N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Winter plan goes into effect Saturday night, 2 deaths, 97 new cases
Three-level plan will remain in place until spring, indoor gatherings limited to 20 people
- Cases confirmed at 6 ASD-W schools
- Plan puts household gathering limit at 20 people
- Breakdown of new cases
- Booster shots will be available to those 50 and up next week
- 55 people from omicron-variant-barred countries isolating in N.B.
- Moncton Hospital outbreaks grow to include 37 people
- Miramichi hospital outbreak affects surgeries, procedures
- Saint John hospital outbreak stands at 2
- New cases at 3 schools, 1 child-care facility
- Atlantic COVID roundup
The New Brunswick government released its Winter Action Plan for COVID-19 on Friday, as it confirmed two more COVID-related deaths and 97 new cases.
In the face of a "very concerning" rise in infections over the past two weeks and a disproportionate number of cases among the unvaccinated, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said the three-level plan with new restrictions will take effect Saturday at 11:59 p.m.
It will remain in effect until spring, she said at a live-streamed COVID-19 update.
The entire province will be in Level 1, the lowest level of restrictions, when the plan takes effect. It includes the following rules and guidelines:
- Maximum of 20 people for informal indoor household gatherings. This replaces the current "steady 20" restriction, which health officials told CBC News actually poses less risk, but wasn't enforceable and some people were having difficulty keeping track of who their 20 consistent contacts were.
- Maximum of 50 people for informal outdoor gatherings.
- Unvaccinated residents should avoid informal indoor gatherings.
- Masks are required in outdoor public spaces when physical distancing can't be maintained.
- Malls, grocery stores, salons must enforce physical distancing or may instead require proof of vaccination from all patrons.
- Schools will follow existing plans at this time.
- All travellers, including New Brunswickers returning to the province, must register or have a multi-use pass.
- Unvaccinated people entering the province are required to isolate and take a test on Day 10.
- All travellers arriving by air will be provided with a rapid testing kit.
"With winter comes colder weather, shorter days, more time spent inside and increased opportunity for COVID-19 to spread," said Shephard.
"It is important we have a plan in place that ensures our health-care system is not overwhelmed, but also considers the mental, physical and financial health of New Brunswickers."
The measures are not difficult, she said.
"They are small actions that each person can take, but when combined, can make a big difference."
If carefully followed, and combined with Public Health measures such as wearing masks, physical distancing and scrupulous hand-washing, Shephard said she is confident the plan will help keep case numbers under control.
"The power to keep us in Level 1 is in our own hands."
Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, warned Christmas gatherings could lead to a post-holiday spike in cases.
"Absolutely concerned about that, and obviously with this new variant of concern [omicron], it's even more challenging in terms of what the scenarios could look like."
By releasing the plan early — three days earlier than scheduled — the government is giving residents a few weeks to make personal decisions around managing risks to protect their communities and the health-care system, she said.
If necessary, the Winter Action Plan has two more alert levels with increased restrictions, including household bubbles, lower capacity at restaurants, and no travel in or out of Level 2 or Level 3 areas except for essential reasons.
Some criteria that could prompt a change in levels includes the seven-day average of new cases, the rate of positive tests, hospitalizations, and the impact on contact tracing, said Russell.
Health officials would consider a move to Level 2, for example, if there's a positivity rate of 10 per cent across the province or in one zone, if 70 people are hospitalized or 34 people are in intensive care, and if Public Health resources are unable to contact cases or sites of exposure within a "reasonable" time frame, she said.
To move from Level 2 to Level 3, there would be a 15 per cent increase in the positivity rate provincially or in any single zone, 100 people in hospital or 50 in ICU, an increasing seven-day average of new hospital admissions, and Public Health resources would be unable to maintain and manage contact tracing.
More information on the alert levels and assessment criteria is available on the government's website.
Enforcement of gathering limits will likely be "random," said Shephard.
Public Safety officers will focus mostly on those who have been directed to isolate, she said.
"On the whole, I think people will be compliant. They understand what's at stake and nobody wants to go to more stricter phases."
Cases confirmed at 6 schools
The Anglophone West School District confirmed cases at six of its schools on Friday evening. In an email to families, the district said it had been informed of one or more cases at the following schools:
- Devon Middle School
- George Street Middle School
- Leo Hayes High School
- Meduxnekeag Consolidated School
- Nashwaaksis Memorial Elementary School
- Park Street Elementary School
"Anyone identified as a close contact has already or will receive a letter from Public Health with specific instructions on what to do next," read the email.
"At this time, all students should plan to attend school on Monday, December 6, unless they are required to self-isolate."
Breakdown of new cases
The 97 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed Friday, with 75 recoveries put the province's active case count at 711, Dr. Jennifer Russell said.
A person in their 70s in the Moncton region, Zone 1, and a person in their 50s in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, have died as a result of COVID-19. Their deaths raise the pandemic death toll to 132.
Forty-nine people are hospitalized with the virus, including one under 19. Of those hospitalized, 16 are in intensive care, nine of them on a ventilator.
Unvaccinated people represent a disproportionate number of recent cases and are experiencing more severe outcomes, the chief medical officer of health stressed.
Friday's new cases translates to 8.8 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 vaccinated, Russell said. For the unvaccinated, the rate per 100,000 jumps to 32.9 — nearly four times as much.
"People who are older and who are unvaccinated face the greatest risk from COVID-19 right now," Russell said.
She noted that the rate of ICU admissions for unvaccinated people with COVID-19 is "more than 10 times" that of those who are fully vaccinated.
Russell also noted that among the hospitalized cases, 59 per cent are over the age of 60 — "again showing that age increases your risk."
The breakdown of the new cases includes:
Moncton region, Zone 1 — 13 cases
- four people 19 or under
- a person 20 to 29
- two people 30 to 39
- two people 40 to 49
- two people 50 to 59
- a person 60 to 69
- a person 70 to 79
Ten cases are under investigation and three cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.
Saint John region, Zone 2 — 27 cases
- four people 19 or under
- six people 20 to 29
- four people 40 to 49
- two people 50 to 59
- five people 60 to 69
- five people 70 to 79
- a person 80 to 89
Fourteen cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and 13 are under investigation.
Fredericton region, Zone 3 — 34 cases
- 15 people 19 and under
- three people 20 to 29
- four people 30 to 39
- five people 40 to 49
- four people 50 to 59
- three people 60 to 69.
Twenty-one cases are under investigation, 12 cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases, and one case is travel-related.
Campbellton region, Zone 5 — one case
- a person 40 to 49
This case is a contact of a previously known case.
Bathurst region, Zone 6 — two cases