New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 1 new death, all testing centres in Zones 1, 2 and 3 closed

New Brunswick recorded another COVID-related death Tuesday and the Horizon Health Centre announced all COVID-19 testing centres in the Moncton region, Saint John region, and Fredericton region are closed because of the strike by members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

4 priority groups for lab testing identified as Day 5 of CUPE strike continues to affect COVID-19 services

'Testing is essential to help reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in New Brunswick,' Horizon's website says. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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  • Premier expresses concern over low testing, reliability of new cases data
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  • Breakdown of active cases
  • 3 new schools hit with cases
  • Atlantic COVID roundup

New Brunswick recorded another COVID-related death Tuesday and the Horizon Health Centre announced all COVID-19 testing centres in the Moncton region, Saint John region, and Fredericton region are closed because of the strike by members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Public Health also identified those considered priority for lab testing during the strike, now into Day 5.

A person 80-89 in the Campbellton region, Zone 5, has died "because of COVID-19," according to a news release.

Forty new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed and 75 people have recovered, dropping the province's active case count to 470 from 506.

"Increasing vaccination rates, along with circuit breaker measures in high-risk areas, are having a positive impact," Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, said in a statement. "I encourage everyone to keep up the great work because they are making a difference."

But Premier Blaine Higgs expressed concern to reporters over the reliability of the new cases data, given the impact of the strike on testing.

"We've asked Health to follow up on that because I think, you know, there's a concern there of, do we have the level of testing required to confirm that there's 40 cases?"

Only 408 tests were conducted on Monday and 507 on Sunday, daily COVID dashboard data reveals.

That's down from, 2,170 last Monday and 1,188 last Sunday, before the strike began.

Asked whether people can trust that the 40 new reported cases accurately reflect the number of positive cases, Higgs said, "It is a concern, and we are ramping up the testing to be sure that we cover it." He did not elaborate.

The strike involves 22,000 workers in 10 CUPE locals, including health care, education, transportation and agricultural sectors, as well as social workers, jail guards, court stenographers and staff at WorkSafeNB and New Brunswick community colleges.

"While Public Health has implemented contingency plans, CUPE did not agree to the designation of essential workers in COVID-19 services (screening, vaccination clinics, assessment centres, labs), putting further strain on the health-care system," the government said in a news release Monday.

Saint John's COVID-19 assessment centre at 84 Ropewalk Rd. is one of the Horizon Health Network testing sites closed because of the CUPE strike. (Horizon Health Network)

In a daily status report Tuesday, the Horizon Health Network said, "due to the CUPE strike," all of its COVID-19 assessment centres in Zones 1, 2 and 3 are closed.

Horizon's Miramichi assessment centre, at 365 Wellington St., in Zone 7, is the only one that continues to operate, and it is at "reduced capacity."

The Vitalité Health Network, which manages the COVID-19 assessment centres, in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, Campbellton region, Zone 5, and Bathurst region, Zone 6, said all of its sites will remain open throughout the strike.

In areas where assessment centres are closed, Public Health is contacting "higher risk" patients and diverting them elsewhere for testing, Horizon said.

"Other patient referrals for testing are on hold in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John," the regional health authority said. "They will be processed based on priority level and the capacity available in our system."

Zone 1, most of Zone 2 and the northern portion of Zone 3, are under a circuit breaker to further limit the spread of the virus and reduce further hospitalizations. All of Zone 4 and Zone 5 are also under the circuit breaker.

Public Health is confident that people who are most at risk … are being provided timely access to PCR testing in alternate sites in their communities at this time.- Bruce Macfarlane, Department of Health spokesperson

"Testing is essential to help reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in New Brunswick," Horizon's website says.

Assessment centres normally offer appointments for people with symptoms of COVID-19, as well as those who have been directed by Public Health to be tested for COVID-19.

"Despite some assessment centre closures and others operating at reduced capacity throughout our province due to the CUPE strike, Public Health is confident that people who are most at risk, as per the priority groups mentioned in today's news release on COVID, are being provided timely access to PCR testing in alternate sites in their communities at this time," Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane told CBC News.

Because the strike is also impacting the province's microbiology lab at the Dr. Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, Public Health announced four priority groups are now being considered to receive polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests. These include:

  • Those working and living in vulnerable settings, such as a hospital, long-term care facility or shelter
  • Those prioritized by a medical officer of health
  • Anyone who is symptomatic, with priority given to those who are unvaccinated
  • Those who require testing for travel, although with no guarantee of a 72-hour turnaround for test results

"The wide-scale distribution of COVID-19 point-of-care testing initiated last month is also providing an additional layer of protection to the population during this period of disruption," Macfarlane said in an emailed statement, referring to rapid test kits.

But the Vitalité Health Network announced Monday it had to temporarily close its rapid COVID-19 test kit pickup locations in Moncton, Campbellton, Cocagne, Grand Falls, Clair, Caraquet and Saint-Isidore because of the strike.

Horizon said its hub pickup sites in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton and Miramichi will remain open this week, but its mobile sites will not.

And all positive rapid test results must be confirmed with a laboratory PCR test.

Horizon and Vitalité vaccination clinics are now by appointment only, with no walk-in capacity. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The strike has also affected Horizon and Vitalité COVID-19 vaccination clinics. They are no longer able to accept walk-ins. People must schedule an appointment. A list of upcoming clinics is available online.

"People are asked to be patient with staff and expect delays," Public Health said.

Horizon said its clinics in Oromocto, Woodstock and Miramichi proceeded Tuesday.

Public Health has quietly changed its testing guidance for people at potential public COVID-19 exposure sites.

It used to recommend that people who had not been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure get a COVID test, even if they didn't have symptoms.

Now the website says those who aren't fully vaccinated and have symptoms must book a COVID-19 PCR laboratory test, but those without symptoms "can pick up an At-Home COVID-19 Rapid Point of Care Test (Rapid POCT) screening kit."

In Tuesday's news release, Public Health specifies "anyone with two or more symptoms" should get tested and notes the rapid test kits are "while supplies last."

    Breakdown of active cases

    Twenty-four people are hospitalized because of the virus, including 14 in intensive care, down two from Monday.

    Of those in hospital, 14 are unvaccinated, one is partially vaccinated and nine are fully vaccinated, Public Health said.

    Of those in ICU, 10 are unvaccinated, one is partially vaccinated, and three are fully vaccinated.

    A total of 85.2 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 or older are fully vaccinated, up from 85.1 per cent on Monday, while 92.7 per cent have received their first dose, up from 92.6.

    Of the 40 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed Tuesday, 27 – or 67.5 per cent – are unvaccinated and 13 – or 32.5 per cent – are fully vaccinated.

    Forty new cases of COVID-19 were reported Tuesday, but Premier Blaine Higgs questioned whether enough testing is being conducted during the strike to be certain cases are being found. (CBC News)

    The new cases are spread across five of the seven health zones. They include:

    Moncton region, Zone 1, 14 cases:

    • Seven people 19 or under
    • A person 20-29
    • Four people 30-39
    • A person 40-49
    • A person 70-79

    Ten of these cases are under investigation and four are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

    Saint John region, Zone 2, nine cases:

    • A person 19 or under
    • Three people 30-39
    • A person 40-49
    • Two people 50-59
    • A person 60-69
    • A person 70-79

    Six of these cases are under investigation and three are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

    Fredericton region, Zone 3, two cases:

    • A person 50-59
    • A person 60-69

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

    Edmundston region, Zone 4, three cases:

    • Two people 50-59
    • A person 60-69

    Two of these cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and the other is under investigation.

    Miramichi region, Zone 7, 12 cases:

    • A person 19 or under
    • Two people 20-29
    • Three people 30-39
    • Four people 40-49
    • A person 50-59
    • A person 60-69

    Ten of these cases are under investigation and two are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

    New Brunswick has had 6,516 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with 5,927 recoveries so far and 118 COVID-related deaths.

    A total of 528,230 COVID tests have been conducted to date.

    3 new schools hit with cases

    Since Monday, three new cases of COVID-19 have been identified at three schools not previously impacted, according to the COVID-19 dashboard.

    The schools include Champlain Heights School, Bayside Middle School and Hammond River Valley Elementary School, all in the Saint John region, Zone 2.

    Thirty-three schools are currently impacted across the province.

    A total of 426 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at 118 schools since the beginning of the school year.

    All schools moved to online learning Monday because of the CUPE strike. Students will continue to learn from home until the strike is over, the government has said.

    Atlantic COVID roundup

    Nova Scotia reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, putting the province's active case count at 161. There are eight people in hospital with COVID-19 and none in intensive care.

    Prince Edward Island has four active cases and announced the easing of some pandemic restrictions at a briefing Tuesday.

    Newfoundland and Labrador reported a three-day total of two new cases of COVID-19 Monday but the Health Department warned some information is not available in the wake of an apparent cyberattack on the province's health-care system. The province has 91 active cases and one person in hospital.

    Public exposure notices

    Public Health has posted new public exposure notices Tuesday, including a strip club in Saint John, Zone 2.

    For the full list of new and previous public exposure notices, please visit the government of New Brunswick's website.

    People who have not been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure and who have symptoms must 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 their results comes back negative, they 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.

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