No New Brunswickers died from COVID-19 in the past week, marking the first time in more than seven months no new COVID deaths were recorded, according to figures released by the province Tuesday.
"I think it's significant and it's encouraging," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell.
But the province has undertaken a review of all death certificates and the number of COVID-related deaths could change, she told CBC News.
"I know that there has been discussion around the analysis of, and reporting on deaths, and how that compares to other jurisdictions, et cetera, and why our reporting sometimes seems different," Russell said.
The review is "really just looking at comparing, you know, what people are saying were the reasons for death and what's on the death certificate in terms of co-morbidities versus the cause of death."
"We've tried to have a national approach to that. But how it actually gets reported, I don't think it's 100 per cent consistent. So we're just trying to make sure that we're consistent," she said, noting P.E.I. and Nova Scotia have undertaken similar reviews.
Earlier this month, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told the legislature she is concerned about the province's unexplained high death counts in the second half of 2021 and will attempt to get to the bottom of what happened.
An updated Statistics Canada report showed New Brunswick had the highest "excess death" rate among the provinces during that period, when the Delta and Omicron variants raged.
An estimated 4,599 New Brunswickers died, 886 more than long-term averages for that time of year after adjusting for population growth and aging — putting the death rate at 23.9 per cent above normal.
The last Sunday-to-Saturday period with no deaths reported was Nov. 7-13, 2021, said Russell.
New Brunswick has recorded 422 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
The review could result in either an "increase, or decease," she noted.
"We're just trying to analyze the data so that it's as accurate as it can be."
The province is working with Statistics Canada on its review, she added.
Hospitalizations, new cases down
The number of hospital admissions and current hospitalizations have both also decreased in the past week, along with the number of new lab-confirmed cases, the COVIDWatch report shows.
There were 17 people newly admitted to hospital because of the virus between June 12 and June 18, compared to 23 the previous week.
A child under 10 is among those admitted to hospital. The others include one person in their 20s, two in their 50s, two in their 60s, 10 in their 70s, and one in their 80s.
Those in ICU include two people in their 60s and one in their 70s.
The number of active hospitalizations also dropped slightly to 25 from 27, but there is one more person in intensive care, bringing the total to three, the report shows.
Horizon and Vitalité health networks, meanwhile, which include patients who are admitted for COVID, as well as those who were initially admitted for another reason and later test positive for the virus on their weekly COVID dashboard updates, say they have 46 COVID patients, as of Saturday, including three who require intensive care. That's up from 41.
The highest portion of hospitalizations for COVID-19 continues to be among those aged 60 to 79, the province's report states.
PCR-confirmed cases of COVID have continued to decrease over the past six weeks, with 425 reported in the past week, down from 471 the previous week.
There were 4,004 tests conducted, the report shows, comparable to the 4,054 performed June 5 to June 11.
An additional 403 positive rapid test results were self-reported by citizens, up from 371, bringing the total new cases reported to 828.
There are now 618 active PCR-confirmed cases across the province, compared to 697 a week ago.
Another 526 eligible New Brunswickers rolled up their sleeves to receive their COVID-19 vaccine booster shot in the past week, raising the booster rate to 52.7 per cent, from 52.6 per cent.
The two-dose rate remains unchanged at 88.1 per cent after 197 more shots were administered, and the one-dose rate now stands at 93.3 per cent, up from 93.2 per cent, with another 123 people jabbed.
New Brunswick has had 67,241 confirmed cases of COVID since the beginning of the pandemic, with 66,201 cases considered resolved so far.
Horizon and Vitalité reports
Horizon Health Network has 35 active COVID-19 hospital admissions, including two in intensive care, as of Saturday, up from 32 in its previous report.
The distribution of the cases include:
Moncton region, Zone 1 — six
Saint John region, Zone 2 — 18
Fredericton region, Zone 3 — six
Miramichi region, Zone 7 — five
No details are provided about which hospitals in the dashboard report.
Vitalité Health Network has 11 COVID-19 patients, including one in intensive care, as of Saturday, up from nine in its previous report.
The majority of the patients, five, including the one in ICU, are at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, which has a 96 per cent occupancy rate.
Three of the patients are at the Edmundston Regional Hospital (85 per cent occupancy), two at the Chaleur Regional Hospital (100 per cent occupancy) and one at Tracadie Hospital. (105 per cent occupancy).
Vitalité lists the overall capacity of its facilities at 93 per cent. Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital in the Moncton region, Zone 1, has the highest occupancy, at 130 per cent, with no COVID patients.
No Horizon facilities are overcapacity, according to figures provided by spokesperson Kris McDavid.
Horizon has four COVID-19 outbreaks, all in the Saint John region, Zone 2, figures from McDavid show. That's up from two.
The current outbreaks include:
Saint John Regional Hospital's oncology unit 5AS and family medicine 5CS
Ridgewood Veterans Wing, Liberty Lane
Charlotte County Hospital, family medicine unit, first floor
Vitalité has one COVID-19 outbreak, at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital, nephrology unit, 4F. That's down from three on June 8.
The number of health-care workers off the job after either testing positive for COVID-19 or coming into contact with a positive case has risen by 10 to 94.
Forty-eight of them work for Horizon, up from 34, while the other 46 are Vitalité employees, down from 50.