19 ICU patients were transferred out of the province to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Both are in stable condition. This is a first in the province's pandemic response.

"We cannot sustain these kinds of surges for long. As we head into a long weekend, it is critical that Manitobans stay home. The May long weekend is often the source of many visits to emergency departments throughout the province."

On Wednesday, 402 new cases of the virus were announced:

• 40 cases in the Interlake–Eastern health region;  
• 18 cases in the Northern health region;   
• 42 cases in the Prairie Mountain health region;   
• 50 cases in the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region; and   
• 252 cases in the Winnipeg health region

Manitoba's five-day test positivity rate is 13.5 per cent and Winnipeg's is 15.1 per cent.

Four people have died, including:

• a male in his 40s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the B.1.1.7 variant of concern;
• a male in his 60s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to an unspecified variant of concern; 
• a female in her 80s from Southern Health–Santé Sud, linked to the B.1.1.7 variant of concern; and 
• a female in her 90s from Winnipeg health region, linked to the B.1.1.7 variant of concern.

This brings the total number of deaths to 1,016.

There are 46,314 total cases in Manitoba, and 4,550 active cases. The province says 40,748 individuals have recovered.

Shared Health says the province continues to work on ways to find Manitoba solutions, including transferring patients to personal care homes or other hospitals.

Surgeries are being reduced, with some being postponed or moved out of Winnipeg.

"Every effort has been made to prioritize surgical care for the patients in most urgent need, including cardiac and cancer surgeries as well as trauma. We recognize, however, that there are thousands of Manitobans continuing to wait for quality of life procedures."

Younger patients, who recently became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, are becoming increasingly common in hospitals. Their ability to fight the virus means longer hospital stays. 

"We cannot stress enough to Manitobans that we are seeing patients who are younger and healthier than those we saw during Wave Two. These patients are very, very ill and they require our care."

Shared Health says "now is not the time for complacency" as vaccines roll in.

"We are seeing some very good uptake but we are going to need to continue that. We are going to need to continue to be cautious regarding the public health restrictions while Manitobans are getting the benefit of the vaccine," Manitoba's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Bernt Roussin says in a Monday press conference.

First doses of the vaccine take two to three weeks to kick in. Second doses are set to start for the general public after the first week of July.