N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Province just misses vaccination target at 74.8%, 1 new case
Only 1,430 first doses administered Sunday, according to province's COVID dashboard
- Eligibility for 2nd doses expands
- 90 active cases
- Long-term care staff vaccination rate, testing
- Outbreak at Zone 1 nursing home declared over
- New public exposure
- Previous public exposures
New Brunswick reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday and has again fallen short of the vaccination target needed to move to the first phase of loosening restrictions.
Meanwhile, the province is quickly closing in on its Phase 2 goal, according to figures obtained from the Department of Health.
The COVID-19 dashboard was updated Monday morning to show 74.8 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers aged 12 or over have now been vaccinated with a first dose of a vaccine.
The threshold for Phase 1 of the path to green is 75 per cent — a target the province had hoped to reach a week ago.
Another 1,345 people still need to get their shot before the province eliminates the steady 15 of contacts and opens its borders to people from Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Cumberland County, N.S., and Avignon and Témiscouata, Que., without the need to isolate or get tested.
"We're just on the cusp of reaching our 75 per cent," Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said during an interview with CBC's Shift.
"We're kind of waiting on pins and needles here. … We're very excited."
"This has been a very long journey. And, you know, it's not completely over yet. But certainly when you reach a milestone like this, it is cause for, I guess, a recognition of all of that hard work and what we've done collectively as a province. So I am so proud of everything that we've done to get to this point."
Russell encouraged anyone who hasn't already done so to get their first dose so everyone will be able to enjoy summer with their friends and families.
The full list of the Horizon and Vitalité clinics offering walk-ins, including dates and times, is available online.
Several walk-in vaccination clinics were held over the weekend, with no appointments required, in an effort to get more New Brunswickers vaccinated.
Only 1,430 more New Brunswickers received a first dose Sunday, according to the dashboard.
Phase 2 of the reopening plan is scheduled to begin July 1 if 75 per cent have received their first dose and at least 20 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 65 or over have received their second dose.
As of Monday, the second dose vaccination rate among that demographic group stood at 17 per cent, according to the Department of Health.
That means 5,162 more people need their second dose to hit that target.
"We expect to have enough doses of mRNA vaccine to be able to offer a second dose appointment to everyone before the end of June," department spokesperson Gail Harding said.
Among the changes under Phase 2, all Canadian travellers who have had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine will be allowed into the province without the need to isolate. Those who have not been vaccinated will also be allowed in, but will be subject to isolation and testing requirements.
Eligibility for 2nd doses expands
Eligibility for second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine expanded Monday to include anyone who received their first dose in April.
By noon, more than 15,000 people had booked an appointment through the Horizon or Vitalité clinics, said Harding.
The extra volume caused problems for the province's booking phone line, as one user pointed out on twitter.
"It says the person I'm trying to reach is unavailable. Have dialed multiple times."
The province tweeted in response: "There is a high volume of calls right now but we encourage you to try a little later as it may be less busy."
Harding acknowledged there were times when the call volume was high. "We ask the public to continue to be patient as they work to book an appointment," she said in an emailed statement. She encouraged people to consider booking online and if they need help, to consider asking a trusted friend or family member.
Some people also expressed frustration with the limited selection of appointments available.
"They opened up for 2nd doses but we are not driving an hour and a half to get it. Should still have a clinic where we got our last one. Must be saving all the vaccines for 1st doses," one person posted on twitter.
The province tweeted in response: "Please continue to check the page, more appointments will be added. You can also try a pharmacy near you."
People who received Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech for their first dose do not need to receive the same product for their second dose, said Russell. They can get either one.
"They work the same way and have similar levels of safety and effectiveness," the chief medical officer of health said in a statement. "Like many medications you may take, when the active ingredient is the same, they work the same way.
"This approach will help New Brunswickers access their second dose as soon as possible."
Another 146,300 doses of Moderna have been allocated to New Brunswick this month, according to the federal government's website, with the first 59,640 due this week.
A total of 148,590 doses of Pfizer are expected, including 50,310 this week.
For people who received AstraZeneca as their first dose, Public Health recommends those under the age of 55 get Moderna or Pfizer as their second dose, unless contraindicated. Those 55 or older can receive a second dose of AstraZeneca or choose Moderna or Pfizer instead.
No new shipments of AstraZeneca are currently scheduled.
If possible, people are asked to book an appointment at the same clinic or pharmacy where they received their first dose, Public Health said.
They should bring a copy of the record of immunization they were given, as well as a signed consent form and their medicare card.
On June 21, eligibility for second dose appointments will be extended to include everyone, as long as at least 28 days have passed since their first dose.
People who received their first dose outside the province and have lived in New Brunswick for at least four weeks may register for their second dose, following the same schedule as those who received their first dose in New Brunswick.
90 active cases
New Brunswick has 90 active cases of COVID-19, Public Health reported Monday.
The one new case is a person in their 50 in the Bathurst region, Zone 6, who is a contact of a previous case.
Six people are hospitalized in New Brunswick, including two in an intensive care unit. One New Brunswicker is also in hospital outside of the province in an intensive care unit.
New Brunswick has had 2,299 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with 2,163 recoveries so far and 45 COVID-related deaths.
A total of 351,388 tests have been conducted, including 620 on Sunday.
Long-term care staff vaccination rate, testing
The first dose vaccination rate among long-term care home staff in the province is only 72.2 per cent, as of Monday, the Department of Social Development confirmed.
Last Friday, the province announced 77.1 per cent of long-term care staff had been reported as receiving at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
But that figure included staff who had received the vaccine as well as those who intended to get the vaccine, said department spokesperson Robert Duguay.
He could not immediately explain why the data is reported this way.
The vaccination rate for the general population includes only those who have actually been vaccinated.
Twenty-nine of the province's homes still have less than half their staff vaccinated, said Duguay.
The Edmundston region, Zone 4, has the highest percentage of facilities with less than half of staff vaccinated at 17 per cent. The next closest is the Bathurst region, Zone 6, at seven per cent.
On May 27, Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch announced mandatory testing for unvaccinated workers in facilities where the vaccination rate is under 50 per cent. They must take a rapid COVID-19 test every other day, he said.
So far, the department has received the results from only 13 facilities and of those, two employees refused to be tested, said spokesperson Jeremy Trevors.
Trevors declined to reveal what happened to those individuals, citing privacy.
But generally speaking, if an unvaccinated employee is not willing to be tested for COVID-19 and they don't have "a valid religious or medical reason," they cannot go to work until they are tested or have been vaccinated, he said.
In such situations, the employee can take unpaid leave or paid leave, such as vacation or sick time, to cover their absence from work, Trevors said.
"For employees with a valid religious or medical reason for refusing testing or vaccination, if they cannot be accommodated in an alternative setting at the facility that poses no risk to residents," they cannot go to work either and can take unpaid or paid leave.
Asked to define a valid religious or medical reason, Trevors said that has been left to the discretion of the facilities.
He did not say why the test results from the other facilities have not been received yet, but he did say the department expects to complete training on COVID testing at some facilities within the next few days.
Long-term care facilities are obligated to comply with the testing and reporting of results, he said. "This is not negotiable.
"The seniors under our care are the most vulnerable and frail New Brunswickers. It is our responsibility to ensure a safe environment for them, as well as for all workers."
Outbreak at Zone 1 nursing home declared over
Public Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak over at Villa Maria, a nursing home in Saint-Louis de Kent in the Moncton region, Zone 1.
Members of the Provincial Rapid Outbreak Management Team had been on-site, providing support for residents and the facility's care team.
The outbreak at the 60-bed home was declared on June 4 after one positive case was confirmed.
A total of 86 per cent of residents and 72 per cent of employees had already been vaccinated, according to a Facebook post by the home.
New public exposure
Public Health has identified a new potential public exposure to the coronavirus in the Bathurst region, Zone 6:
- Emelien Savoie Workshop – Boat Repair, 11 Centre St., Pigeon Hill, June 5 to June 11.
Public Health is offering COVID-19 testing to anyone who has been in a public exposure area, even if they are not experiencing any symptoms. Residents may request a test online or call Tele-Care 811.
People experiencing one or more symptoms are also encouraged to get tested.
Previous public exposures
Public Health has identified numerous potential public exposures to the coronavirus in many communities across the province, so many that it has stopped listing them individually in its daily news release.
A detailed list of the potential exposures, including the locations and dates, is available on the government's COVID-19 website. It is updated regularly.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online.
Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included:
Fever above 38 C.
New cough or worsening chronic cough.
New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.
In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.
People with one of those symptoms should:
Stay at home.
Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.
Describe symptoms and travel history.