N.B. Medical Society head warns of new COVID-19 wave, urges people get their fourth doses

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Dr. Mark MacMillan, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said people should protect themselves and the health-care system by getting their fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (New Brunswick Medical Society - image credit)
Dr. Mark MacMillan, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said people should protect themselves and the health-care system by getting their fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (New Brunswick Medical Society - image credit)

The head of the New Brunswick Medical Society is urging those who are eligible to get their fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine amid what he believes is the start of a new wave of the pandemic in the province.

Dr. Mark MacMillan made the comments Friday, after Horizon Health Network announced three emergency departments were forced to temporarily close because too many doctors and nurses were off sick with COVID-19.

"The wave, unfortunately, appears to be starting. We're seeing an increase in the numbers," he said.

"We really need New Brunswickers to protect themselves [by getting their fourth dose] so that we can protect ourselves as well, so we can keep working and care for you when you come see us if you're ill."

Earlier this week, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said officials were watching for a possible new wave after four more COVID deaths, an increase in hospitalizations because of the virus and a near doubling in new reported cases over the previous week.

"That's what it's looking like, but we're still analyzing the data," she said, noting B.C. and Ottawa both recently announced they're experiencing new waves.

"I think over the course of the next week, we will be able to determine here if that's the case."

Shutterstock / Alliance Images
Shutterstock / Alliance Images

Officials had previously predicted a COVID surge in the fall.

The risk of transmission tends to decrease in the summer when people spend more time outdoors and they can more easily physically distance, Russell has said.

As of Tuesday's COVIDWatch report, the number of people newly admitted to hospital for COVID-19 jumped to 22, compared to six the previous week, and the number of people in hospital because of the virus increased to 19 from 15, including one who requires intensive care.

There were 1,915 new cases of COVID-19 reported, up from 1,025.

And 182 health-care workers were off the job across the province after either testing positive for COVID-19 or coming into contact with a positive case, up from 118 the previous week.

The Oromocto Public Hospital's emergency room was closed Friday "due to COVID-related illnesses among staff," Horizon said in a news release.

The Sussex Health Centre's ER was closed Friday evening and will be closed Saturday and Sunday evening as well because of a doctor and nursing shortage caused by an increase in COVID cases. And the Sackville Memorial Hospital's ER will be closed all weekend for the same reason.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

"Any uptick in the cases is worrisome, not just because [of] the virus being so infectious, but just that we already have such a reduced capacity in terms of our human health resources at the hospital," said MacMillan.

"So … having people having to go off work because of an infection or a close contact and then that further putting a strain on the system … that's our biggest concern at this time."

According to the Department of Health, 21.7 per cent of New Brunswickers 50 and older have received a fourth dose, as of Thursday.

Vaccination rates for first, second and third doses remained unchanged this week, with only 615 doses administered.

A total of 93.3 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received one dose, 88.2 per cent have received two doses, and 52.8 per cent have received a booster dose.

"Whatever dose you're eligible for, that's what you should be getting," Russell said earlier this week.

Five-to-11 year olds, she said, "are eligible for their second dose about now, so it's a good time for them to get boosted."

This age cohort has been eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine since late November.

As of April, about 40 per cent had received two doses and 59 per cent had received one dose.

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