New Brunswick

COVID-19 kills 4 more in N.B., 44% increase in sick health-care workers, new subvariant found

COVID-19 has killed four more New Brunswickers, the number of sick health-care workers has jumped 44 per cent, while hospitalizations and new cases continue to rise, figures released Tuesday show.

Hospitalizations, new cases and active cases continue to rise, weekly figures show

The four new deaths from COVID-19 raise the province's pandemic death toll to 576. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

COVID-19 has killed four more New Brunswickers, the number of sick health-care workers has jumped 44 per cent, and hospitalizations and new cases continue to rise, figures released Tuesday show.

A new Omicron subvariant with mutations shown to allow it to better evade immunity from vaccination and prior infection has also been confirmed in the province.

A single case of BA.2.75.2 was detected in September, confirmed Department of Health spokesperson Adam Bowie, although it was not listed separately in any of the weekly COVIDWatch reports since then.

"This would have been included within the 'BA.2' percentages of samples," Bowie said in an emailed statement.

The COVIDWatch report provides a breakdown of the five "major branches of the Omicron variant (i.e. BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4, and BA.5), each of which may have sub-variants contained within," he said.

"The breakdowns provided are meant to inform the public about the most commonly spreading strains of the virus at any given time."

The new Omicron subvariant BA.2.75.2 evolved from the previous BA.2 strain. (Lightspring/Shutterstock)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre laboratory has detected more than 100 genetic sequences of COVID-19, including both variants of concern and variants of interest, and, in some cases, their sub-lineages, Bowie noted.

Of the 192 most recent random samples sent for sequencing, 93 per cent were the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant BA.5, and seven per cent were the Omicron subvariant BA.4.

The federal government doesn't report on BA.2.75.2 separately either, said Bowie, "due to the low number of identified cases at this time."

It does, however, provide a breakdown of BA.2, which includes BA.2.12.1, BA.2.3 and "other BA.2."

"Should the [province] determine it necessary to share new information with the public related to COVID-19 variants, we will do so at that time," Bowie said.

The other Atlantic provinces do not provide data on the various COVID strains in their weekly updates, he added.

Child under 10 among hospitalizations

The latest deaths include a person in their 60s, two in their 70s and one in their 80s. The province's death toll now stands at 576, after 79 deaths were added to the total last Friday, following an epidemiological review.

Across Canada, "deaths saw an uptick last week following a decline over the last several months," the province's COVIDWatch report notes.

There are 181 health-care workers off the job across the province because of COVID-19, up from 126. Horizon Health Network has 119 employees who have tested positive, up from 78, while Vitalité Health Network has 62 infected employees, up from 48.

Twenty-nine people were newly admitted to hospital because of COVID-19 between Oct. 9 and Oct. 15, up from 27 the previous week, the COVIDWatch report shows.

A child under 10 and a youth between 10 and 19 were among them. The others include a person in their 30s, one in their 40s, four in their 50s, five in their 60s, 12 in their 70s, and four in their 80s.

A line chart showing a recent upward trend.
The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations for COVID-19 since Dec. 5, 2021, as of Oct. 15, 2022, with the blue line representing both non-ICU and ICU hospitalizations and the orange line representing ICU hospitalizations alone. (Government of New Brunswick)

The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations is now 30, up from 25.

The number of people currently hospitalized because of COVID also increased to 35, from 27, including two in intensive care, down from three, according to the province.

Meanwhile, the two regional health authorities, which include in their weekly reports people admitted to hospital because of COVID-19 as well as those initially admitted for another reason who later test positive for the virus, say there are 139 people with COVID-19 hospitalized, as of Saturday. That's a 23 per cent increase from the 113 patients reported a week earlier. Eleven patients require intensive care, up from seven.

Active cases jump 20%

There were 747 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed through a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab test in the past week, and another 615 people reported testing positive on a rapid test. That puts the total new cases at 1,362, up from 1,161.

Dr. Yves Léger, the province's acting chief medical officer of health, is on vacation and unavailable for an interview, the Department of Health spokesperson said.

Last week, Léger told CBC News increases in hospitalizations and case counts represented a departure from previous weeks when there was a decreasing trend in the numbers. "I think it's something that we'll have to watch closely in the coming weeks," he said.

Public Health has repeatedly advised an increase in COVID activity is anticipated later this fall and winter, along with increased flu activity.

Case counts also continue to rise at the national level, the COVIDWatch report notes.

Similarly, cases in Maine show a "slow and slight upward trend," with a current seven-day average of 266, which is higher than the seven-day averages demonstrated over the last few months, according to the report.

The Moncton region, Zone 1, continues to have the largest share of the PCR-confirmed cases, at 225, followed by the Fredericton region, Zone 3, at 1522 and the Saint John region, Zone 2, at 136.

The Edmundston region, Zone 4, has 87 cases, the Bathurst region, Zone 6, 79 cases, the Miramichi region, 46 cases and the Campbellton region, 22 cases.

The number of active cases across the province, based on PCR-confirmed cases alone, has jumped by more than 20 per cent to 1,019, the COVIDWatch report shows.

The Department of Health says 3,119 vaccine doses were administered over the past week, including 2,543 second boosters, 315 first boosters, 168 second doses, and 93 first doses.

A total of 22.9 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have now received their second COVID-19 booster shot, up from 22.5 per cent a week ago, and 53.8 per cent have received their first booster, unchanged.

The two-dose rate remains unchanged at 85.5 per cent, and 90.6 per cent have received their first dose, up from 90.5 per cent.

Horizon and Vitalité patients, outbreaks

Horizon has 97 active COVID-19 patients hospitalized, as of Saturday, up to 87 a week ago. Nine are in intensive care, up from seven, according to its COVID-19 dashboard.

Vitalité has 42 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, up from 26, with two in intensive care, up from zero, its dashboard shows.

Of Horizon's 97 hospitalized patients, the Saint John region, Zone 2, still has more than half of them, at 51.

The distribution of the other patients includes:

  • Zone 1, Moncton region — 6.
  • Zone 3, Fredericton region — 28.
  • Zone 7, Miramichi region  — 12.

The majority of Vitalité's 42 patients are at the Edmundston Regional Hospital — 17, including one in intensive care. There are also 14 at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, including one in intensive care, five at the Campbellton Regional Hospital, while Bathurst's Chaleur Regional Hospital and Tracadie Hospital each have three.

There are fewer COVID-19 outbreaks at Horizon hospitals, as of Saturday. The dashboard lists eight outbreak units, down from 11. These include two in the Moncton region, three in the Saint John region and three in the Fredericton region. No other details are provided.

Vitalité has seven COVID-19 outbreak units, down from eight, but two at the Campbellton Regional Hospital are new: the geriatric unit and veterans' unit.

Four of the outbreaks are at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, including the rehabilitation unit (3F), the general surgical unit (4A), the psychiatry unit (4B), and the surgical unit (orthopedic, plastic, and head and neck), 4E.

The Edmundston Regional Hospital also has an outbreak on the surgical unit 2.

New Brunswick has had 79,434 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with 77,839 of those now considered resolved.

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