New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Winter plan goes into effect Saturday night, 2 deaths, 97 new cases

The province released its Winter Action Plan for COVID-19 today instead of Monday as originally planned. The plan limits gathering numbers and will remain in place till spring.

Three-level plan will remain in place until spring, indoor gatherings limited to 20 people

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell both urge people to keep their number of contacts as low as possible this winter, noting the province continues to see significant spread of COVID-19 through household gatherings. (Government of New Brunswick/YouTube)

Latest

  • 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 Edmundston region, Zone 4, has no active COVID-19 cases, as of Friday. It is the only one of the seven health regions with no active cases. (CBC News)

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

  •  two people 19 and under

One case is under investigation and the other is a contact of a previously confirmed case.

Miramichi region, Zone 7 — 20 cases 

  • five people 19 or under
  • two people 20 to 29
  • three people 30 to 39
  • two people 40 to 49
  • a person 50 to 59
  • three people 60 to 69  
  • four people 70-79.

Seventeen cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and three are under investigation.

New Brunswick has had 8,603 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic with 7,759 recoveries so far.

A total of 564,966 tests have been conducted to date, including 1,822 on Thursday.

Booster doses are now available to those over the age of 65 and will be expanded to include people in their 50s next week, Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader/The Associated Press)

Booster shot eligibility expands next week

Public Health will expand the availability of booster doses next week to include people in their 50s, Dr. Jennifer Russell said at a COVID-19 update.

Booster doses are now available to those over the age of 65 who got their second vaccine dose six months ago.

In the coming weeks, eligibility will be expanded to people in their 40s, and then to all other New Brunswickers, Russell said.

"When you become eligible for a booster dose, please get one as soon as you can." 

As of Friday, 81.9 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, up from 81.8 per cent, and 87.1 per cent have received their first dose, up from 87.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is now "strongly recommending" that all Canadians over the age of 50 and other vulnerable individuals — such as health care workers, Indigenous people and those living in congregate care settings — get a third dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

In a new report issued today, NACI — an independent body made up of volunteer vaccine experts — also calls on Canadians aged 18 to 49 to get a third mRNA shot at least six months after they got their second.

Appointments for booster shots for those eligible and for first and second doses can be scheduled for a regional health authority community COVID-19 vaccination clinic through the online booking system or at a participating pharmacy.

A list of upcoming walk-in clinics is available online.

55 travellers from omicron-barred countries in isolation

Fifty-five people who travelled recently from one of the 10 omicron-variant-barred countries are now isolating in New Brunswick, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said Friday.

That's up from eight just two days ago. The number increased when the federal government increased its list of countries to 10 from seven, she said.

"They're isolating at home and they are all over the province," Shephard told CBC News.

They're being monitored daily by the federal government, and the province is making sure they have access to testing.

"I haven't received any kind of indication that omicron is in New Brunswick," she said.

So far, there are no confirmed cases. She is not aware of any suspected cases either.

Moncton Hospital outbreaks grow to 37 cases

COVID-19 outbreaks on four units of the Moncton Hospital have grown to include 37 people, says the Horizon Health Network.

All 18 cases on the COVID-19 unit, Unit 6600, are now related to the outbreaks, according to a status report released Friday. There are also two COVID patients in intensive care.

A staff member on the COVID unit has also tested positive, but Horizon says an investigation determined this transmission "meets the definition of an exposure, not an outbreak."

As of Friday morning, 30 patients and seven staff have tested positive for COVID-19 in connection with the outbreaks on the family medicine and palliative care unit, Unit 3600, rehabilitation unit, Unit 4400, stroke and family medicine unit, Unit 4600, and family practice and geriatric unit, Unit 5100. 

Patients and staff were last tested Thursday. Patients will be tested again Monday and staff will be tested again Tuesday, according to the status report.

COVID-19 outbreaks on four units of the Moncton Hospital have grown to include 37 people, Horizon Health Network says. (CBC)

Expanded testing of patients on other units to ensure there are no other asymptomatic cases, known as sentinel surveillance, has found no other cases, Horizon said.

The hospital is maintaining as many services as possible and encouraging patients to continue to attend scheduled surgeries and appointments, such as labour and birth services and ambulatory care and professional services.

Some non-urgent surgeries may be postponed, but those affected will be notified, Horizon said.

Since the last update, Unit 5100 has had one new positive patient case on Thursday.

Unit 4600, which includes patients transferred from Unit 4400, has had two new positive cases — one on Tuesday and the other on Monday.

Unit 3600 has had no new cases since last Friday.

Miramichi hospital outbreak affects surgeries, procedures

There have been no new confirmed cases in a COVID-19 outbreak at the Miramichi Regional Hospital's intensive care unit and family practice unit (2 West) since Nov. 27, when one patient tested positive, the Horizon Health Network said Friday.

But surgeries, procedures and treatments have been affected by the outbreak, as staff were needed to open and sustain a second ICU.

"Patients should continue to come in for appointments, such as surgeries; labour and birth services; and ambulatory care and professional appointments unless notified," Horizon said in a status report.

Testing protocols for staff and patients are in place on the affected units.

The hospital has three patients on the COVID-19 unit and three COVID patients in intensive care.

Saint John hospital outbreak stands at 2

COVID-19 outbreaks at the Saint John Regional Hospital's orthopedic surgery (3CS) and internal medicine (4CN) units stand at two, the Horizon Health Network said Friday.

No new cases have been confirmed since Nov. 25, when one patient on each unit tested positive.

No staff have tested positive in relation to these cases.

There are five patients on the COVID-19 unit and nine COVID patients in intensive care. All hospital services are continuing.

"Some non-urgent surgeries may be postponed; those affected will be notified," Horizon said in a status report.

New cases at 3 schools, 1 child-care centre

Three new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in three schools since Thursday, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development's website shows.

In the Fredericton region, Zone 3, a positive case has been confirmed at  Montgomery Street Elementary School, which was not previously impacted, and at Nashwaaksis Memorial School. There is also a positive case at Le Galion des Appalaches in the Campbellton region, Zone 5.

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

Thirty-two schools are currently impacted.

Five schools had COVID-related operational days Friday, according to the department's website.

A total of 551 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 151 schools since the beginning of the school year.

One new case has also been confirmed at a child-care facility in the Campbellton region, Zone 5 - Garderie les débrouillards(es).

The website does not indicate whether the case involves a child, staff member or volunteer.

There have been 98 early learning and child-care centres affected by COVID-19 since Sept. 7. The total number of cases has not been released.

Atlantic COVID roundup

Nova Scotia reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the active caseload in the province to 199 cases. Thirteen people are in hospital with the virus, including five in intensive care.

Prince Edward Island reported one new case on Friday and has 19 active cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported five new cases in the province since Wednesday. There are now 20 active cases in the province.

Public exposure notices

Public Health has issued several new public exposure notices Friday, including a Walmart in the Moncton region, Zone 1, the Saint John Regional Hospital's emergency department waiting room, St. Joseph's Hospital's specimen collection and Ridgewood Addiction Services cafeteria in the Saint John region, Zone 2, Willie O'Ree Place and a Tim Hortons in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, the care attendant course at the CCNB Acadian Peninsula Campus in the Campbellton region, Zone 5, and the Renous Recreational Centre in the Miramichi region, Zone 7.

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.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story quoted Dr. Jennifer Russell as saying booster doses are now available to people in their 60s. Public Health has since clarified that the doses are available to those 65 and up, and will be available to those age 50 and up next week.
    Dec 03, 2021 5:06 PM AT

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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