New Brunswick

N.B. records 3 more COVID-19 deaths, hospital admissions decrease

COVID-19 has killed three more New Brunswickers, raising the province's pandemic death toll to 877, figures released Tuesday show.

New lab-confirmed cases, positivity rate remain 'stable,' COVIDWatch report says

A health-care worker in full protective gear tends to a hospital patient, checking their monitoring equipment.
The three latest COVID-19 victims were all aged 70 or older, according to the COVIDWatch report. (CBC)

COVID-19 has killed three more New Brunswickers, raising the province's pandemic death toll to 877, figures released Tuesday show.

Hospital admissions because of the virus decreased in the past week, while the number of confirmed cases and positivity rate remained "stable," the COVIDWatch report says.

None of the deaths occurred during the reporting week, April 9 to April 15.

One person died in March and the other two in January, a graphic in the report indicates. There is an average two-month lag from date of death to the registration of death, it says.

All three people were aged 70 or older, a comparison of data in the latest report to last week's report reveals.

Hospital admissions down to 12 from 19

Twelve people were admitted to the hospital because of COVID in the past week, down from 19 in the previous report. One of them required intensive care, the same number as a week ago.

Among the new admissions was one person aged 20 to 59, one aged 60 to 69 and 10 aged 70 or older.

The two regional health authorities say they have 35 people in hospital who were either admitted because of COVID or initially admitted for another reason and later tested positive for the virus. That's down from 39 a week ago.

Horizon and Vitalité report no one in intensive care, as of Saturday.

CBC asked the Department of Health about the discrepancy in the ICU numbers and whether the one person it reported no longer requires intensive care, but spokesperson Sean Hatchard redirected inquiries to the regional health authorities.

Horizon later clarified it did have one person in ICU on Monday, April 17 — the one shown in the COVIDWatch report. However Horizon's COVID-19 dashboard, updated every Tuesday, reflects data only as of the previous Saturday, so this ICU admission was not yet reflected, a spokesperson said.

A nurse readies a bag on a hospital stand for a patient.
Since Aug. 28, 2022, the rate of hospitalizations because of COVID-19 is highest among those aged 70 and older, according to COVIDWatch. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A total of 102 new cases of COVID have been confirmed through 913 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests. That's a positivity rate of 11 per cent.

The positivity rate — an indicator of community transmission — was also 11 per cent a week ago when 98 new cases were confirmed through 890 PCR tests.

An additional 55 people self-reported testing positive on a rapid test, down from 79, according to figures from the Department of Health.

92% of cases XBB

Omicron XBB now represents 92 per cent of cases, based on the 36 random positive PCR samples sent for genetic sequencing.

COVIDWatch does not provide a further breakdown of sublineages, such as XBB.1.5, which has been described as immune evasive and "the most transmissible" subvariant yet.

The other eight per cent of the sequenced cases were the Omicron subvariant BA. 5, the report shows.

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

Vaccination rates stalled

There were 314 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered across the province in the past week, including 146 second boosters.

But the numbers weren't high enough to increase vaccination rates. They remain:

  • 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.
  • Second booster — 30.5 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers.

Only about 13 per cent of New Brunswickers aged five and older have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose in the past five months, according to figures from the Department of Health.

New Brunswick's spring booster campaign is "primarily focused on" people most at risk for severe illness, including seniors and the immunocompromised, Hatchard said Tuesday.

People aged five an older who received a fall booster are not currently eligible, "as per the recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) — unless they have personal risk factors that would change their eligibility," he said in an emailed statement.

People aged five or older who have not yet received their fall booster dose, however, remain eligible for a booster dose throughout the spring.

Booster doses are available by appointment at community pharmacies across the province until the end of June.

Horizon and Vitalité breakdowns

Horizon has 22 of the patients hospitalized either for or with COVID, as of Saturday, with none in intensive care, its weekly COVID-19 dashboard shows. That's down from 24 and two, respectively, a week ago.

The regional breakdown includes:

  • Moncton region, Zone 1 — 15.
  • Saint John region, Zone 2 —  two.
  • Fredericton region, Zone 3 — four.
  • Miramichi region, Zone 7 — one.

Vitalité has the other 13 COVID-19 hospital patients, according to its weekly COVID update, down from 15.

Eleven of them are at the Chaleur Regional Hospital in the Bathurst region, Zone 6. The Moncton and Edmundston region, Zone 4, each have one patient at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre and Edmundston Regional Hospital.

The number of health-care workers off the job after testing positive for COVID has doubled in the past week to 50.

Horizon has the majority of them, at 33, and saw the biggest jump, with only 11 infected employees in the previous report.

Vitalité has 17 health-care workers absent, up from 14.

There are COVID-19 outbreaks on two Horizon hospital units in the Moncton region, down from three. No other details are provided.

Vitalité has not updated its outbreak page, as of mid-afternoon. It's still showing one at Chaleur Regional Hospital, on the extended care unit (4 West).