N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 2 deaths, 95 new cases, hold off on Christmas travel plans, Shephard says
COVID 'winter plan' expected Monday, says Health Minister Dorothy Shephard
- 2 cases at UNB Fredericton residence
- Boosters update
- Johnson & Johnson being used for 'vulnerable sectors'
- Vaccine clinics in the works for francophone schools in Zone 7
- Fredericton Red Wings player tests positive
- New cases in 7 schools, 2 child-care facilities
- Public exposure notices
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says people should hold off until Monday to make Christmas travel plans, as New Brunswick recorded two more COVID-related deaths Thursday and 95 new cases of COVID-19.
"We don't want to cancel Christmas. We don't want to create such restrictions that people cannot enjoy their families," she told reporters Thursday.
But she's "very worried" about the high case counts and "significant amount" of community spread.
It's also unclear what will happen in the coming weeks in Quebec and Ontario, which both have confirmed cases of the new, potentially more transmissible COVID-19 variant omicron, she said.
Public Health is developing a COVID-19 "winter plan," which will be presented to cabinet. "We should know something by Monday," said Shephard.
Asked whether people should wait to plan their Christmas travel, she replied, "Yeah, give me till Monday."
A person 90 or over in the Moncton region, Zone 1, and a person in their 70s in the Saint John region, Zone 2, have died as a result of COVID-19. Their deaths raise the pandemic death toll to 130.
Sixteen people are in intensive care, up from 15, including 12 who are on a ventilator.
Fifty-nine people are hospitalized, down from 67. One of them is under 19.
Twenty-six of these patients contracted the virus while already in hospital for another reason, with outbreaks at the Moncton Hospital, Saint John Regional Hospital and Miramichi Regional Hospital.
"Most" of them are exhibiting "mild to moderate symptoms," Public Health said in a news release.
There are now 691 active cases across the province, up from 676.
"We are still seeing the importance of getting vaccinated and the layer of protection that it provides," Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in a statement. "Currently, in our ICU, the rate of people unvaccinated versus those that are vaccinated is more than 30 times higher."
A total of 81.8 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, up from 81.7 per cent, and 87 per cent had received their first dose, up from 86.8.
That's down from 88 per cent and 93.8 per cent respectively on Sunday because the province has started to include children aged five to 11 in its immunization statistics.
Shephard said the three days of "lower numbers" Sunday through Monday were "promising."
The 95 new cases Thursday and 94 new cases Wednesday, however, are "significant."
"I don't know how to convey to the public that we just so need their support to follow Public Health measures."
That's the balance, right? … You don't want to fear monger, you don't want to sell short, you know, the issues that we're trying to deal with.- Dorothy Shephard, health minister
She expressed frustration with the community spread.
"Because that's always been our biggest fear, right? And we're seeing a significant amount of community spread.
"So for me, that means we're getting to a different level, and we need to consider that Christmas is only, you know, three and a half weeks away, and we really need to define what it's going to take for us to have a very merry Christmas."
Omicron in Quebec and Ontario also throws a wrench into things because while health officials usually have a "good understanding" of what the next five or six days might bring, there are too many variables to predict.
"So that's the balance, right? … You don't want to fear monger, you don't want to sell short, you know, the issues that we're trying to deal with.
"So it's about trying to be as real as we can and meeting expectations for people and helping them understand where we need to go."
About eight people who travelled from countries in southern Africa where omicron has been identified are self-isolating in New Brunswick.
So far, there are no confirmed cases of that variant in the province, Shephard said. She is not aware of any suspected cases either, she said.
The breakdown of the new cases includes:
Moncton region, Zone 1 — 27 cases:
- 12 people 19 or under
- Five people 20-29
- Three people 30-39
- Two people 40-49
- Three people 50-59
- Two people 70-79
Twenty-one of these cases are under investigation, five cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and one case is travel-related.
Saint John region, Zone 2 — 17 cases:
- Four cases 19 or under
- Two people 20-29
- A person 30-39
- Two people 40-49
- Three people 50-59
- Two people 60-69
- Three people 70-79
Ten of these cases are under investigation and seven are contacts of previously confirmed cases.
Fredericton region, Zone 3 — 30 cases:
- 15 people 19 or under
- Four people 20-29
- Three people 30-39
- Four people 40-49
- A person 50-59
- A person 60-69
- A person 70-79
- A person 80-89
Nineteen of these cases are under investigation and 11 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 — 20 cases:
- Six people 19 or under
- Two people 30-39
- Seven people 40-49
- Two people 50-59
- Three people 70-79
Twelve of these cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and eight cases are under investigation.
New Brunswick has had 8,506 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic with 7,684 recoveries so far.
A total of 563,144 tests have been conducted to date, including 1,761 on Wednesday.
2 cases at UNB Fredericton residence
The University of New Brunswick has two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Fredericton campus in the Joy Kidd residence.
"Public Health is actively investigating the situation. UNB is taking all guidance and direction from them," the university said in an emailed "special announcement" to students Thursday afternoon.
No information about the two individuals has been released.
"With rising COVID cases in the province, exposure on our campuses is expected," the email said.
"At this time, we do not anticipate any changes to our operations, this includes classroom management or course delivery."
UNB has a COVID vaccination rate of 96.7 per cent — and even higher among residences, according to the email.
The university's success is also dependent upon "extremely high compliance" with the testing policy, it said.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says New Brunswick's COVID-19 booster program is "doing really good."
A total of 52,717 COVID-19 booster doses have been administered so far. "And many more [are] planned."
Some provinces have started expanding their booster dose eligibility, given the looming threat of the new, potentially more transmissible COVID-19 variant omicron.
New Brunswick will too, she said.
"As soon as we hear from the federal government that our other shipment is on the way, we're going to be good to go."
Those currently eligible for a booster dose include residents of nursing homes and adult residential facilities, such as special care homes, and people who are immunocompromised.
People who are 65 or older, health-care workers, residents of First Nations communities and school personnel can also book an appointment to receive a booster dose if six months have passed since their second dose.
Individuals who have received one or two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and individuals who received a mixed vaccine schedule and must travel outside of North America for essential reasons are also eligible to receive an mRNA COVID-19 booster dose if 28 days have passed since their second dose.
Johnson & Johnson being used for 'vulnerable sectors'
New Brunswick has been allocated 700 doses of Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine Janssen, said Shephard.
She could not immediately provide an update on how many have been received from the federal government or administered.
"They've been coming in dribs and drabs," she told reporters.
"What we've done with most of them is we've sent them to our transient communities and our very vulnerable sectors like our shelters and those kind of things, because we're lucky to get one dose into that population."
She expects to receive an update on the numbers by this weekend, she added.
Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia requested tens of thousands of doses of the single-shot vaccine as a way to try to increase vaccine uptake among holdouts.
Health Canada has said the single-shot viral vector vaccine is not as effective as its two-dose mRNA vaccine equivalents from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Janssen is 66 per cent effective in preventing someone from becoming ill with COVID-19, according to Health Canada. New trial data from Johnson & Johnson found two doses of the vaccine are 94 per cent effective at preventing disease.
Vaccine clinics in the works for francophone schools in Zone 7
In-school vaccination clinics for children aged five to 11 could soon be available at some francophone schools in the Miramichi region, Zone 7, says the health minister.
Private pharmacies have taken the initiative to contact school principals in the district to put together some clinics, Dorothy Shephard told reporters Thursday.
Public Health is also looking at holding in-school vaccination clinics, but not until January, she said.
Twelve anglophone schools are offering clinics in partnership with local pharmacies, said Shephard. Anglophone North has four, Anglophone West, four, Anglophone East, two, and Anglophone South, two.
Fredericton Red Wings player tests positive
A player on the Fredericton Red Wings has tested positive for COVID-19, the Maritime Junior Hockey League announced Thursday.
On Tuesday, the league announced a player with the Miramichi Timberwolves had tested positive.
The unidentified Red Wings player was asymptomatic.
Since the initial rapid test result earlier this week, all Red Wings players have been tested three more times with no additional positive cases, according to a news release.
But as a precaution, the game on Sunday between the Red Wings and Edmundston Blizzard at Grant Harvey Centre in Fredericton has been postponed.
"The team is working closely with Public Health officials on the next steps and are committed to continuing their rapid testing protocol to ensure the health and safety of all involved," the release said.
The players have been following a "strict protocol" since August, conducting rapid tests every time the team goes to the rink for a game or practice, which is multiple times per week, it said.
New cases in 7 schools, 2 child-care facilities
Eleven new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in seven schools across three health zones since Wednesday, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development's website shows.
A positive case or cases have been detected at the following schools: Magnetic Hill School, Northrop Frye School and École Sainte-Thérèse, all in the Moncton region, Zone 1, Westfield School and Hammond River Valley Elementary School, both in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and Park Street Elementary School and Nashwaaksis Memorial School, both in the Fredericton region, Zone 3.
The website does not indicate whether the cases involve students, teachers or staff.
Thirty-eight schools are currently impacted.
Three schools have COVID-related operational days Thursday, according to the department's website.
A total of 548 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 150 schools since the beginning of the school year.
Two new cases of COVID-19 have also been detected at two child-care facilities in the Fredericton region, Zone 3.
Go-Go After School Park Street, which was not previously impacted, and L'il Critters Early Learning and Child Care, each have one confirmed case.
The website does not indicate whether the cases involve children, staff or volunteers.
There have been 98 early learning and child-care centres affected by COVID-19 since Sept. 7. The total number of cases has not been released.
Atlantic COVID roundup
Nova Scotia reported 40 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the active caseload in the province to 214. Thirteen people are now in hospital with COVID-19, including five in intensive care.
Prince Edward Island announced one new case Thursday and has 25 active cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported a two-day total of two new cases Wednesday and has 22 active cases.
Public exposure notices
Public Health has issued several new public exposure notices Thursday, including four arenas and a church in the Moncton region, Zone 1, a funeral home and movie theatre in the Saint John region, Zone 2, a sports complex and movie theatre in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, a restaurant in the Campbellton region, Zone 5, and a retail shop in the Miramichi region, Zone 7.
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