At least 12 nursing homes in New Brunswick are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, as the province braces for a surge in COVID and flu activity this fall and winter.
That's more than double the number of nursing home outbreaks around the same time last year, but about half as many as there were in April, shortly after the province lifted all COVID protective measures.
The dozen outbreaks does not include any COVID outbreaks at private nursing homes, which are not licensed or funded by the Department of Social Development.
CBC requested the total number of cases at the 12 confirmed homes, the breakdown of infected residents and staff, the number of deaths at each home, if any, as well as the vaccination rates among residents and staff, but department spokesperson Rebecca Howland redirected inquiries to the Department of Health.
"At an earlier stage of the pandemic, the Department of Health asked staff at Social Development to help with the management of data related to outbreaks in long-term care facilities," said Health spokesperson Adam Bowie.
Should the department determine there's a public interest in sharing additional information on COVID-19 outbreaks in these facilities, we'll act in collaboration with our colleagues at the Department of Social Development. - Adam Bowie, Department of Health spokesperson
"As the Government of New Brunswick's response to the pandemic continues to evolve, we've now reverted back to a more traditional reporting practice for COVID-19," he said in an emailed statement.
Bowie refused to provide any of the statistics, citing privacy.
He noted a COVID-19 outbreak may be declared if at least two confirmed cases have been identified within 10 days.
"Should the department determine there's a public interest in sharing additional information on COVID-19 outbreaks in these facilities, we'll act in collaboration with our colleagues at the Department of Social Development."
Infection prevention control measures are in place to reduce the risks to residents, said Bowie.
"The department is monitoring the situation," he added.
There are 71 licensed nursing homes in the province.
The New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes' chief executive officer Julie Weir was unavailable for comment Thursday.
16 congregate living outbreaks
CBC also requested COVID outbreak statistics at private nursing homes and other long-term care homes, including community residences, memory care homes, special care homes and generalist care homes.
"The department is currently aware of 16 outbreaks in congregate living facilities in the province," Bowie said in the email. He did not clarify if that includes the 12 licensed nursing home outbreaks.
"Government cannot provide a precise total number of congregate living facilities in the province, as many are privately owned businesses that are not licensed as long-term care facilities."
Private Fredericton nursing home closes to visitors
Windsor Court Retirement Residence, a private 89-unit home in Fredericton, is among those where a COVID outbreak has been declared.
"Public Health has advised that we close to public visitation, and restrict visitors," Sheri Green, resident services manager, advised families earlier this week after "additional cases" were confirmed.
Green did not respond to a request for an interview, but families of residents are being asked to choose one designated support person who will be able to visit, according to the notice obtained by CBC News.
Residents on the third floor and those who require assistance are having their meals in the dining room, but all other residents are eating in their room. "This is to accommodate the social distancing, as well as grouping restrictions from [Public Health]," the notice says.
Activities are also being modified to allow for smaller groupings.
'At this time, unless your loved one has tested positive – your family member is not in isolation," the notice advises.
"Residents are encouraged to get outside, attend their appointments, do their walks, etc."
The home is "encouraging" residents to wear a mask when they're in the hallways or elevators.
Restorative care will continue to provide services, with enhanced cleaning measures, the notice says.
A regional medical officer of health may declare an outbreak over once it's been 10 days since the last "high-risk exposure (close contact), under Public Health's guidance," the Department of Health spokesperson said.
A document on COVID-19 prevention, case management and outbreak management.is available online to long-term care facilities, said the Social Development spokesperson.
The document, entitled "Living with COVID: management of COVID-19 for New Brunswick Long Term Care Homes," was prepared by Social Development and Public Health, said Howland.
"The department works with licensed long-term care facility operators to ensure residents are safe and cared for," she said.