New Brunswick

5 more deaths, Horizon sees 39% jump in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, Vitalité sees 20% drop

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of five more New Brunswickers in the past week, figures released by the province Tuesday show.

121 patients in hospital for or with COVID across both networks, up from 102 in last week's reports

Horizon has more hospitalized COVID patients than last week's report, but fewer require intensive care — five, down from seven. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of five more New Brunswickers in the past week, figures released by the province Tuesday show.

The latest deaths include one person in their 60s, two people in their 80s, and two in their 90s, a comparison of last week's COVIDWatch report to this week's reveals.

But overall, the latest COVID data is "encouraging," according to the province's acting deputy chief medical officer of health.

Dr. Yves Léger cited week-over-week decreases in all "indicators," including deaths (down from seven), hospitalizations because of the virus (down 12 to 35), and patients requiring intensive care (down two to four).

"After seeing two consecutive weeks of continuous reductions in those numbers, it continues to support the notion that we believe we're on the down slope of this current wave," he said.

According to the two regional health authorities, however, the number of hospitalized patients with COVID increased to 121, from 102, an increase of nearly 18 per cent.

The province counts only people hospitalized for COVID, whereas Horizon and Vitalité also include those who were initially admitted for another reason and later tested positive for the virus.

The Horizon Health Network has seen a 39 per cent jump in its number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients over the past week, while Vitalité has seen a 20 per cent drop.

The number of patients requiring intensive care, meanwhile, is half of what it was a week ago — six compared to 12, according to the Horizon and Vitalité dashboards.

Hospitalizations for COVID 'a better representation'

Léger contends the province's method of reporting only hospitalizations for COVID provides "a better representation of the impact of the infection at a population level."

Although he acknowledged the patients hospitalized with COVID do add "strain" on the health-care system because of the additional protective measures required, they "would have been admitted nonetheless."

"So certainly it's not surprising, given that we know that there's still COVID circulating in our communities, that you would still have individuals, you know, admitted with COVID into our hospitals," he said. 

"If the trend holds true," and the province is on the down slope of this wave, Léger expects the number of people hospitalized with COVID will continue to decrease as well.

Dr. Yves Léger, the province's acting deputy chief medical officer of health, said there's no way to know whether the people hospitalized with COVID are new infections. Some people can continue to test positive with a PCR lab test for 'many weeks and in some cases even months after their initial infection,' he said. (Pascal Raiche-Nogue/Radio-Canada)

Horizon has 93 patients with COVID in hospital, as of Saturday, according to its dashboard. That's up from 67 in last week's report. Five are in intensive care, down from seven.

Fourteen of the Horizon patients are in the Moncton region, Zone 1, 56 in the Saint John region, Zone 2, 21 in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, and two in the Miramichi region, Zone 7.

Vitalité has 28 COVID-related hospitalizations, down from 35, including one in intensive care, down from five, its weekly report shows.

Thirteen are in the Moncton region, six are in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, one is in the Campbellton region, Zone 5, and eight are in the Bathurst region, Zone 6.

"Individuals that are unprotected by vaccine continue to have the highest rate of hospitalization for COVID-19 and death," the province says in its highlights.

"The highest portion of hospitalizations for COVID-19 is among individuals aged 60-79," the highlights state.

A child under 10 is among the new admissions.

22% drop in new cases, 10% drop in PCR tests

A total of 1,842 new cases of COVID-19 were reported between May 8 and May 14, including 1,004 confirmed through PCR lab tests and 838 self-reported by people who tested positive on rapid tests.

That's about a 22 per cent drop from the 2,369 new cases reported between May 1 and May 7.

But there were also 622 fewer PCR tests performed — 5,767, compared to 6,389, the COVIDWatch data shows.

"We certainly can't say for sure exactly, you know, why that is the case," said Léger. "But certainly, if we look at all the other indicators that we have, all the numbers and where they're trending, we feel it's most likely because we're seeing a decrease in COVID activity in our communities, which means that less people are sick and less people feel the need to get tested."

Tests "continue to be very accessible," he said, with "many spots available" for people who want to get tested.

The number of self-reported tests also dropped by 193 from 1,031.

There are 1,593 active cases across the province, based on PCR tests alone.

Preparing for vaccines for children under five

A total of 52.2 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have now received their booster COVID-19 dose, up from 52.1 per cent a week ago, 88 per cent have received two doses, up from 87.9 per cent, and 93.2 per cent have received their first dose, up from 93.1 per cent.

"Numbers are going up, but certainly not quite by as much as we would like," said Léger. The province is still looking for way to increase uptake, he said.

The province is also preparing for the roll out of vaccines for children under age five. "We anticipate that approval [from Health Canada] will be coming in the not too distant future," said Léger, speculating it will be months, not weeks.

The under-five age group is the only one that doesn't currently have vaccines available to them.

New Brunswick has had 64,490 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with 62,486 cases considered "resolved" so far and 411 deaths.

15 outbreaks on hospital units

Horizon has COVID-19 outbreaks on 10 hospital units across the province as of Saturday, down one from last week's report.

Four are in the Moncton region, Zone 1, five in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and one in the Fredericton region, Zone 3. No other details are available on the dashboard, but spokesperson Kris McDavid told CBC they include:

  • Moncton region, Zone 1 — Moncton Hospital, cardiac unit 3400, surgical unit 5600, neuro unit 4100 and the medical surgical intensive care unit; and Sackville Memorial Hospital on the Brunswick West unit
  • Saint John region, Zone 2 —  Saint John Regional Hospital, family medicine 5C south, and transitional care unit 4B north; Sussex Health Centre, south wing
  • Fredericton region, Zone 3 — Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, medical/cardiac step-down unit, 3 south west

Vitalité has COVID-19 outbreaks on five hospital units, according to Tuesday's report. These include:

  • Moncton region, Zone 1 — Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, on the oncology unit (4D), surgery unit (4A), and the nephrology unit (4F)
  • Bathurst region, Zone 6 — Enfant-Jésus RHSJ Hospital, on the medical unit, and Tracadie Hospital, on the 2nd north unit

No Horizon hospitals are overcapacity, according to figures provided by McDavid, but several are near full occupancy.

  • Moncton Hospital — 99 per cent
  • Saint John Regional Hospital — 98 per cent
  • Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital — 91 per cent
  • Upper River Valley Hospital — 98 per cent
  • Miramichi Regional Hospital — 93 per cent

Five Vitalité hospitals are at capacity or over it, but only two of them have COVID patients. 

The Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, which has the highest number of COVID patients, at 13, including one in intensive care, has a bed occupancy rate of 100 per cent, while the Tracadie Hospital, which has seven COVID patients, has a bed occupancy rate of 102 per cent.

The other Vitalité hospitals with COVID patients are: Edmundston Regional Hospital (six patients, 78 per cent occupancy), Campbellton Regional Hospital (one patient, 70 per cent occupancy), and the Chaleur Regional Hospital (one patient, 98 per cent occupancy). 

The number of health-care workers off the job, isolating because of COVID has dropped 15 per cent to 165 from 196, compared to last week's report.

Sixty-four Horizon employees have tested positive for the virus on either a PCR test or rapid test, the dashboard shows. That's down from 81 staff absences.

Vitalité has 101 health-care workers off, down from 115. Sixty-five of them tested positive, while the other 36 were "removed from work" because of a contact with a positive case.


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