Younger and younger COVID-19 patients scaring frontline hospital staff: nurses' union president

The person who died in northwestern New Brunswick is one of the youngest people to die from COVID-19 in the Maritimes and the age of those becoming critically ill is a growing concern.

CTV has confirmed the man who died of COVID-19 in the Edmundston region is 38-year-old Luc Belanger.

His wife, Julie, posted about the loss on Facebook – writing: "I tell myself that you fought until the end. I already miss you enormously. I love you with all my heart. I loved all the moments we spent together and shared, I love you always and forever!"

The family also shares that due to the pandemic, a celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

There is also a 25-year-old who is in an intensive care unit on a respirator because of COVID-19.

The new realities of just how ruthless the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus -- first discovered in the U.K. -- can be.

"The younger hospital admissions are starting to scare frontline staff because this virus has no limitation of who it's going to affect next," said Paula Doucet, the New Brunswick Nurses Union president.

According to Vitalite Health Network, the Edmundston Regional Hospital has:

  • eight patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), all of them are on respirators;
  • five who are not in the ICU, but need acute care in the COVID-19 unit; and,
  • one COVID-positive patient who has been moved to the Everett Chalmers Hospital.

The situation will be re-evaluated tomorrow to see if more transfers are necessary.

Dr. Jennifer Russell said healthcare workers -- including representatives from Ambulance New Brunswick -- met ahead of time to discuss the safest ways to transport patients.

"Obviously, the PPE is the biggest thing and following those infection prevention control protocols," Russell said.

Dr. Jeff Steeves, the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society says he is concerned.

"We're at the knife's edge of this," Steeves said. "Because we look at Quebec and Ontario and say 'Oh, we're not like them,' but we're not far off in that our numbers right now are good, but with the increased susceptibility to the variants, we could very quickly change in one or two cycles and we're seeing in Edmundston what happens when you fatigue a hospital system."

The northwestern region did see another 11 positive cases on Wednesday. Five of them are under the age of 39.

Doucet says if you think the virus isn't in your zone, it's always right next door.

"This virus moves because we move, and right now as a registered nurse and as somebody that represents registered nurses and nurse practitioners, I'm begging the public to stay home and only go out when it's absolutely necessary," Doucet said.

There is concern about the other variant too. The P.1 variant originated in Brazil and is even more ruthless than the B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the U.K. The latter is the only one found in New Brunswick so far, but maintaining border controls is key, say health officials.

People 70 and over are now able to book an appointment to get a vaccine at their local pharmacy or through the two health networks.

When the province was asked if it was considering changing its vaccine strategy in light of younger New Brunswickers contracting the virus, public health said it is aiming to offer the first dose of the vaccine to every New Brunswicker over 16 within the next 12 weeks.