New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Record-high of 94 in hospital nears Level 3 consideration

New Brunswick set a new record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations Wednesday, barrelling toward the province's threshold to consider changing to a more restrictive alert level.

Number of patients in intensive care and on ventilators both dropped

Of the 94 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 73 per cent are either unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or it has been more than six months since their second dose, Public Health said. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Latest

  • More boosters booked
  • Omicron milder than Delta, but it's not mild, officials warn
  • Capitol Theatre postpones The Sound of Music until 2023

New Brunswick set a record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations Wednesday, barrelling toward the province's threshold to consider changing to a more restrictive alert level.

Ninety-four people are now in hospital because of the virus, up six from Tuesday, including 10 in intensive care, down four.

Among the criteria for the province to consider moving from the current Level 2 of the COVID-19 winter plan to Level 3 is 100 active COVID-19 hospitalizations provincially or 50 COVID patients in intensive care.

The province is monitoring the situation "hour by hour," but hopes to avoid a lockdown, Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said earlier this week.

Instead, the province is urging everyone to limit their contacts as much as possible over the next couple of weeks, with hospitalizations and new cases projected to peak by the end of the month.

The virus has claimed the life of another New Brunswicker — a person "80 or over" in the Saint John region, Zone 2, Public Health said in a news release. This raises the pandemic death toll to 174.

The number of people on ventilators has dropped to four from 11.

Of those hospitalized, 74 are over 60 and one is under 19.

The 688 new positive rapid test cases are based on results submitted to the Department of Health by citizens and 'are not intended to be taken as a true representation of the total number of cases in the province,' Public Health said. (CBC News)

Thirty-four of the COVID patients tested positive after they were already admitted for other reasons.

Across the province, 369 health-care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and are isolating. This total does not include those identified as close contacts who are also isolating.

There are 369 new cases of COVID-19, based on PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab tests, according to the COVID-19 dashboard.

But that's not an accurate picture of the virus's spread because PCR tests are now being limited to groups considered at the highest risk of being hospitalized because of the virus, including people over 50.

An additional 688 people aged two to 49 with symptoms tested positive on rapid tests and registered their results online, Public Health said.

The self-reported results, which are now being made public on the COVID-19 dashboard, "will only give us an idea of the actual number of positive cases," Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in a statement.

There are 7,058 PCR-confirmed active cases across the province.

The 359 new PCR-confirmed cases were identified through 2,037 tests, which puts the positivity rate at 17.6 per cent.

A total of 644,182 PCR tests have been conducted to date.

New Brunswick has had 21,249 PCR-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with 14,015 recoveries so far.

More boosters booked

Another 5,600 people have booked a COVID-19 booster dose appointment, according to a Wednesday news release from Public Health.

It said more than 23,100 appointments have been booked since Monday. That's up from the 17,500 appointments reported Tuesday.

Monday was when eligibility expanded to include all New Brunswickers 18 and older, as long as five months have passed since their second dose.

A total of 27.5 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have now received a booster dose, according to the COVID-19 dashboard. That's up from 26.5 per cent on Tuesday.

A total of 83.2 per cent have received two doses, unchanged for a second straight day, and 90.9 per cent have received one dose, up from 90.8 per cent.

People 30 and older will be given the Moderna vaccine for their booster, regardless of which vaccine they received for previous doses, Public Health has said. The limited national supply of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be reserved for those aged 12 to 29.

People can book an appointment through a regional health network clinic or through a participating pharmacy.

Omicron milder than Delta, but it's not mild, officials warn

The province's chief medical officer of health is warning New Brunswickers that even a mild case of COVID-19 is a serious illness.

Dr. Jennifer Russell outlined the typical symptoms at a briefing this week.

"When we are talking about mild, we're talking about the fact that you most likely will not need hospitalization, but that doesn't mean that your symptoms will be completely benign," she said.

"Symptoms can range from fever, aches and pains, sore throat and coughing. But they can be more severe, including fatigue and chills, shortness of breath, nausea and dehydration."

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, offered advice about what people should do if they contract COVID-19 or if they're taking care of someone who does. (Government of New Brunswick/YouTube)

The province's chief epidemiologist, Mathieu Chalifoux said the Omicron variant is milder than the Delta variant, but "it is by no means mild."

Hospital admissions with Omicron are about 10 per 1,000 cases, compared to about 60 per 1,000 with Delta, he said.

"While better, this is still enough to put our health system at risk due to the sheer volume of cases" expected with Omicron because it's so highly transmissible.

New Brunswick could see a peak of 5,500 new COVID-19 cases per day and 220 active hospitalizations by late January if current trends hold, Chalifoux told the briefing.

But that could be cut by about one-third if people reduced their contacts either by seeing fewer people, distancing appropriately, or wearing well-fitting masks inside, he said.

The COVID-19 forecast for the province over the coming weeks. (Government of New Brunswick)

If people do contract COVID, Russell advises they rest and stay well-hydrated.

Non-prescription medications, such as Tylenol and ibuprofen, can help relieve pain and fever, while a humidifier or steam from a shower can help ease a cough or sore throat, she said.

If people are caring for someone else with COVID-19 at home, Russell recommended several steps they can take to reduce the risk of transmission.

"I've heard the success stories of where somebody did successfully isolate within the home, and it really was around staying in one room and that person wouldn't leave that room for any reason.

"So doing your best to separate from the infected person is the most important thing."

The infected person should:

  • Sleep in a separate room and not participate in family meals or activities.
  • Use a separate bathroom, if one is available.
  • Wear a mask when leaving the room.
  • Not share personal items, such as utensils, food and drink, phones, and TV remotes. 

Some people have been able to prevent spread within the household by bringing food to the person's room, but not taking any dishes out, Russell noted.

She stressed the importance of wearing a well-fitted mask when caregivers are with the infected person.

"Medical masks, like N95s, are the best, but non-medical, three-layer masks can be used if they fit well and completely cover your mouth and nose with no gaps," she said.

If no separate bathroom is available for the infected person, Russell recommended opening windows, closing the toilet lid before flushing, and regularly cleaning high-contact surfaces, such as door handles and faucets.

Most people, particularly those who are fully vaccinated and have a booster shot five months after their second dose, should be able to recover at home, Russell said.

If people require medical care, she encourages them to call their primary care provider or Tele-Care 811 for assistance first.

She noted those who receive a positive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab test will receive a health-check call to ensure they have access to community health services.

"This is why our more vulnerable 50 and older population are directed to get a PCR test when symptomatic, along with other priority groups, including health-care workers or those who live and work in long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, correctional facilities; people who are immunocompromised; pregnant; people who are identified as a priority by Public Health; and people who live in First Nations communities, and children under two are also eligible to receive a PCR test."

When to call 911

People should call 911 if they have significant difficulty in breathing, chest pain or pressure, new onset of mental confusion or difficulty waking up, said Russell.

If an ambulance is required, people should tell the dispatcher they have COVID-19, so the paramedics can be prepared, she said.

If someone else drives them, both the patient and driver should be masked and sit as far apart as possible.

They should not take a bus or taxi.

"These are very stressful times for all of us, and it is not unusual to feel grief, sadness and frustration about what is happening all around us, especially if you are caring for others. You need to look after your own physical and mental health," Russell advised

People should eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, take regular breaks, exercise regularly outdoors in the fresh air whenever possible, get their news from trusted sources and be conscientious about their use of social media.

"Above all, stay connected with friends and family," Russell said. "Call a friend or a loved one. Let them know that they are needed in your life and that they can depend on you as well.

"Now, more than ever, we still need each other as we weather this storm."

Capitol Theatre postpones The Sound of Music until 2023

The Capitol Theatre in Moncton and Tutta Musica have announced the postponement of The Sound of Music, citing the "uncertainty" of the pandemic.

The professional musical theatre production, scheduled to begin Feb. 26 and run until March 6, will now be held during the same period in 2023.

It was a difficult decision, Capitol Theatre's managing director Kim Rayworth said in a statement.

But "rehearsals were scheduled to begin last week and with a cast and orchestra of more than 60 people, a number of which are children, and given the highly contagious nature of this variant, we were losing confidence that we would be able to get through the rehearsal and performance period without positive cases," she said.

Original tickets will be honoured. If ticket holders are able to attend on the new date, no further action is required, according to a news release.

For those who wish to receive a full refund, they must contact the Capitol Theatre box office before Feb. 18. After this date, they will receive a credit, the release said.

The postponement of the show will most likely mean that some roles will have to be recast, noted director Marshall Button.

"We will communicate with our professional cast members' agents in the coming weeks and months, to confirm their availability for 2023," he said in a statement.

"We'll also be in discussions with our local cast members and expect some changes in casting from now until show time."

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