COVID-19 has killed seven more New Brunswickers, raising the pandemic death toll to nearly 600, the latest weekly figures show.
A person in their 50s, one in their 70s, two in their 80s, and three 90 or older died from COVID between Oct. 30 and Nov. 5, according to the province's COVIDWatch report.
The virus has now claimed 599 lives since the beginning of the pandemic.
COVID deaths across Canada have decreased over the last few weeks, "however data may be subject to a reporting lag," the report notes. "Global deaths have decreased since the previous week."
The number of people newly admitted to hospital for COVID decreased in the past week to 23 from 38, according to the report. A person in their 20s is among the new admissions.
The number of active hospitalizations because of COVID also decreased to 33, from 43.
Five people require intensive care, up from two.
Meanwhile, the two regional health authorities say there are 146 people with COVID-19 hospitalized, down from 167, including 10 in intensive care, up from nine.
Unlike the province, which only reports people admitted to hospital because of COVID-19, Horizon and Vitalité include in their weekly reports people initially admitted for another reason who later test positive for the virus.
Dr. Yves Léger, the province's acting chief medical officer of health, was unavailable again this week for an interview, Department of Health spokesperson Adam Bowie said. The department did not make any other official available.
Horizon has 117 active COVID-19 patients in hospital, as of Saturday, up from 114, according to its weekly COVID dashboard. Seven of them require intensive care, up from five.
Vitalité has 29 COVID patients in hospital, down from 53 , including three in intensive care, down one, its dashboard shows.
Of the Horizon patients, more than half, or 60, are in the Saint John region, Zone 2, followed by the Fredericton region, Zone 3, with 30, the Moncton region, Zone 1, with 16, and the Miramichi region, Zone 7, with 11.
The breakdown of the Vitalité patients is: 13 at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, including two in intensive care, nine at the Edmundston Regional Hospital, including one in intensive care, four at the Campbellton Regional Hospital, and two at Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst.
New cases 'stable'
The number of new cases confirmed through a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab test has remained "stable," according to the province, at 554, compared to 589 in the previous week's report.
Another 312 people reported testing positive on a rapid test, down from 419.
This put the total new cases reported at 866, down from 1,008.
Across Canada, case counts "continue to demonstrate a slight upward trend over the past several weeks," the COVIDWatch report says.
In Maine, cases have declined over the last few weeks and are currently at a seven-day average of 189, it says.
There are 821 active cases across New Brunswick, based on PCR cases alone, according to the province.
Of the most recent random samples sent for sequencing, 91 per cent were the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant BA.5, eight per cent were the Omicron subvariant BA.4 and one per cent were the Omicron subvariant BA.2
The Department of Health has refused to disclose a further breakdown of any sublineages, such as BA.2.75.2, which has mutations that allow it to better evade immunity from vaccination and prior infection. A single case of BA.2.75.2 was detected in New Brunswick in September, and it is gaining ground across Canada.
Sick hospital employees, outbreaks
The number of health-care workers off the job because of COVID has increased slightly provincewide to 117 from 114.
Horizon has 65 employees who have tested positive, down from 69. Vitalité has 52 employees now infected, up from 45.
The number of COVID outbreak units at Horizon hospitals has remained unchanged at 14. These include five in the Moncton region, five in the Saint John region, three in the Fredericton region and one in the Miramichi region. No other details are provided.
Vitalité has five outbreak units, down one. The Campbellton Regional Hospital still has two: the geriatric unit and veterans' unit. The others include the Veterans' Health Centre, unit 300, in the Moncton region, Zone 1, the Edmundston Regional Hospital's medicine unit, and the Chaleur Regional Hospital's psychiatry unit.
Pfizer vaccine now available to children under 5
Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is now available to New Brunswick children between the ages of six months and five years, the Department of Health announced Tuesday.
Health Canada approved a three-dose primary series of three micrograms each of Pfizer's Comirnaty vaccine for children aged six months to four years old in early September.
A two-dose series of Moderna's Spikevax vaccine has been available to this age group in the province since July.
"Public Health continues to strongly recommend New Brunswickers stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines. This includes having young children get their initial vaccines and everyone else getting a booster when they are eligible," Dr. Yves Leger, acting chief medical officer of health, said in a statement.
"This is especially important as we move indoors during the winter months and respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19, are expected to rise," he said.
Both Pfizer and Moderna "offer similar protections from COVID-19, and should be easy to access via Public Health and some pharmacies across the province," Department of Health spokesperson Adam Bowie said in an emailed statement.
The current vaccination rate for children aged six months to five years less a day with at least two doses is 1.9 per cent, said Bowie.
That's nearly double the national rate of one per cent, as of Oct. 9, numbers from the Public Health Agency of Canada show.
The national uptake has been low, with only 6.5 per cent of children under five having received one dose of vaccine, as of Oct. 9.
By comparison, 86.9 per cent of Canadians five and older have received one dose, while 84.2 per cent have received two doses.
Bowie did not provide the one-dose rate for New Brunswick children under five.
About 39 per cent of children aged five to 11 years have received at least two doses, while nearly 79 per cent of youth aged 12 to 17 have received at least two doses, he said.
Again, Bowie did not provide the one-dose rates.
Nearly 25% of eligible population has 2nd booster
"As we've said previously, Public Health is more concerned that someone has a booster shot this fall than they are about how many vaccines an individual has received through the pandemic," he said.
"These vaccines are the best way to reduce the risks of a serious outcome from a COVID-19 infection."
In the past week, an additional 4,739 COVID-19 vaccines were administered, including 173 first doses, 176 second doses, 431 first booster doses, and 3,959 second booster doses, according to the Department of Health.
A total of 90.7 of eligible New Brunswickers have now received their first dose (up from 90.6 per cent), 85.6 per cent have received their second dose (up from 85.5 per cent), 54.1 per cent have received their first booster (up from 53.9 per cent), and 24.9 per cent have received their second booster (up from 24.1 per cent).
Booster doses are available to all New Brunswickers five and older, as long as five months have passed since their last dose or COVID-19 infection, whichever is more recent, the Department of Health said.
Information on vaccination clinic locations is available online, or by calling 1-833-437-1424.
To see which COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for adults or children, residents may refer to the SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines (COVID-19) information sheet.