N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 257 cases declared, province urges caution as Christmas nears

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Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, strapped on an N95 mask at Tuesday's COVID-19 news conference. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, strapped on an N95 mask at Tuesday's COVID-19 news conference. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)

New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health continued Thursday to urge people to limit their contacts as more cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 are expected in the province in the coming days.

The number of confirmed cases of the variant rose to 102 on Thursday, up from 82, and it's only a matter of time before the province sees a surge in cases like other provinces have, Dr. Jennifer Russell told Information Morning Fredericton.

"There's a lot of surges worldwide and in Canada," Russell said, pointing to Quebec, where 9,397 new cases were declared on Thursday. "We expect that here, preemptively, knowing that's coming, and we hope that people keep their gatherings small."

New Brunswick declared another record number of COVID-19 cases on Thursday with 257 new cases, bringing the total number of active cases to 1,563.

Two people have died, including one person aged 50 to 59 in the Saint John region and another aged 80 to 89 in the Edmundston region. It brings the death count in the province to 151.

There have been 98 recoveries.

The province surpassed 200 daily cases for the first time on Wednesday, when 237 cases were declared.

New Brunswickers are being asked to stick to a steady bubble of 20, but further restrictions could come if hospitalizations reach up to 70 or 30 people are admitted to the ICU, Russell said.

Asked why the province is waiting until after Christmas, on Dec. 27, to ask households to stick to a smaller, steady bubble of 10, Russell said Public Health wants to strike a balance between keeping hospitalizations down and protecting people's mental health.

"If there is an uptick and we start to see a surge in hospitalizations, we can act very quickly," she said.

Thirty-nine people are currently in hospital, including 16 in intensive care and 12 on a ventilator. None of those admitted to hospital are positive with the Omicron variant, Public Health said in a news release.

Of those in hospital, 25 are over the age of 60. No one under the age of 19 is hospitalized.

"Five of the 39 people hospitalized were initially admitted for other reasons and contracted COVID-19 due to outbreaks at hospitals in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton and Miramichi," Public Health added. "Most of these people are exhibiting mild to moderate symptoms."

CBC News
CBC News

Majority of cases among those 20-29

A total of 63 cases were declared among those aged 20 to 29, with 41 cases in people 40 to 49. There was also 36 children age nine and under among the cases today, and 32 between 10 and 19.

The new cases break down in this way:

Moncton region, Zone 1

  • 39 cases

Saint John region, Zone 2

  • 139 cases

Fredericton region, Zone 3

  • 49 cases

Edmundston region, Zone 4

  • 17 cases

Campbellton region, Zone 5

  • two cases

Bathurst region, Zone 6

  • five cases

Miramichi region, Zone 7

  • six cases

A total 11,322 cases have been declared since the start of the pandemic, with 9,606 people listed as recovered from the virus.

A total of 601,523 tests have been carried out to date.

As of Thursday, 82.8 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, up from 82.7 per cent, 89.8 per cent have received their first dose, up from 89.7 per cent, and 16.8 per cent have received a booster dose, up from 15.6, Public Health said.

More than 19,000 appointments have been booked for children age five to 11, and 59,700 have been booked for booster doses.

Close to 4,000 appointments have also been booked for family members of those working in long-term care facilities, hospitals, schools and child-care facilities since the province opened up booster doses for those groups on Wednesday, Public Health said.

Clinics will continue to accept walk-ins in the days leading up to Christmas and New Year's Day. Hours and dates of operations for clinics can be found online on the gnb.ca website.

Hospital staff exposed to virus can remain on the job, province says

Any hospital staff who have been notified of a COVID-19 exposure will be allowed to remain on the job as long as they are following regular testing and showing no symptoms, the province said in its update Thursday.

"It is important to understand this enhanced surveillance protocol is similar to the policy used by the other Atlantic provinces," said Russell, chief medical officer of health, in a statement.

"New Brunswickers can be confident they will be protected if they go to a hospital. Residents who do not need emergency services are asked to consider going to a walk-in clinic or calling 811."

Campbellton mayor wants more surveillance at Quebec border

Campbellton Mayor Ian Comeau says he wants to see more action from the New Brunswick government to monitor people entering New Brunswick from Quebec.

Public safety officers were present at the bridge across the Restigouche River for a few hours last Saturday to ensure those coming from Quebec had registered to travel and were fully vaccinated, but Comeau said he hopes to see more as Christmas nears.

"Since that time, we haven't seen any [officers], even though it's a busy time with Christmas traffic," Comeau said in an interview with Radio-Canada's La Matinal Thursday.

The Quebec government has announced new restrictions starting Dec. 26.

Province clarifies new contact tracing protocols

As of Tuesday, Public Health said it will no longer take on the responsibility of notifying persons that they're a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

Instead, the government will rely on people infected with COVID-19 to notify their close contacts, and provide instructions for them on how to isolate, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said this week.

On Thursday the province said it will be continuing to conduct contact tracing in schools, daycares and First Nations communities, as well as long-term care homes, correctional facilities, hospitals, shelters, group homes and within transient populations.

"The goal is to ensure that any potential cases in these areas are notified within 24 to 48 hours of exposure," Public Health added.

New public exposure notices

Public Health shared the following new exposure sites on Thursday.

They include:

Saint John region, Zone 2

  • Dec. 12 between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. - Oasis Trampoline Park (212 McAllister Dr., Saint John)

Fredericton region, Zone 3

  • Dec. 18 between noon and 2 p.m. - Shear Beauty Salon (155 King St., Fredericton)

  • Dec. 18 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. - Goodlife Fitness (435 Brookside Dr., Fredericton)

  • Dec. 17 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. - Picaroon's Brewing Company (912 Union St., Fredericton)

  • Dec. 14 and 15 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. - Journeys (1381 Regent St., Fredericton)

  • Dec. 14 between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. - Goodlife Fitness (435 Brookside Dr., Fredericton)

  • Dec. 14 between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. - Gahan House Riverside (426 Queen St., Fredericton)

  • Dec. 10 and 13 between 3 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. - Needs Fast Fuel (530A Brookside Dr., Fredericton)

  • Dec. 13 between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. - Journeys (1381 Regent St., Fredericton)

  • Dec. 11 between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. - Needs Fast Fuel (530A Brookside Dr., Fredericton)

Bathurst region, Zone 6

  • Dec. 16 between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. – Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue Catholic Church (10931 113 Highway, Miscou)

Flight exposures

  • Dec. 17 – Air Canada Flight 8494 – from Toronto to Saint John departed at 7:59 a.m.

  • Dec. 16 – Air Canada Flight 8942 – from Toronto to Moncton departed at 8:30 a.m.

  • Dec. 15 – WestJet Flight 3404 – from Toronto to Fredericton departed at 9:30 a.m.

  • Dec. 14 – Flair Flight 137 – from Toronto to Saint John departed at 7:59 a.m.

  • Dec. 13 – Air Canada Flight 8524 – from Toronto to Fredericton departed at 2 p.m.

  • Dec. 13 – Porter Airlines Flight 225 – from Toronto to Moncton departed at noon

  • Dec. 13 – Air Canada Flight 8510 – from Montreal to Bathurst departed at 6:51 p.m.

  • Dec. 13 – WestJet Flight 3440 – from Toronto to Moncton departed at 1:26 a.m.

  • Dec. 12 – Air Canada Flight 8498 – from Toronto to Saint John departed at 6:13 p.m.

  • Dec. 12 – Air Canada Flight 7994 – from Montreal to Moncton departed at 1:20 p.m.

  • Dec. 12 – Air Canada Flight 8946 – from Toronto to Moncton departed at 10:23 p.m.

  • Dec. 12 – Air Canada Flight 8046 – from Montreal to Saint John departed at 8:25 p.m.

  • Dec. 11 – Air Canada Flight 8944 – from Toronto to Moncton departed at 2 p.m.

  • Dec. 10 – Air Canada Flight 8044 – from Montreal to Saint John departed at 2 p.m.

  • Dec. 9 – Air Canada Flight 8046 – from Montreal to Saint John departed at 8:12 p.m.

For the full list of new and previous public exposure notices, visit the provincial government's website.

People who have not been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure and who have symptoms should get a COVID lab test. They can book an appointment online or call Tele-Care 811 and must isolate while waiting for their test result.

People who are not fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms are now being instructed to pick up an At-Home COVID-19 Rapid Point of Care Test (Rapid POCT) screening kit. They do not need to isolate if they have not been directed by Public Health to do so.

All positive point-of-care test results must be confirmed with a laboratory polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test.

It can take up to 14 days to test positive after being exposed to COVID-19, so even if results come back negative, people should continue to self-monitor for any symptoms and get tested immediately if any develop.

They should also avoid visiting settings with vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes, correctional facilities and shelters during that 14-day period.

For people who have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure, Public Health recommends they monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the possible exposure and get a COVID lab test if symptoms develop.

They do not need to isolate while they wait for their test results.

If they do not have symptoms, they can pick up a rapid test kit and do not need to isolate.

What to do if you have a symptom

People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment test online.

Public Health says symptoms of the illness have included a fever above 38 C, a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, a new onset of fatigue and difficulty breathing.

In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.

People with one of those symptoms should stay at home, call 811 or their doctor and follow instructions.

People with one of those symptoms should stay at home, call 811 or their doctor and follow instructions.

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