N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 1 death, 55 new cases, 66 in hospital
COVID 'winter plan' coming, says Health Minister Dorothy Shephard
- Saint John Legion Branch 69 closes after 20 cases linked to fundraiser
- Legion exposure prompts measures at nursing home
- 667 active cases
- Moncton Hospital outbreaks contained, officials say
- New cases at 5 child-care centres in Moncton region
- Miramichi Timberwolves player tests positive
- 11 new cases in 10 schools
- Atlantic COVID roundup
- Public exposure notices
COVID-19 has claimed another New Brunswick life and infected 55 more people, Public Health announced Tuesday.
A person in their 70s in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, has died as a result of COVID-19, raising the pandemic death toll to 125.
Sixty-six people are in hospital with the virus, including 15 in intensive care. Two of the people hospitalized are under 19.
Twenty-seven of the hospital patients contracted COVID-19 while already in hospital for another reason, said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, pointing to outbreaks at the Moncton Hospital, Saint John Regional Hospital and Miramichi Regional Hospital.
"The numbers are concerning. There's no getting away from that," said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard.
Public Health is developing a COVID-19 "winter plan," she said.
"It's not just going to be looking at this new omicron variant, it's going to be looking at any variant. And as we progress through our winter and into the future, how are we going to manage, you know, whether a variant is vaccine-resistant, whether it's not, whether it's more transmissible, whether it's not — all of those components, we need a long-term plan so the people of New Brunswick will really have a way to anticipate what's going to be happening."
The new COVID-19 variant of concern omicron, now confirmed in Ontario and Quebec, has not been detected in New Brunswick yet, but the province is actively screening for it, said Shephard.
"We're going to be very diligent," she told reporters.
Asked why the province isn't accelerating its roll out of booster shots given the threat of omicron, Shephard confirmed supply is not an issue, "but human resources might be."
"We should know… in the next few days as to what that capacity is and what we can expand to," she said.
The minister did not rule out the possibility of border restrictions.
"Depending on what happens with our neighbouring provinces, I'm sure that Public Health will put all options on the table."
At the Moncton Hospital, 26 patients and six positive staff cases have been tied to outbreaks on the family medicine and palliative care unit, Unit 3600, rehabilitation unit, Unit 4400, stroke and family medicine unit, Unit 4600, and family practice and geriatric unit, Unit 5100. The hospital has 30 patients in the COVID unit and another three in ICU.
The Saint John Regional Hospital has two positive cases related to outbreaks on the orthopedic surgery (3CS) and internal medicine (4CN) units. It has 12 patients in the COVID unit and another six in ICU.
And one patient has tested positive in the outbreak at the Miramichi Regional Hospital's intensive care unit and family practice unit (2 West). There are two patients in the COVID unit and four in ICU.
Saint John legion closes after 20 cases linked to fundraiser
A Saint John legion has closed its doors indefinitely after at least 20 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a fundraiser it hosted on Nov. 20.
Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 69 president Larry Lynch estimates 125 people attended the event.
"Maybe a bit more than that, maybe 150. It's kind of hard; we had an awful big hall. And you know, we can have up towards 220 to 250 people, depending what the event is," he said.
Public Health is "strongly encouraging all attendees, irrespective of symptoms or vaccine history, to get tested," Dr. Kimberley Barker, the medical officer of health for Zones 2-4, said in a letter dated Sunday and posted on the legion's Facebook page Monday.
There is a "trend of growing cases" related to the fundraiser, wrote Barker.
As of Tuesday afternoon, "at least 20 cases are associated with" the event, Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said in an email.
Lynch posted a notice about the branch closure due to a COVID exposure on the branch's Facebook page Tuesday, and encouraged anyone who was at the Wilson Street building on Nov. 20 or after to get tested.
"Check to make sure that you are ok," he wrote.
The legion held the benefit dance and auction that night, from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m., for a local woman who is battling lung cancer. It raised more than $10,000, according to another Facebook post by Lynch on Nov. 26.
"One note on the negative side is that somehow even with everyone being double vaccinated there was an [exposure] of COVID-19," he wrote. A poster advertising the event had said, "COVID-19 rules apply. Proof of vaccination is required."
"We followed all the COVID procedures that we were supposed to follow," Lynch told CBC News on Tuesday.
A couple of people were at the door checking for proof of vaccination and government identification, and masks were worn, he said.
The bar was open, however, and the rules allow people to remove their masks to drink, while seated, he added.
Shortly after the event, Lynch heard a rumour one of the attendees had tested positive.
"So I actually ended up calling him, and he told me that they had tested positive on the rapid tests. And then they had gone and taken the other one [a laboratory polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, confirmatory test], and they found out that they did have it. So that's when we were first alerted to it, and we shut the branch down."
By the time Public Health notified the branch of the positive case, a weekend "deep cleaning" was already scheduled, he said.
"They were quite pleased with what we had done."
On Sunday, the medical officer wrote to say Public Health "recognized a trend of growing cases" related to the fundraiser.
The branch reopened after the deep cleaning. But with more people being diagnosed, it closed again Tuesday.
"We are down now and we're not sure when we're open," said Lynch, who has tested negative on the rapid tests and has scheduled a PCR test.
Legion exposure prompts measures at nursing home
The exposure at the legion's fundraiser has also prompted a Saint John nursing home to take steps to protect its residents.
Carleton-Kirk Lodge Nursing Home announced Tuesday that anyone who attended the event, or has been in close contact with someone who did, will be required to show proof of a negative laboratory polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test before being able to visit.
"This fundraiser has resulted in 20 positive cases and the number is expected to rise," the notice posted by the nursing home on Facebook said.
"We appreciate you being honest of where you have been and who you have been in contact with. We all need to work together to keep our residents safe."
In addition, due to the rising number of cases in the community, visitors will not be able to congregate in common areas with other residents.
"You must stay with the resident you are visiting in their room for the duration of the visit," the notice states.
667 active cases
In addition to the 55 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed Tuesday, Public Health also reported 93 recoveries, putting the province's active case count at 667, down from 706.
A total of 81.7 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, up from 81.6 per cent, and 86.7 per cent had received their first dose, up from 86.5.
That's down from 88 per cent and 93.8 per cent respectively on Sunday because the province has started to include young children in its immunization statistics.
New Brunswick began vaccinating children aged five to 11 last Friday, after Health Canada approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine in this age group.
Nearly 3,000 children have received at least one dose, as of Monday. About 54,500 children are eligible.
The regional breakdown of the new cases includes:
Moncton region, Zone 1 — 16 cases:
- Eight people 19 or under
- A person 20-29
- Five people 30-39
- A person 60-69
- A person 70-79
Ten of these cases are under investigation and six cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.
Saint John region, Zone 2 — 16 cases:
- Two people 19 or under
- A person 20-29
- Two people 30-39
- Four people 40-49
- A person 50-59
- Five people 60-69
- A person 80-89
Nine of these cases are under investigation and seven cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.
Fredericton region, Zone 3 — 16 cases:
- Six people 19 or under
- Four people 20-29
- A person 30-39
- Three people 40-49
- Two people 50-59
Eight of these cases are under investigation and eight cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.
Campbellton region, Zone 5 — one case:
- A person 19 or under
This case is a contact of a previously confirmed case.
Miramichi region, Zone 7 — six cases:
- A person 19 or under
- Four people 40-49
- A person 80-89
Four of these cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and the other two are under investigation.
New Brunswick has had 8,318 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic with 7,525 recoveries so far.
A total of 559,787 tests have been conducted to date, including 2,077 on Monday.
Moncton Hospital outbreaks contained, officials say
Officials at the Moncton Hospital say the spread of COVID-19 cases there is under control.
Outbreaks have been declared in four in-patient units in the past week. There are now 30 patients in the COVID unit and another three in intensive care.
Six staff have also tested positive, as of Monday, according to a status report issued by the Horizon Health Network.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Gordon Dow said the units are closed to new admissions to avoid exposing anyone else, everybody has been placed on bed-space isolation to prevent transmission, and potential contacts have been tested multiple times.
"When you bring in all these infection control precautions, you usually don't see any more transmissions after about seven days or so," he said.
Dow said COVID got into the hospital the way other hospital-acquired infections do — on a patient, a health-care worker, a visitor or designated support person.
"COVID can only travel on two legs," he said.
"Unfortunately, I think this whole myth about long-range airborne transmission has, I think, distracted people because the virus spreads mostly from droplets that are inhaled within two metres of another person. So you have to be close to somebody else to get this. So it literally walks into our hospital.
"I think people have exaggerated this idea that … you can have someone in a different room and if the building's poorly ventilated, you get COVID. That's not true. That hasn't been proven."
Although the 36-bed COVID unit is almost full, hospital executive director Christa Wheeler-Thorne said there are are no immediate concerns about capacity.
"We did move two of the outbreak units together. We merged [the rehabilitation unit, Unit 4400, and the stroke and family medicine unit, Unit 4600] onto one unit just to use our nursing staff better. So we have an empty unit. It's a unit that can be used for whatever reason."
On Monday, a doctor who works at the hospital said officials were considering creating a second unit dedicated to COVID patients.
"For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, we're looking at whether we need two COVID units. What's the plan? Our team is working actively on that to make room," Dr. Marie-Ève Blanchard told La matinale.
Wheeler-Thorne contends "there's really no plan for that.
"It's not deemed as an overflow for COVID. I think we have the capacity up there and the patients, although they have COVID, they're doing well. So it's not destined for an overflow COVID unit. It's destined for whatever is needed at the time that we need it. And it's very fluid. So it really does change day by day. And we'd have to look at the staffing too."
Patients are moved around daily to make sure there are beds ready for COVID or trauma admissions, she said.
Asked at what point the hospital would have to transfer patients to other hospitals for care, Wheeler-Thorne said when it reaches capacity and "can't put the right patient in the right bed."
She said doctors and nurses are working hard and they're tired but coping well.
The situation isn't affecting other hospital services, said Wheeler-Thorne.
"It really isn't. The other services are continuing. So emergency department, labour and delivery, diagnostic imaging, the [operating rooms] are running, although the OR capacity has changed because of the [intensive care unit] capacity and really all of our patient flow.
"So there may be some elective surgeries that have to be cancelled or rescheduled, but we still are running at, I guess, a limited capacity. It's a very fluid thing."
New cases at 5 child-care centres in Moncton region
New cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at five child-care facilities in the Moncton region, Zone 1, since Monday.
Young Explorers Learning Center, Kingswood Academy 4 and Le Pavillon du Sommet 2, which were not previously impacted, each have one positive case, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development's website shows.
Causerie Amicale and Wee College Crandall also each have one positive case.
There have been 95 early learning and child-care facilities affected by COVID-19 since Sept. 7. The total number of cases has not been released.
Miramichi Timberwolves player tests positive
A player with the Miramichi Timberwolves has tested positive for COVID-19, the Maritime Junior Hockey League announced Tuesday.
The unidentified player took a rapid test Saturday, which produced the positive result.
That postponed a game at the Miramichi Civic Centre between the Timberwolves and the Campbellton Tigers.
All players and staff in Miramichi underwent rapid testing on Saturday, with no additional positive cases, according to the news release.
The player in question got a laboratory polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test, which confirmed the positive result.
As Miramichi players and staff await further testing, the game Thursday between the Timberwolves and Fredericton Red Wings at Grant Harvey Centre has been postponed.
The Maritime Junior Hockey League will release more information "if, and when, it is necessary," the release states.
"The league remains committed to ensuring the safety of players, fans, and team staff through the COVID-19 pandemic and working with provincial health officials and other stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead."
11 new cases in 10 schools
Eleven new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in 10 schools across four zones since Monday, the Department of Education website shows.
A positive case or cases have been confirmed at École Blanche-Bourgeois in the Moncton region, Zone 1, Westfield School in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and George Street Middle School in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, all of which were not previously impacted.
A positive case or cases have also been confirmed at the following previously impacted schools: École Le Sommet and Magnetic Hill School in the Moncton region, Zone 1, Centennial School in the Saint John region, Zone 2, Barker's Point Elementary School and Stanley Consolidated School in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, and King Street Elementary School and Napan Elementary School in the Miramichi region, Zone 7.
Forty-one schools are impacted.
Seven schools have a COVID-related operational day Tuesday.
A total of 528 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 148 schools since the beginning of the school year.
Atlantic COVID roundup
Nova Scotia reported 61 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the active caseload in the province to 200. Thirteen people are in hospital with COVID-19, including four in intensive care.
Prince Edward Island reported one new case Tuesday. The province has 29 active cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported nine new cases Monday. The province has 21 active cases and one person is in hospital.
Public exposure notices
Public Health has issued a number of new public exposure notices Tuesday for the Moncton region, Zone 1, including the Moncton Hospital's emergency department waiting room on Nov. 24 and outpatient care clinic C on Nov. 22, and an event at the Avenir Centre on Nov. 19.
For the full list of new and previous public exposure notices, visit the provincial government's website.
People who have not been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure and who have symptoms should get a COVID lab test. They can book an appointment online or call Tele-Care 811 and must isolate while waiting for their test result.
People who are not fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms are now being instructed to pick up an At-Home COVID-19 Rapid Point of Care Test (Rapid POCT) screening kit. They do not need to isolate if they have not been directed by Public Health to do so.
All positive point-of-care test results must be confirmed with a laboratory polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test.
It can take up to 14 days to test positive after being exposed to COVID-19, so even if results come back negative, people should continue to self-monitor for any symptoms and get tested immediately if any develop.
They should also avoid visiting settings with vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes, correctional facilities and shelters during that 14-day period.
For people who have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure, Public Health recommends they monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the possible exposure and get a COVID lab test if symptoms develop.
They do not need to isolate while they wait for their test results.
If they do not have symptoms, they can pick up a rapid test kit and do not need to isolate.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment test online.
Public Health says symptoms of the illness have included a fever above 38 C, a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, a new onset of fatigue, and difficulty breathing.
In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.
People with one of those symptoms should stay at home, call 811 or their doctor and follow instructions.
With files from Jacques Poitras and Information Morning Moncton