HALIFAX — Figures released Saturday show continued growth in COVID-19 cases in Atlantic Canada, with hospitals around the region reporting they are nearing or over capacity.
Nova Scotia reported 1,145 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, with public health urging those who test positive to inform people they've been in close contact with.
The province says it is now limiting contact tracing to long-term care settings, healthcare facilities, correctional facilities, shelters and other group environments.
Meanwhile, in New Brunswick, the province updated figures Saturday to indicate that it had 421 new cases, and one new death.
The number of people in hospital rose from 69 to 80, with 17 of those in intensive care and 11 on ventilators.
Dorothy Shephard, the New Brunswick minister of Health, said on Friday she believes it's likely the health system will soon be "tested like never before" as close to 350 health workers in the province are off work due to the virus.
The Vitalite Health Network has stated half of its hospitals have an occupancy rate of more than 100 per cent. The Miramichi Regional Hospital is also operating over capacity, with other hospitals in the Horizon Health Network saying their capacity levels ranged from 90 to 97 per cent.
Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health in Nova Scotia, said earlier this week that a similar situation is emerging in the province's hospitals and has asked residents to avoid using emergency care when they don't have an urgent health care issue.
"Omicron is having a significant impact on our health care workforce," Strang said during a news conference on Wednesday. "Our hospitals are over capacity and for Nova Scotians that means waiting too long for care or having long-awaited tests or procedures cancelled."
"The reality is there's very little flex in our health system right now."
As of Friday, Nova Scotia Health was reporting about 430 staff members were unavailable for work in the central zone.
Earlier this week, the province announced schools will be teaching online only until Jan. 17, and extended existing restrictions — including limitations on the number of people in restaurants and group gatherings — to the end of the month.
But Nova Scotia is permitting people who test positive, and are vaccinated, to remain in isolation for just seven days rather than 10.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported 412 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total number of active infections to 4,664. There are four hospitalizations in the province.
In Prince Edward Island, the province announced a number of its health facilities were temporarily closed due to an overnight storm, including the COVID-19 vaccine booking line and some vaccine clinics.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2022.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press