December 8, 2023

COVID-19 has killed 10 more New Brunswickers, but none of the deaths occurred during the past week, according to figures released by the province Tuesday.

Six people died in January, two in December, one in November, and the other one some time prior to Aug. 28 — the start of the current respiratory season, and as far back as data in the weekly COVIDWatch reports go under recent format changes.

“Deaths are subject to a lag in reporting,” the report says. There is an average two-month lag from date of death to the registration of death.

Among the nine latest deaths, the people were all aged 70 or older, the report shows. No information about the other person is provided, but Department of Health spokesperson Adam Bowie confirmed the person was an adult.

“If one of these deaths [confirmed as occurring prior to Aug. 28] ever involves a person under the age of 18, we would inform the public,” he said in an emailed statement.

A total of 822 New Brunswickers have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

A bar graph showing dates of death between Aug. 28, 2022, and Feb. 11, 2023, along the bottom, and number of deaths along the left-hand side.
Previously reported COVID-19 deaths are illustrated in grey and newly confirmed deaths in blue, unless they occurred prior to Aug. 28, in which case they’re not represented. The seven-day moving average of deaths is illustrated by the purple line and the pink area ‘should be interpreted with caution,’ due to the average two-month lag in death reporting, the province says. (Government of New Brunswick)

Active hospitalizations up 32%, say RHAs

COVID-19 hospitalizations “remained stable” this reporting period, between Feb. 5 and 11, according to the report.

Ten people were newly admitted to hospital because of COVID, up from nine in the previous report. Three are in intensive care, up from none.

The province no longer provides the number of people currently hospitalized.

The two regional health authorities, meanwhile, say they have 66 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Saturday — up 32 per cent from the 50 active COVID patients the previous week. Six people require intensive care, up from five.

This includes people admitted to hospital because of COVID-19, as well as those initially admitted for another reason who later test positive for the virus.

Horizon and Vitalité both recently dropped routine COVID-19 testing of most hospital patients. Only patients with symptoms of the virus are now being tested, with some exceptions.

Among the people newly admitted to hospital for COVID, the province reports one was under 20 — the youngest age category provided under the reporting format changes.

One was between 20 and 59 years old, three were in their 60s, and five were 70 or older.

527 new cases reported

The number of new lab-confirmed COVID cases and per cent positivity “remained relatively stable” in the past week, the report states.

A total of 379 new cases of COVID have been confirmed through a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab test, up about 12 per cent from the 339 PCR-confirmed cases a week ago.

There were 2,245 PCR tests conducted, for a positivity rate of nearly 17 per cent, compared to 2,154 tests the previous week, a positivity rate of nearly 16 per cent.

An additional 148 people self-reported testing positive on a rapid test, according to the Department of Health. That’s up from 133.

A colourized electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. Scientists are now watching the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, which is on the rise in multiple countries, including the U.S.
The Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, which is on the rise in multiple countries, including the U.S., has more than doubled in New Brunswick, with 46 new confirmed cases. (U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Of the 183 random samples sent for genetic sequencing between Jan. 23 and Feb. 3, 26 per cent were XBB, an offshoot of the Omicron BA.2 subvariant.

The report does not provide a more detailed breakdown of sublineages, but the department spokesperson confirmed to CBC that included 46 new cases of XBB.1.5, more than doubling the provincial total to date.

The World Health Organization has described XBB.1.5 as “the most transmissible” subvariant yet.

XBB.1.5 was first detected in the province last month. As of Feb. 7, 42 cases had been confirmed.

A chart with grey bars illustrating PCR tests and a purple line illustrating percent positivity between Aug. 28, 2022, and Feb. 11, 2023.
The PCR test positivity rate was nearly 17 per cent between Feb. 5 and Feb. 11, up from about 16 per cent the previous week. (Government of New Brunswick)

The Omicron subvariant BA.5 accounted for 70 per cent of the sequenced cases and BA.2 represented four per cent.

Although the last COVIDWatch report included only 109 sequenced samples from a one-week period, compared to 183 samples over a two-week period in this report, Bowie said the numbers are “within [the] normal range.”

Asked about the delay in reporting, he replied, “Sequencing has always required a bit of time.” He said New Brunswick has been a leader nationally in turnaround time, averaging fewer than 10 days between sample collection and sequencing.

 “This is roughly half the average national turnaround time,” said Bowie.

Drop in vaccine uptake

COVID-19 vaccine uptake dropped nearly 11 per cent in the past week, with only 892 doses administered, compared to 1,002 the previous week, according to figures from the Department of Health.

Still, the shots administered were enough to increase the vaccination rates for first and second boosters.

A total of 54.7 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have now received their first booster, up from 54.6 per cent, and 30 per cent have received their second booster, up from 29.9 per cent.

The vaccination rates for first and second doses remain unchanged, at 90.9 per cent and 85.8 per cent respectively.

CBC requested an interview with Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, through the Department of Health, but did not receive a response.

Hospitalizations, infected workers, outbreaks

Horizon Health Network’s active COVID-19 admissions crept up to 47, as of Saturday, from 42 the previous week, but the number of patients who require intensive care remained stable at four, its COVID dashboard shows.

The Moncton region, Zone 1, has 15 patients, the Saint John region, Zone 2, has 13, the Fredericton region, Zone 3, has 16, and the Miramichi region, Zone 7, has the other three.

Vitalité Health Network’s number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has jumped nearly 138 per cent to 19, as of Saturday, from eight, according to its COVID dashboard. Two people require intensive care, up from one.

The Campbellton region, Zone 5, has the majority of the patients, at 10, including nine at the Campbellton Regional Hospital, one of whom is in intensive care, and one at the Restigouche Hospital Centre. Tracadie Hospital in Zone 6, has five of the patients, the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, Zone 1, has two of the patients, including one in intensive care, and the Edmundston Regional Hospital in Zone 4, has two patients.

There are seven COVID outbreaks on Horizon hospital units, down from eight in the previous report. They include four in the Moncton region, two in the Saint John region and one in the Fredericton region. No other details are provided.

Vitalité has three COVID outbreaks, including two new ones at the Campbellton Regional Hospital on the medical unit and the medical-surgical unit. There is also an ongoing outbreak at the Restigouche Hospital Centre’s community transition unit (B-2).

About 19 per cent more health-care workers are off the job after testing positive for COVID-19, compared to a week ago, at 95, up from 80.

Horizon has 60 of the infected employees (up from 55), while Vitalité has 35 (up from 25).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *