More than a third of COVID-related deaths in New Brunswick to date have involved long-term residents, figures released by Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch reveal.
Of the 384 deaths the province has recorded since the beginning of the pandemic, 145 have been in long-term care, Fitch told a legislative committee Tuesday, while presenting the main estimates for his department.
That's nearly 38 per cent of the pandemic death toll.
The majority of the deaths — 63 — have occurred during the current Omicron-fuelled fifth wave, which began on Jan. 4, supplementary figures the department provided Wednesday show.
Thirty-three of those deaths were in nursing homes, while the other 30 were in other adult residential facilities, which include special care homes, memory care homes, community residences and generalist care homes, said spokesperson Rebecca Howland.
The second largest number of deaths — 55 — occurred during the Delta-driven fourth wave, which began Sept. 1, 2021, shortly after the province lifted all COVID-19 restrictions the first time and moved to the green phase of recovery.
Of those, 41 were nursing home residents and 14 were residents of other long-term care homes.
The third wave, which began on April 1, 2021, and was driven largely by the Alpha variant, saw six deaths in adult residential facilities.
During the second wave, between Oct. 1, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021, there were 19 deaths, including seven in nursing homes and 12 in adult residential facilities.
Two people died during Wave 1, between March 1 and June 30, 2020, both at adult residential facilities.
358 outbreaks, 8,453 people infected
The province has had 358 COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes, with a total of 8,453 people infected, including 4,949 residents and 3,504 staff, the figures show.
Social Development tracked the new cases during each wave, Fitch told the legislative committee, in response to questions from Liberal MLA Robert Gauvin about how COVID has affected long-term care homes.
There were 23 cases during the first wave (16 residents and seven staff).
By Wave 2, there were 231 (143 residents and 88 staff).
The number of positive cases dropped to 95 during the third wave (60 residents and 35 staff), before jumping to 1,385 during Wave 4 (730 residents and 655 staff).
The biggest spike has been during the ongoing fifth wave, with 6,719 confirmed cases (4,000 and 2,719), the figures show.
There are 84 active COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care homes, with 866 people infected, as of Monday, Howland has said.The province lifted all COVID-19 restrictions on March 14, when the emergency order ended.
Earlier this month, the department released its updated mitigation measures for long-term care sector employees who are either unvaccinated or not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.
But Sharon Teare, president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, slammed the "updated" measures, which include screening, rapid tests and masking, saying they aren't much different than what was already in place.
The province's new definition of "up-to-date" vaccination has raised more questions than answers, she said.
On April 1, the province announced it was dropping its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees in vulnerable sectors, effective April 11.
Employees who were placed on unpaid leave last fall for either being unvaccinated or failing to provide proof of full vaccination could return to work, it said, provided they follow all mitigation measures required by their employer, based on Public Health guidance, until they are fully vaccinated.
Fitch told the legislative committee that 557 of the roughly 11,000 full-time equivalent long-term care sector employees were "impacted" by the vaccination mandate.
The rollout of second boosters for nursing home residents has begun, said Howland.
But the department is still working on a plan for other long-term care residents, she said, citing a lack of nursing staff.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended on April 5 the "rapid deployment" of second COVID-19 booster shots for people aged 80 or older and those living in long-term care and other congregate settings.
Second boosters have been available to New Brunswickers aged 50 or older since April 19, provided at least five months have passed since their last dose.