New Brunswick

New Brunswick leads country for COVID-19 positivity rates, data shows

New Brunswick has the highest COVID-19 test positivity rate in the country; more than double the national average, figures released by the Public Health Agency of Canada Friday show.

Province's moving 7-day average of 29.7 is more than double the national average of 12.7

A nurse wearing blue gloves handles a COVID-19 test swab.
New Brunswick performed fewer than half the tests per 100,000 population than neighbouring Nova Scotia did, Public Health Agency of Canada statistics show. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick has the highest COVID-19 test positivity rate in the country; more than double the national average, figures released by the Public Health Agency of Canada Friday show.

The moving average of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab test per cent positivity of COVID-19 in New Brunswick in the seven days leading up to May 10 is 29.7.

The national average is 12.7.

Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island placed a close second and third place, at 26.4 and 24.5 respectively.

Quebec has the lowest rate at 8.5.

Premier 'quit managing the pandemic'

Green Party Leader David Coon said New Brunswick's high positivity rate isn't surprising, because Premier Blaine Higgs "quit managing the pandemic some time ago."

"If you quit managing the pandemic, you're going to have more transmission, you're going to have a higher level of infections," he said. "And that's what we are seeing."

It's "very worrisome," however, said Coon, citing two main reasons, including the impact on death rates.

"The higher your positivity rate, the higher the rate of infections, the more deaths you're going to see."

The other reason is the impact on long COVID, said Coon.

"The higher the case rate, the rate of spread, the more long COVID proportionally you're going to see. And so far, I have no confidence from what we're hearing, that the government or Health are actually paying attention to long COVID. And that's going to be brutal for all too many people."

Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson worries a new COVID-19 variant arriving in the province would be 'dangerous.' (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson said he's not surprised by the statistics either.

"Just go around the province and listen to New Brunswickers — a lot of people are getting infected," he said.

"Public Health has made a decision with government that they're not going to bring in any measures any more, and less and less people are wearing masks. I see it everywhere. … And so we'll see the consequences of this."

Melanson said he continues to "hope for the best," but continues to wear a mask in indoor public places, largely to help protect his 80-year-old mother.

"I hope that Omicron is going to do what some [scientists] are saying, that it's going to immunize even more people. But let's not hope for a new variant, because that would be risky and dangerous."

A man stands in front of the Canadian and New Brunswick flags.
Premier Blaine Higgs suggested Friday that most people who now get COVID-19 have cold-like symptoms. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The premier downplayed the significance of the province leading the country for positivity rates.

"I guess if you look at hospitalization, I mean, you look at the rate of, you know, fatalities that we have that are related to COVID, and I guess maybe without factoring in what other mitigating factors may have been associated, you know, at this point in time, we've seen the COVID symptoms that are more in tune with what we would see from a cold or similar, you know, afflictions from the past," said Higgs.

"So I guess we're seeing people coming back to work, we're seeing our absenteeism levels down, we're seeing teachers come back to work, we're seeing kids come back."

New Brunswick recorded seven more COVID-related deaths in the past week, pushing the pandemic death toll to 406, according to Tuesday's weekly update from the province.

The number of people hospitalized because of the virus dropped to 47 from 81 in the past week, and the number of people requiring intensive care also dropped, to six from 10, according to the COVIDWatch website.

Meanwhile, the two regional health authorities report 102 patients with COVID-19 are in hospital, including 12 in intensive care. Unlike the province, which counts only people hospitalized for COVID, Horizon and Vitalité also include those who were initially admitted for another reason and later tested positive for the virus.

A total of 2,369 new cases of COVID-19 were reported between May 1 and May 7. That's 165 fewer than last Tuesday's update.

But it's based in part on 1,338 cases being confirmed through PCR lab tests, and 223 fewer tests were performed — 6,389 compared to 6,612 last week. The 1,031 other cases were self-reported by people who tested positive on rapid tests.

New Brunswick, which is among the provinces that restrict PCR lab tests to people considered most vulnerable, performed fewer than half the tests per 100,000 population than Nova Scotia did, the figures show.

The province's moving average of tests per 100,000 population in the seven days leading up to May 10 was 71, compared to its neighbour, at 188.

The national average is 100.

With files from Jacques Poitras