New Brunswickers aged 50 or older can now book an appointment for a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine if six months have passed since their second dose, Public Health announced Monday as three more COVID-related deaths and 71 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed. A person in their 60s in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, a person in their 70s and another in the 80s in the Saint John region, Zone 2, have all died as a result of COVID-19. Their deaths raise the pandemic death toll to 136. “Getting a booster shot helps protect those who are most vulnerable,” Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said in a statement. Eligibility has now been expanded to include those born in 1971 or before, including those turning 50 this year. “Older people and others at higher risk of being hospitalized get extra protection when they get the booster,” Shephard said. “And by others also getting the booster when they become eligible, the virus has less opportunity to take hold. “We have seen evidence from other jurisdictions that an individual’s risk of hospitalization can be reduced within seven days of receiving a booster dose.” Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, announced last Friday that the province would expand the availability of booster doses this week to include people in their 50s. Eligibility will be expanded “in the coming weeks” to include people in their 40s, with other New Brunswickers following after, Public Health said. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is now “strongly recommending” that all Canadians over the age of 50 and other vulnerable individuals — such as health care workers, Indigenous people and those living in congregate care settings — get a third dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. In a report issued Friday, NACI — an independent body made up of volunteer vaccine experts — also calls on Canadians aged 18 to 49 to get a third mRNA shot at least six months after they got their second. NACI said it’s recommending booster shots now because emerging data suggests that protection against infection is decreasing over time for those who completed a two-dose vaccine regimen. Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, has said eligibility will be expanded to include people in their 40s in the coming weeks, followed by all New Brunswickers. (Ed Hunter/CBC) As of Monday, 82 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unchanged, and 87.5 per cent have now received their first dose, up from 87.3 per cent. The province’s goal is to get at least 90 per cent of the total population fully vaccinated. According to the CBC vaccine tracker, 78 per cent of the total population is double-dosed, while 83.1 per cent have received at least one dose. A limited amount of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine Janssen is available to eligible New Brunswickers over 18 years of age by special appointment only, Public Health said. To schedule an appointment for this vaccine, people should contact Tele-Services at 1-833-437-1424 or email [email protected] A person needs only one dose of the Janssen vaccine to be considered fully immunized. Appointments for booster shots for those eligible and for first and second doses can be scheduled for a regional health authority community COVID-19 vaccination clinic through the online booking system or at a participating pharmacy. A list of upcoming walk-in clinics is available online. A detailed list of those eligible for a booster dose is available online. Miramichi region has second-highest rate of cases in Canada New Brunswick’s Miramichi region, Zone 7, had the second-highest rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of all health regions in the country in the 14 days leading up to Dec. 5, data from Health Canada shows. The region had a rate of 421 per 100,000. Nunavik led the country with a rate of 1,220. The national average was 110. Three other New Brunswick regions had rates higher than the national average. They include: Moncton region, Zone 1 — 147 Saint John region, Zone 2 — 153 Fredericton region, Zone 3 —162 The rates in the province’s other health regions were: Edmundston region, Zone 4 — 12 Campbellton region, Zone 5 — 95 Bathurst region, Zone 6 — 25 Overall, New Brunswick had the fourth-highest rate in the country in the 14 days leading up to Dec. 3, at 138. Only the Yukon, Quebec and Manitoba were higher at 363, 166 and 139 respectively. The national average was 104. New Brunswick’s rate of deaths was also among the highest in Canada in the 14 days leading up to Dec. 3, at 1.3 per 100,000. It placed fourth after the Yukon, 4.7, Manitoba, 3.1, and Saskatchewan, 1.8. The national average was 0.7. The Fredericton region, Zone 3, now has the highest number of active cases of COVID-19 in the province, followed by the Saint John region, Zone 2, while the Moncton region, Zone 1, has fallen to third place. (CBC News) 49 in hospital, 18 in ICU, 11 on ventilators Forty-nine people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Brunswick, an increase of three, including 18 in intensive care, up two. Eleven of them are on ventilators, also up two. The COVID-19 dashboard was updated Monday and now indicates the number of people on a ventilator. Of those in hospital, 25 are over the age of 60 and one is under 19. The seven-day average for hospitalizations is trending down from a week ago, while the number of cases in intensive care units remains “roughly the same,” Public Health said in a news release accompanied by a chart. Sixteen of the 49 people hospitalized were initially admitted for other reasons and contracted COVID-19 because of outbreaks at the Moncton Hospital, Saint John Regional Hospital and Miramichi Regional Hospital. Most of these people are exhibiting “mild to moderate”symptoms of COVID-19, Public Health said. There are 760 active cases across the province, up from 752. No cases of the new, potentially more transmissible COVID-19 variant omicron have been confirmed in New Brunswick, Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane told CBC News on Monday. He did not immediately respond to a question about whether there are any suspected cases of the new variant. As of Sunday, 55 New Brunswick travellers, each of whom had been in one of the 10 countries affected by restrictions related to the new omicron variant, are in isolation to reduce possible spread of the virus — unchanged since the last update on Friday. Macfarlane did not respond to a request for an update on how many travellers are isolating. Asked which of the 10 countries they visited, he simply said, “one of the countries listed here: Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.” He did not say when they will be released from isolation. The regional breakdown of the 71 new cases includes: Moncton region, Zone 1 — 13 cases Saint John region, Zone 2 — 16 cases Fredericton region, Zone 3 — 30 cases Miramichi region, Zone 7 — 12 cases New Brunswick has had 8,869 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic and 7,972 recoveries so far. A total of 568,385 tests have been conducted to date, including 1,193 on Sunday. 66 new cases in schools, 20 in child-care centres Sixty-six new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in 31 schools and 20 in 13 child-care facilities since Friday, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s website shows. At least one positive case has been confirmed at the following schools, which were not previously impacted: Caledonia Regional High School (Moncton region, Zone 1) Hazen-White-St. Francis School (Saint John region, Zone 2) Princess Elizabeth School (Saint John region, Zone 2) Quispamsis Middle School (Saint John region, Zone 2) Rothesay Elementary School (Saint John region, Zone 1) Rothesay Park School (Saint John region, Zone 2) École Les Éclaireurs (Fredericton region, Zone 3) Minto Elementary Middle School (Fredericton region, Zone 3) Priestman Street Elementary School (Fredericton region, Zone 3) École Mgr-Matthieu-Mazerolle (Edmundston region, Zone 4) Miramichi Valley High School (Miramichi region, Zone 7) Other schools with new cases include: Causerie Amicale (Moncton region, Zone 1) Kingswood Academy 4 (Moncton region, Zone 1) Wee College Crandall (Moncton region, Zone 1) The Boys & Girls Club of Saint John After School (Moncton region, Zone 1) Sunny Days Family Centre Afterschool Program (Fredericton region, Zone 3) Youth In Action Day Care / Jeunes en action (Campbellton region, Zone 5) Garderie les Débrouillards(es) (Campbellton region, Zone 5) L’il Critters Early Learning and Care (Miramichi region, Zone 7) The website does not indicate how many cases are at each school or whether the cases involve students, teachers or staff. Fifty-one schools are currently affected. Eleven schools have COVID-related operational days Monday, according to the department’s website. A total of 617 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 163 schools since the beginning of the school year. Newly impacted child-care centres with at least one new case include: Powerplay Academy Moncton 4 (Moncton region, Zone 1) Happy Clown After School Centre (Saint John region, Zone 2) Enrich Kids (Fredericton region, Zone 3) Garderie les Zamibulles Inc. (Edmundston region, Zone 4) Garderie Chateau Magique 2015 (Miramichi region, Zone 7) Other child-care centres with at least one new case include: Causerie Amicale (Moncton region, Zone 1) Kingswood Academy 4 (Moncton region, Zone 1) Wee College Crandall (Moncton region, Zone 1) The Boys & Girls Club of Saint John After School (Saint John region, Zone 2) Sunny Days Family Centre Afterschool Program (Fredericton region, Zone 3) Garderie les Débrouillards(es) (Campbellton region, Zone 5) Youth In Action Day Care / Jeunes en action (Campbellton region, Zone 5) L’il Critters Early Learning and Care (Miramichi region, Zone 7) The website does not indicate whether the cases involve a child, staff member or volunteer. There have been 103 early learning and child-care centres affected by COVID-19 since Sept. 7. The total number of cases has not been released. Public exposure notices The province listed several exposure notices on Monday, including a community centre in the Moncton region, Zone 1, an arena, bus route and theatre in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and restaurant in the Campbellton region, Zone 5. For the full list of public exposure notices, visit the provincial government’s website. People who have not been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure and who have symptoms should get a COVID lab test. They can book an appointment online or call Tele-Care 811 and must isolate while waiting for their test result. People who are not fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms are now being instructed to pick up an At-Home COVID-19 Rapid Point of Care Test (Rapid POCT) screening kit. They do not need to isolate if they have not been directed by Public Health to do so. All positive point-of-care test results must be confirmed with a laboratory polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test. It can take up to 14 days to test positive after being exposed to COVID-19, so even if results come back negative, people should continue to self-monitor for any symptoms and get tested immediately if any develop. They should also avoid visiting settings with vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes, correctional facilities and shelters during that 14-day period. For people who have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure, Public Health recommends they monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the possible exposure and get a COVID lab test if symptoms develop. They do not need to isolate while they wait for their test results. If they do not have symptoms, they can pick up a rapid test kit and do not need to isolate. What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms of the illness have included a fever above 38 C, a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, a new onset of fatigue and difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should stay at home, call 811 or their doctor and follow instructions.