N.B. reports 'record numbers' of COVID-19 hospitalizations; 7 new cases Thursday

Health officials in New Brunswick say they are now seeing a record number of patients in hospitals due to COVID-19, causing a strain on their healthcare system.

As of Thursday, the province has 20 people in hospital, 13 of whom are in the intensive care unit.

"This is the largest number of COVID-19 hospital admissions at a single time since the start of the pandemic," said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health.

According to the Vitalité Health Network, of the 20 people currently in hospital, 13 are at the Edmundston Regional Hospital, including seven patients currently in intensive care.

The Edmundston Regional Hospital is also reporting six patients currently on respirators in their COVID-19 unit. Two COVID-19 positive patients have been moved to Fredericton’s Everett Chalmers Hospital.

Russell says a big difference from the beginning of the pandemic is the age of people they are seeing being admitted to hospitals.

"We are seeing younger people being admitted to hospital and ICU, and not only because of the older cohort having been vaccinated, but also because of the variant. The variant is much more serious in terms of the symptoms that it can cause, in particular the U.K. variant, and the requirement for hospital ICU admissions as well," said Russell.

Russell also says it is very important for New Brunswickers to follow public health restrictions, even if they have already received a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Those who have been vaccinated are at a lower risk of hospitalizations but the risk is not zero, and even after getting two doses, it won't be zero so, we have to really live with the idea that we are reducing the risk of hospital admissions, serious outcomes, ICU admissions, and deaths," said Russell.

CHANGES TO STAGE TWO VACCINE ROLLOUT

New Brunswick will no longer hold separate vaccination clinics for homecare workers or large employers, the province’s health minister announced Thursday.

"Based on recent advice from public health, cabinet, and the all-party cabinet committee on COVID-19, we've accepted the recommendation that we adjust stage two of New Brunswick's COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan," said N.B. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard during Thursday’s news update.  

According to Shephard, stage two of the province’s vaccination plan will still take place during the months of April and May, but there will no longer be separate vaccine clinics for homecare workers or large employers. Shephard says those groups will now be taken care of with their age cohorts.

Beginning on Thursday, rotational workers, regular cross-border commuters, and truck drivers are now eligible to begin booking their vaccine appointments through a regional health authority clinic.

"Previously, this group was eligible to book an appointment by contacting a pharmacy and they may continue to do so if they wish," said Shephard.

Shephard says the change was made after learning the regional health authorities have the capacity to take on additional vaccine appointments.

"So, we are providing this option to make sure everyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine has the opportunity to be vaccinated in a timely manner," said Shephard.

COVID-19 vaccine appointments can be booked through the Government of New Brunswick's website or by calling 1-833-437-1424.

SEVEN NEW CASES

New Brunswick reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

Six of the cases were identified in the Edmundston region (Zone 4), and involve:

  • an individual 19 and under;
  • two people in their 30s
  • an individual in their 60s
  • an individual in their 70s
  • an individual in their 80s

Three of those cases are close contacts to previously reported cases. The other three remain under investigation.

One case from Thursday was reported in the Fredericton region (Zone 3) and involves an individual in their 50s. Public health says this case was a close contact to a previously reported case.

Twenty-four previously reported cases are now considered recovered, as the active number of cases in the province drops to 146.

NEW RULES FOR POST-SECONDARY STUDENTS MOVING IN OR OUT OF N.B.

As the end of the academic year approaches for post-secondary students, New Brunswick health officials have announced new rules for students and anyone helping them move in or out of the province.

Effective Friday at 11:59 p.m., the following rules will go into effect.

  • People may enter New Brunswick for a period of no more than 24 hours to transport a student and/or remove belongings from a student’s residence. They are expected to observe all public health rules and minimize contact with others, except the student they are picking up.
  • Anyone travelling to pick up a student in New Brunswick must register their travel online.
  • Staying longer than 24 hours is considered remaining in the province and the 14-day self-isolation period would then apply.
  • Before travelling to New Brunswick, people should check with their home province to see if further restrictions apply upon returning home.
  • New Brunswickers may enter Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador, as long as those provinces permit them to do so, for no more than 24 hours to remove belongings from a student’s residence. They are expected to observe all public health rules and minimize contact with others while away but will not be required to self-isolate upon their return.
  • Anyone leaving New Brunswick to remove belongings from a student’s residence located outside the Atlantic provinces is ordered, upon their return, to self-isolate for 14 days and follow the directions of public health officials. As well, students entering from outside the Atlantic provinces are ordered to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.
  • Students returning to New Brunswick from other Atlantic provinces will not need to self-isolate upon their return.

SOME STUDENTS TO RETURN TO CLASSROOM NEXT WEEK

New Brunswick health officials have announced updates to the province’s Return to School plan that will see students return to in-person learning beginning next week.

According to health officials, students in regions in the Yellow or Orange levels will resume full-time, in-person learning as early as April 12.

Any students in regions currently in the Red level will take part in a blended learning practise.

"All high schools in Zone 4, with the exception of Polyvalente A.-J.-Savoie in Saint-Quentin and École Marie-Gaétane in Kedgwick, will continue to follow their current learning schedules under the updated Red level protocols," wrote the province in a news release on Thursday.

Guidelines for the return to full-time, in-person learning in high schools are available online.

Students at the following schools will resume full-time, in-person learning on April 19, because vaccination clinics to support the updated Return to School plan were postponed last week:

  • Dalhousie Regional High School
  • Sugarloaf Senior High School in Campbellton
  • École Aux Quatre Vents in Dalhousie
  • Polyvalente Roland-Pépin in Campbellton
  • Bathurst High School
  • École Secondaire Népisiguit in Bathurst
  • Bonar Law Memorial High School in Rexton
  • École Mgr-Marcel-François-Richard in Saint-Louis de Kent
  • École Clément-Cormier in Bouctouche
  • Polyvalente Louis-J.-Robichaud in Shediac

VACCINE UPDATE

New Brunswick's COVID-19 online dashboard provides an update on the amount of vaccines that have been administered to date.

As of Thursday, 135,802 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered so far. Approximately 18.4 per cent of the province's population, 121,468 New Brunswickers have received at least one dose. The province has received a total of 190,485 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

N.B. COVID-19 CASE DATA

New Brunswick has had 1,686 cumulative confirmed cases since the pandemic began. In total, 1,508 people have recovered, and 31 people have died in the province from COVID-19.

Twenty people are in hospital as a result of COVID-19, with 13 people in the intensive care unit.

Public health says1,082 tests were completed on Tuesday in New Brunswick, and 264,084 total since the start of the pandemic.

The number of cases are broken down by New Brunswick’s seven health zones:

  • Zone 1 – Moncton region: 367 confirmed cases (14 active cases)
  • Zone 2 – Saint John region: 236 confirmed cases (10 active cases)
  • Zone 3 – Fredericton region: 251 confirmed cases (5 active cases)
  • Zone 4 – Edmundston region: 595 confirmed cases (115 active cases)
  • Zone 5 – Campbellton region: 182 confirmed cases (0 active cases)
  • Zone 6 – Bathurst region: 29 confirmed cases (1 active case)
  • Zone 7 – Miramichi region: 26 confirmed cases (1 active case)

MOST OF PROVINCE AT YELLOW LEVEL

All other zones, including the communities outside the circuit breaker in zone 4, remain in the Yellow level under the province’s mandatory order.

New Brunswick health is asking all residents of the Saint-Jacques sector of Edmundston to self-monitor for symptoms and seek testing if necessary.