COVID-19 could kill 550 to 1,750 New Brunswickers, provincial modelling suggests
Between 15 and 132 could die by the end of this month, says Health Minister Ted Flemming
COVID-19 could kill between 550 and 1,750 New Brunswickers over the next 18 to 24 months, depending on the level of compliance with Public Health measures, until a vaccine is available, projections released by the provincial government Thursday suggest.
"To put those numbers in perspective, 1,800 New Brunswickers died in the Second World War," Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters during the daily briefing in Fredericton.
Between 15 and 132 could die by the end of this month, said Health Minister Ted Flemming.
"If there was ever a number that I hope I was wrong on, I hope that that's it," he said.
Had the government taken no action, such as closing schools and non-essential businesses, and urging people to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet, as many as 5,600 New Brunswickers could have died over the course of the pandemic, Flemming noted.
The number of people in intensive care could hit a peak of 84 on any given day this month, under the worst-case scenario model, and acute care hospitalizations, 194, he said.
The government used the experience of northern Italy for its worst-case projections, data from all of Italy for its medium-impact scenarios and compared them to New Brunswick's current trajectory, said Associate Deputy Minister of Health René Boudreau.
At least another two weeks of data is required to be able to project a peak of the pandemic, he said.
It is understandable if these numbers make you feel scared. I urge you to not give into fear, because you have the power to make the difference.- Blaine Higgs, premier
The virus will continue to progress "in waves," however, until there's a vaccine, Boudreau said.
Based on the current modelling, the province's hospitals will be able to meet the needs, said Flemming. "No one will be without a bed."
But "the wrong gathering with the wrong people could blow these numbers apart in less than a week," he said, reiterating the importance of people continuing to stay home as much as possible, including Easter weekend.
If New Brunswickers become lax "it could bite us," he cautioned.
"We could easily have 100 cases this time next week more than we have today."
3 new cases brings total to 111
New Brunswick has 111 cases of COVID-19, with the three new confirmed cases announced Thursday by chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell.
Five people remain in hospital, including four in intensive care.
To date, 53 people have recovered and no one has died.
The province is following a path similar to that of South Korea, "a country that has acted swiftly and in a decisive manner to limit the spread of this virus and to limit loss of lives," the premier said.
Even still, the projected best-case scenario for New Brunswick shows 512 confirmed cases by the end of April, 28 cases in acute care, five in ICU and 15 deaths, Higgs said.
"It is understandable if these numbers make you feel scared.
"I urge you to not give into fear, because you have the power to make the difference," by continuing to follow Public Health's advice, he said.
"There is indeed hope, and where there's hope there's confidence, and where there's confidence, there's results."
Flemming said the government is working diligently to secure personal protective equipment (PPE), such as N95 masks, for health-care workers, and to ensure infection prevention and controls are in place in all health-care and long-term care facilities.
It is also working to enhance its ability to trace contacts of confirmed cases and respond quickly to potential clusters, he said.
Comfortable, not complacent about supplies
New Brunswick is in "reasonably good shape" for PPE supplies, according to Flemming.
"We are comfortable, we are not complacent. Nor are we panicking about the situation," he said.
Again, much will depend on public behaviour, Flemming said. The more people comply with Public Health directives, the more the COVID-19 curve will be flattened, fewer patients will need to be treated and fewer masks will need to be used.
The province is also "in pretty good shape" for COVID-19 testing supplies, according to the health minister.
"Is our position critical, no? Can we be complacent, no?"
New Brunswick received 5,000 test kits from the federal government Monday and supply lines are improving, Flemming told reporters.
The lab at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton is also "ramping up" to be able to analyze up to 1,000 tests a day, and seven additional labs at hospitals across the province should also be up and running, he said.
New Brunswick's modelling was developed by staff from the Department of Health, Public Health and the Horizon and Vitalité health authorities.
As of Tuesday, when New Brunswick had 105 cases of COVID-19, it had the fewest cases per capita of all the provinces.
And while New Brunswick has tested less for COVID-19 than most provinces, in testing that has been done, the virus consistently turns up less frequently in New Brunswick than elsewhere — once in every 58 tests since the beginning of the pandemic last month.
By comparison, in neighbouring Nova Scotia the virus has shown up once in every 35 tests and in Quebec, once in every 13 tests.