Even New Brunswick's worst COVID case count is well behind most provinces

·4 min read

Even on its worst COVID-19 day so far, New Brunswick's case numbers are well below most other provinces when populations are factored in.

On Nov. 20, New Brunswick recorded 23 new cases — the highest daily increase since the pandemic began. But on a per capita basis, that's well behind most other provinces outside the Atlantic region. It works out to 2.9 cases per 100,000 residents.

Most other provinces have recorded their record highs since Friday, including Alberta, which recorded 1,731 cases on Saturday.

Although Ontario recorded more cases the day before, some quick calculations reveal Alberta's rate for 100,000 is 40.0, while Ontario — despite a record number of 1,855 recorded on Friday — was only 12.5.

Quebec's all-time high, also recorded on the weekend, converts to a rate of 17.2, Saskatchewan's is 29.7, and Manitoba's 34.7.

Thanks to a one-day high of 25 new cases on Nov. 20, sparsely populated Nunavut has the highest rate at 62.6.

Closer to home, Nova Scotia's highest daily total of 14 was recorded on Saturday, but its rate per 100,000 was only 1.4 — roughly half of New Brunswick's worst day.

Figuring out rates per 100,000 helps put things into perspective, says Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist.

He said it's easy to think things are pretty grim in New Brunswick when we compare ourselves to other Atlantic provinces. After all, our worst-day rate is double that of Nova Scotia's.

He said it's important to compare it to what's happening outside the relative safety of what used to be the Atlantic bubble.

CBC News
CBC News

Furness said "the news is actually really good" in New Brunswick.

"Even when you're having a rise in cases, which is what you went through this month, you managed it. New Brunswick managed it really well. It never got out of control."

Furness said looking at infection rates based on population is "incredibly informative," especially when it comes to the capacity of hospitals to handle a worst-case scenario.

If roughly 20 per cent of positive cases need medical intervention, suggested Furness, in Alberta that would be eight per 100,000. He wondered if there would be eight ICU beds per 100,000 population.

"That would be an interesting comparison," he said.

If you want to stay safe, steer clear of gatherings without masks. - Colin Furness, epidemiologist

Furness said it's important to remember that officials only really know the worst day when the pandemic is over. This is more of a "worst day so far" look at the numbers.

And, he said, New Brunswickers should expect to have "more worse days ahead of you."

He predicts January in the northern hemisphere "is going to be awful."

But there are ways to limit the spread, said Furness.

"I think the one thing that hasn't gotten out quite enough is that COVID is not nearly as contagious as people think.

"You don't get it off a toilet seat. It doesn't come under the door to get you when you sleep. COVID spreads when lots of people are together sharing air without masks. That's how it spreads."

The culprit is the "super-spreader event," he said.

"It's where people are congregating without masks. That's what's dangerous. And so if you want to stay safe, steer clear of gatherings without masks."

He said all super-spreader events have one thing in common — people not wearing masks.

The solution, he said, is easy — don't go into a room with people who aren't wearing masks.

With more than half the province now in the orange phase of recovery, it might be easy to forget how well the province had been doing. According to statistics provided by Health Department spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane, the longest stretch without a positive case was 17 days — from April 17 to May 4.

Since then, the province has had three separate stretches of 16 days each without any cases.

And while the highest daily total was recorded on Nov. 20, Macfarlane noted the highest weekly total of 79 was recorded between Oct. 6 and 12, which coincided with the outbreak at a special care home in Moncton.

The highest number of tests done in a single day happened on June 1, which coincided with the outbreak at a special care home in Atholville. On that day, 2,064 tests were processed.

Another notable statistic provided by the province illustrates the changing face of COVID-positive cases. Since Nov. 1, about half of all cases are people in their 20s and 30s.