NB COVID-19 roundup: Province to provide ‘very important’ update as hospitalizations rise

The government will provide an update on COVID-19 this afternoon as the Omicron variant continues to spread across the province.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said on social media that it was a “very important press conference”.

New Brunswick recorded another COVID-related death on Wednesday and set a record for hospitalizations for COVID-19, at 94. That includes 10 people in intensive care. Four of them are on ventilators.

Among the criteria for the province to consider moving from the current Level 2 of the winter COVID-19 plan to the more restrictive Level 3 are 100 active COVID-19 hospitalizations provincewide or 50 COVID patients in intensive care.

Hospitalizations are expected to reach nearly 220 by the end of the month and new cases to peak at 5,500 a day, if current trends continue and no changes are made.

On Tuesday, Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said the province is monitoring the situation “hour by hour” but hopes to avoid moving to stricter restrictions because of their negative impact.

Under Tier 3, social gatherings would be limited to individual household bubbles; no public gatherings would be allowed; restaurants would only be take-out; non-essential retail would be reduced to contactless pickup or delivery only; gyms, salons and entertainment centers would be closed and religious services would only be allowed outdoors or virtually.

“It’s not a decision that would be taken lightly, but it’s definitely something we’re watching very closely,” Russell said.

For now, the province has urged everyone to limit contact as much as possible over the next two weeks. Screenings could be reduced by about a third if people reduced contact either by seeing fewer people, distancing themselves appropriately or wearing tight-fitting masks indoors, compared to no change in behavior from the public, said the province’s senior epidemiologist, Mathieu Chalifoux.

Premiers Blaine Higgs and Premier Russell will participate in the 2:30 p.m. briefing.

It will be broadcast live here on the CBC New Brunswick website and in French on the government’s YouTube channel.

The 359 new PCR-confirmed cases reported on Wednesday were identified through 2,037 tests, bringing the positivity rate to 17.6%. (CBC News)

Public health reported 369 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed by PCR (polymerase chain reaction) on Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases to 7,058, but that does not include people who tested positive on rapid tests.

A further 688 people aged 2 to 49 with symptoms tested positive on rapid tests and registered their results online.

“These totals are based on information received by the Department of Health from the public and are not intended to be considered an accurate representation of the total number of cases in the province,” Public Health said in a news release.

A total of 644,182 PCR tests have been performed to date.

On Wednesday, 27.5 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers received a booster dose, up from 26.5 per cent, 83.2 per cent received two doses, unchanged for a second consecutive day, and 90.9 per cent received received a dose, compared to 90.8 percent.

New Brunswick has had 21,249 PCR-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with 14,015 recoveries to date and 174 deaths.

Booster booking issue resolved

A problem some people were having booking COVID-19 reminder appointments through the province’s online system earlier this week has been resolved, according to the Department of Health.

No further details have been released, but it appears to be a dispute with people who had also made appointments to take rapid tests. Only people with symptoms are supposed to request rapid tests.

It’s unclear if that’s why the system prevented them from making a reminder appointment or if the system confused the rapid test appointment with a vaccination appointment.

On Monday, eligibility for the booster dose was expanded to include all New Brunswickers 18 and older, provided five months have passed since their second injection.

Mary Nelson, 48, who was anxious for her booster because she has two grandchildren too young to be vaccinated, got up and went online at 5.30am.

She filled out the form, but the field where she entered her health insurance number was highlighted and the system wouldn’t let her go any further.

Mary Nelson, 48, was among an unknown number of people who were unable to make an appointment online for a booster dose after recently making an appointment for rapid COVID-19 tests. (Submitted by Mary Nelson)

She called the toll-free number, which didn’t open until 8:30 a.m. When she later called back, got through, and waited about 20 minutes, the woman she spoke to said, ” Oh, looks like you’re already booked.”

“And I said, ‘No, not booked for my third dose, but last week I had made an appointment for rapid tests,'” Nelson said.

“So I think that’s where the problem was. He was assuming this appointment was for a vaccine, when really it was for rapid tests.”

Several days before, when she had made an appointment for the rapid tests, there had been confirmed cases at her husband’s work and she had been suffering from headaches for a few days, she said.

“I was really concerned that, you know, where it spreads so easily, this variant, which [I was] just err on the side of caution – try to pass some quick tests. “

When she tried to book her recall appointment on Monday, she had no symptoms, she said.

The woman at the helpline didn’t ask her about the symptoms, she said. She gave him a callback appointment for January 17.

“We’ll see what next Monday brings in terms of how I feel and whether I have any symptoms or worsening symptoms,” Nelson said. “That would guide me to stay away from the vaccination clinic.”

Nelson saw posts on social media that made her realize she was not alone. She decided to speak out to report the problem.

She said that while the system won’t let her book because the province doesn’t want people with symptoms going to vaccination clinics, “it’s all very understandable and makes perfect sense. [except] for the fact that your current state when trying to book for one of these things can change so quickly. And, of course, that can change many times between when you make the appointment and when the appointment actually takes place.”

Department spokesman Bruce Macfarlane said in an email: ‘The rapid testing and recall ‘problem’ has been resolved.

When asked what caused the problem, how widespread it was, and when and how it was resolved, he replied, “I don’t know how widespread it was.”

Nurse who’s had COVID seeks to eliminate disease stigma

A registered nurse, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, is encouraging people to talk openly about their diagnosis.

Isabelle Wallace, who works in her home community of Madawaska First Nation, says she wants to help reduce the stigma surrounding the disease.

“My message is that we need to talk about it openly and be honest,” she said.

Madawaska First Nation community health nurse Isabelle Wallace says anyone can get COVID-19, even a healthcare professional like her who takes every precaution. (SRC)

When Wallace got her positive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab test result on her smartphone while on vacation, she said, she took a screenshot and shared it on social media .

“I felt like this was an opportunity for me as a community health nurse to just raise awareness. “

Madawaska First Nation had its first active cases in December, Wallace said.

“So I wanted members to be very cautious as we have seen an increase in active cases.”

She also made it clear that anyone can contract the virus – even a medical professional taking all possible precautions, she added.

“This virus does not discriminate.”

Leave a Comment