New Brunswick

COVID-19 kills 6 more in N.B., hospital admissions more than double

New Brunswick reported six more deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday and hospital admissions because of the virus have more than doubled in the past week.

New cases and positivity rate both decreased in the past week, according to COVIDWatch report

A nurse wearing full personal protective gear tends to a patient in an intensive care unit, checking the monitoring equipment and adjusting the IV bag.
The New Brunswick Department of Health says 19 people were admitted to the hospital because of COVID-19 in the past week, while the Horizon and Vitalité health networks say they have 39 people hospitalized for or with the virus. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

New Brunswick reported six more deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, and hospital admissions because of the virus have more than doubled in the past week.

Meanwhile, new lab-confirmed cases and the positivity rate have both decreased after the province further restricted access to PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests by requiring people to obtain a referral from a health-care provider.

All six people who died were at least 70 years old, a comparison of data in the latest COVIDWatch report to last week's report reveals.

None died during the reporting week in question, April 2 to April 8. Three died in March, one in February, one in January and the other in December.

Their deaths raise the province's pandemic death toll to 874.

Fewer in ICU

Nineteen people were newly admitted to hospital because of COVID, up from nine, according to the province. One person requires intensive care, down from two.

Among the new admissions, four are 20 to 59 years old, three are 60 to 69 and 12 are 70 or older.

The two regional health authorities say they have 39 people hospitalized either for or with COVID, as of Saturday, up from 30 the previous week. Two require intensive care, down from three.

Positivity rate of 11%

A total of 98 new cases of COVID have been confirmed through 890 PCR tests, for a positivity rate of 11 per cent.

That's roughly a 37 per cent decrease from the 155 new cases confirmed through 948 PCR tests the previous week, when the positivity rate — an indicator of community transmission —  was 16.3 per cent.

An additional 79 people self-reported testing positive on a rapid test, up from 75, according to figures from the Department of Health.

Of the 57 random positive PCR samples sent for genetic sequencing, 89 per cent were XBB, an offshoot of the Omicron BA.2 subvariant, up from 69 per cent.

COVIDWatch does not indicate how many of those were cases of XBB.1.5, which has been described as immune evasive and "the most transmissible" subvariant yet.

The breakdown of the other sequenced cases includes nine per cent Omicron subvariant BA. 5, and two per cent Omicron subvariant BA.2.

2nd booster rate inches up

A total of 30.5 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have now received a second COVID-19 booster, up from 30.4 per cent, after 158 people rolled up their sleeves for the shot.

The other vaccination rates remain unchanged:

  • First dose — 91.1 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers.
  • Second dose — 85.9 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers.
  • First booster — 54.8 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers.

Last week, the Department of Health announced spring COVID-19 vaccine boosters are now available to those considered at highest risk for severe illness, if at least five months have passed since their last vaccine dose or COVID infection.

Those eligible include:

  • People aged 65 and over, especially if unsure whether they've already been infected.
  • People aged 18 and over who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.
  • People living in long-term care facilities.

CBC requested an interview with Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, but department spokesperson Sean Hatchard said she wasn't available.

Horizon and Vitalité breakdowns

Horizon has 24 of the hospitalized patients, including the two in intensive care, its weekly COVID-19 dashboard shows.

The regional breakdown includes:

  • Moncton region, Zone 1 — 14.
  • Saint John region, Zone 2 —  seven.
  • Fredericton region, Zone 3 — three.

Vitalité has the other 15 patients, according to its weekly COVID update.

More than half of them, eight, are in the Bathurst region, Zone 6, at the Chaleur Regional Hospital. Five are in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, at the Edmundston Regional Hospital, and the other two are in the Moncton region, Zone 1, at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre.

Fewer health-care workers infected, outbreaks rise

The number of health-care workers off the job after testing positive for COVID-19 has dropped nearly 54 per cent in the past week to 25 from 54.

Horizon has 11 positive staff (down from 39), and Vitalité has 14 (down from 15).

The number of COVID-19 outbreaks on hospital units across the province has doubled to four.

Horizon has three outbreaks — two in the Moncton region and the other in the Saint John region. No other details are provided. 

The fourth outbreak is at Vitalité's Chaleur Regional Hospital, on the extended care unit (4 West).