New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 3 more deaths, 93 new cases

Three more New Brunswickers have died from COVID-19, and 93 more people are now infected, Public Health reported Wednesday.

12 of the 15 people in intensive care are on ventilators

Medical workers take care of a COVID-19 patient on a mechanical ventilator in a negative pressured room in this file photo. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Latest

  • 8 travellers from omicron variant-barred countries in province
  • Booster doses to be expanded 'very soon'
  • 4th wave 'cresting,' says Higgs
  • 676 active cases
  • Province 'looking into' outdoor gathering held by church that flouted rules
  • 34 of 57 prison inmates have recovered
  • Moncton bars focus of enforcement operation
  • New cases at 3 child-care facilities
  • New cases at 7 schools
  • Atlantic COVID roundup
  • Public exposure notices

Three more New Brunswickers have died from COVID-19, and 93 more people are now infected, Public Health reported Wednesday.

Someone 70 to 79 years old and another person 80 to 89, both in the Moncton region, Zone 1, and a person 80 to 89 in the Saint John region, Zone 2, have died as a result of COVID-19.

Their deaths increase the pandemic death toll to 128.

Twelve of the 15 people in intensive care are on a ventilator. That's up from eight on Tuesday, according to Premier Blaine Higgs.

Sixty-seven people are hospitalized, two of whom are under 19. Twenty-seven of them contracted the virus while already in hospital for another reason, with outbreaks at the Moncton Hospital, Saint John Regional Hospital and Miramichi Regional Hospital.

A total of 81.7 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unchanged, and 86.8 per cent had received their first dose, up from 86.7.

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.

8 travellers from omicron variant-barred countries in province

About eight people who travelled from countries in southern Africa where a new, potentially more transmissible COVID-19 variant has been identified are now self-isolating in New Brunswick.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says Canada Border Services officials notified the province about the individuals who were in the 10 countries now under federal travel restrictions.

"We're able to monitor them and have them isolating," she told reporters. She did not indicate where.

Asked whether any of the individuals have tested positive for COVID-19, Shephard said she only received the information Wednesday morning and hasn't received the "full details."

"They're being followed up on," she said.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard introduced a plan to improve mental health services in the province in 2021, but it did not include any mention of the appointment of a mental health advocate. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

On Nov. 26, the federal government barred foreign nationals who had travelled through South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini or Mozambique in the last 14 days from entering Canada. On Tuesday, it added Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt to the roster of countries it has placed under travel restrictions.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to return home, but they must get a COVID test in the country they connect through on their way to Canada.

Then, after landing in Canada, inbound travellers must also get an arrival test and wait for the results of that test at a designated hotel. If the test is negative, those returning travellers would be released to quarantine for a mandatory 14 days at home. They also would be required to go through a so-called "day eight" test on the eighth day of quarantine.

In addition, the federal government said anyone who arrived in Canada from southern Africa in the 14 days prior to Nov. 26 must immediately get a COVID-19 test — even if they were asymptomatic. They must quarantine at home while they wait for those results.

The highly-mutated variant was first detected in South Africa last week, and has been linked to a spike in cases there. The World Health Organization warned Monday the overall global risk related to omicron is "very high."

"There is concerning preliminary evidence on omicron suggesting, in contrast to previous [variants of concern], both potential immune escape and higher transmissibility that could lead to further surges with severe consequences."

Booster doses to be expanded 'very soon'

Omicron "certainly is concerning," said Shephard. The province is going to be "very proactive" in dealing with the new variant, she said.

That will include opening up COVID-19 booster shots to more people as soon as the province receives more vaccines from the federal government.

"We want to get these done as soon as possible."

Shephard could not say when the shipment will arrive, but said she expects it "very soon," based on a call with federal, provincial and territorial leaders Tuesday evening.

"As soon as we have the information, we'll be sharing that accordingly."

The province is also stepping up its rollout of the vaccine to children aged five to 11, she said. Twelve schools are now offering clinics, up from eight.

4th wave 'cresting,' says Higgs

Premier Blaine Higgs says the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Brunswick is "cresting."

He points to the new daily cases going down, daily recoveries going up, and only eight of the 15 COVID patients in intensive care being on mechanical ventilators, he said Tuesday but the number increased to 12 on Wednesday.

"So the severity is much lower," he said.

"We had a high at one point in ICU of, I think, 27 or 30. And in that case, we probably had close to 20 on ventilators. Or maybe that many were on ventilators. … I forget the exact number."

New Brunswick has seen a spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths over the past few months. And now, the threat of the new COVID-19 variant of concern omicron looms after cases have been confirmed in Ontario and Quebec.

Premier Blaine Higgs says New Brunswick's COVID-19 cases are 'levelling off,' but he doesn't see an end to the pandemic 'anytime soon.' (Ed Hunter/CBC)

There are 67 people hospitalized with COVID in the province, but Higgs contends they "aren't as acute."

Asked whether New Brunswick will start reporting the number of ICU patients on ventilators, he replied: "We do report it, actually. Or if we don't, we probably should, because it leads to the severity of cases."

Higgs said it "hasn't been easy" navigating the pandemic, and he hopes the new variant "won't create issues that take us back a year or more ago."

If people continue to follow Public Health measures, he believes "we will come on the other side of this."

"We're always going to have cases" though, he added.

"This is life with COVID. And we're going to have to find ways to just manage that because we don't see it ending anytime soon.

"And there will be unrest and there will be people that won't get vaccinated. And as a result, we'll continue to be in this similar situation."

The Moncton region, Zone 1, continues to have the highest number of active cases in the province, with the Saint John region, Zone 2, and Fredericton region, Zone 3, now close behind. (CBC News)

676 active cases

The 93 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed Wednesday and 82 more recoveries put the province's active case count at 676, up from 667.

The breakdown of the new cases includes:

Moncton region, Zone 1 — 24 cases:

  • Eight people 19 or under
  • Three people 20 to 29
  • Five people 30 to 39
  • Five people 40 to 49
  • Two people 50 to 59
  • A person 70 to 79

Fifteen of these cases are under investigation, eight cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and one is travel-related.

Saint John region, Zone 2 — 26 cases:

  • Two people 19 or under
  • Six people 20 to 29
  • Three people 30 to 39
  • Seven people 40 to 49
  • A person 50 to 59
  • Five people 60 to 69
  • A person 70 to 79
  • A person 80 to 89

Thirteen of these cases are under investigation and 13 cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

Fredericton region, Zone 3 — 28 cases:

  • 10 people 19 or under
  • Two people 20 to 29
  • Three people 30 to 39
  • Five people 40 to 49
  • Four people 50 to 59
  • Two people 60 to 69
  • Two people 70 to 79

Twenty-three of these cases are under investigation and five cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

Campbellton region, Zone 5 — six cases:

  • Three people 19 or under
  • Two people 30 to 39
  • A person 40 to 49

Three of these cases are under investigation and the other three are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

Miramichi region, Zone 7 — nine cases:

  • Three people 19 or under
  • Two people 20 to 29
  • A person 50 to 59
  • A person 60 to 69
  • Two people 70 to 79

Three of these cases are under investigation and six cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

New Brunswick has had 8,411 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic with 7,606 recoveries so far.

A total of 561,383 tests have been conducted to date, including 1,596 on Tuesday.

Province 'looking into' outdoor gathering held by church that flouted rules

The Department of Justice and Public Safety is "looking into" an outdoor gathering held in Saint John last Sunday by His Tabernacle Family Church, which has previously defied COVID-19 rules.

People gathered in a large white tent on Ashburn Lake Road on the city's east side. A sign on the tent said #TheStand #OpenAirCrusade.

On Monday morning, founder and lead pastor Philip Hutchings, who was released from jail in October after seven days when he admitted he was in contempt of court for failing to abide by a court order to follow the province's COVID-19 protocols, posted photos of the event on his personal Facebook page.

His Tabernacle Family Church pastor Philip Hutchings posted photos of Sunday's event on his personal Facebook page, along with a message saying, 'Don't just stand your ground...take more ground...Remember...what you refuse to address, you endorse.' (Phil Hutchings/Facebook)

They appear to show a worship service without the masks or physical distancing required for faith-based venues.

"The Department of Justice and Public Safety is looking into Sunday's gathering," said spokesperson Geoffrey Downey.

On Oct. 29, Hutchings and assistant pastors Cody and Dana Butler, the three directors of the church, all signed a court document promising they will obey COVID-19 rules, including giving Public Safety officials access to church gatherings.

As part of the undertaking, they also agreed to not hold any secret services and promised to let Public Safety know if they plan to have services in a different location or at times that differ from regularly scheduled services.

Members of His Tabernacle Family Church gathered in a large tent on Ashburn Lake Road in Saint John last Sunday. (Julia Wright/CBC)

"The church has informed the department of services," said Downey. "Officers have been conducting spot checks to observe compliance with COVID regulations," he said in an emailed statement, without elaborating.

Under the province's mandatory order, faith-based venues must choose between requiring proof of vaccination or holding services at 50 per cent capacity with distancing, contact tracing lists and no singing. Masks are mandatory with either option.

On Thursday morning, Hutchings and fellow director Cody Butler are scheduled to appear in provincial court to enter pleas on tickets issued for allegedly violating the Emergency Measures Act.

34 of 57 prison inmates have recovered

Thirty-four of 57 inmates who contracted COVID-19 in an outbreak at Dorchester Penitentiary have now recovered, Correctional Services Canada says.

Since the beginning of the outbreak on the medium-security unit, seven staff members have also tested positive for COVID, pushing the outbreak total to 64. The staff are self-isolating at home, said CSC regional manager of communications Shelley Lawrence.

She did not respond to questions about how many staff are off isolating because they've been identified as close contacts of positive cases or the vaccination rate among staff.

Nearly 86 per cent of inmates in the medium-level security unit are fully vaccinated, and more than 88 per cent have received their first dose, CSC said when the outbreak was declared on Nov. 19.

At that time, 34 inmates and three staff members had tested positive on either a rapid test or a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, lab test.

The COVID-19 outbreak in the medium-security unit at Dorchester Penitentiary has grown to 64 cases. (CBC News )

Lawrence did not say when the next round of testing is scheduled on the unit, which is rated to house up to 397 men.

East Coast Prison Justice Society, a non-profit organization focused on the rights and well-being of prisoners in corrections and on their re-entry to the community, said it learned of the outbreak "with alarm."

"Clearly, outbreaks in congregate living environments such as prisons are exceptionally dangerous," co-chairs Sheila Wildeman and Harry Critchley wrote in a recent letter to the prison warden. "They also raise fundamental concerns about the need to safeguard civil liberties and human rights while enacting necessary public health measures.

"While it may be necessary to restrict movement within the facility in the interest of public health, medical quarantine should never be akin to segregation or solitary confinement."

They questioned, among other things, the conditions under which inmates who have tested positive are being held and what steps are being taken to ensure these conditions comply with charter protections.

They also questioned the conditions under which non-infected inmates are being held.

Lawrence did not respond to these questions.

"We continue to closely monitor the situation, test broadly, and diligently apply infection prevention and control measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the institution," she said in an emailed statement.

"In addition to the use of masks, medical isolation and physical distancing, CSC has also established cohorts and modified routines."

CSC continues to work closely with public health, including experts, to adapt its approach and take additional measures, as needed, she added.

Enforcement operation focuses on Moncton bars

Codiac Regional RCMP, officials from the Department of Justice and Public Safety officials visited 11 bars in the Moncton area last weekend as part of a joint enforcement operation.

They were checking for compliance with the Emergency Measures Act as well as liquor control and fire regulations.

"These are important regulations aimed at keeping everyone safe during a night out," RCMP Staff Sgt. Patricia Levesque said in a statement.

More than 300 patrons were checked between Saturday at 9:30 p.m. on and Sunday at 3 a.m.

Peace officers issued 10 warnings and three tickets related to vaccination requirements under the Emergency Measures Act, the RCMP said in a news release.

They also seized two possible fraudulent vaccination documents.

"The majority of people and establishments were complying with the regulations," Levesque said.

New cases at 3 child-care facilities

Three child-care facilities in three different health zones are each dealing with a new case of COVID-19, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development's website shows.

The facilities include the YMCA of Greater Saint John Forest Glen After School Program in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and Sunny Days Family Centre Afterschool Program in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, which were not previously impacted, and Kingswood Academy 4 in the Moncton region, Zone 1.

The website does not indicate whether the cases involve children, staff or volunteers.

There have been 97 early learning and child-care facilities affected by COVID-19 since Sept. 7. The total number of cases has not been released.

New cases at 7 schools

Nine new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in seven schools across three health zones since Tuesday, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development's website shows.

In the Fredericton region, Zone 3, a positive case or cases have been confirmed at Park Street Elementary School and Nashwaaksis Memorial School, which were not previously impacted.

A positive case or cases have also been confirmed at Magnetic Hill School, Mountain View School, Northrop Frye School and Evergreen Park School, all in the Moncton region, Zone 1, and Le Galion des Appalaches in the Campbellton region, Zone 5.

The website does not indicate whether the cases involve students, teachers or staff.

Thirty-nine schools are currently impacted.

Six schools have COVID-related operational days Wednesday, according to the department's website.

A total of 537 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 150 schools since the beginning of the school year.

Atlantic COVID roundup

Nova Scotia reported 35 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the active caseload in the province to 203. Fifteen people are now in hospital with COVID-19, including eight in intensive care.

Prince Edward Island announced seven new cases. The province now has 30 active cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported a two-day total of two new cases and has 22 active cases.

Public exposure notices

Public Health has issued new public exposure notices Wednesday, including restaurants, a trampoline park and retailer in the Moncton region, Zone 1, and restaurants in the Saint John region, Zone 2 and Campbellton region, Zone 5.

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

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now