N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Winter plan goes into effect Saturday night, 97 new cases

The New Brunswick government has released its winter plan for COVID-19, three days earlier than planned. In the face of a “very concerning” rise in infections over the past two weeks and a disproportionate number of cases among the unvaccinated, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said a three-level plan will go into effect Saturday at 11:59 p.m. It will remain in effect until spring, she said at a live-streamed COVID-19 update on Friday. The entire province will be in Level 1, the lowest level of restrictions, when the plan goes into effect Saturday. It includes the following rules and guidelines: Informal indoor gatherings limited to 20. Outdoor gatherings limited to 50 people. Unvaccinated residents should avoid informal indoor gatherings.  Masks will be required in outdoor spaces when physical distancing can’t be maintained. Malls, grocery stores, salons must enforce physical distancing. Malls, grocery stores, salons have the option of requiring proof of vaccination from all patrons. Schools will follow existing plans at this time. “The measures are not difficult,” Shephard said, noting “the power to keep us in level one is in our hands.” If carefully followed, and combined with Public Health measures such as wearing masks, physical distancing and scrupulous hand-washing, Shephard said she is confident the plan will help keep case numbers under control. The winter action plan has two more alert levels if needed, she noted, including restricted household bubbles and lower capacity at restaurants. More information on these alert levels will be available on the government’s gnb.ca website. 97 new cases, 2 deaths  There are 97 new cases of COVID-19 spread over six zones in the province today, with 75 recoveries and 711 active cases, Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday. There have also been two more deaths as a result of the virus, Russell said, including a person in their 70s in the Moncton region and a person in their 50s in the Fredericton region. Unvaccinated people represent a disproportionate number of recent cases and are experiencing more severe outcomes, the chief medical officer of health stressed. “People who are older and who are unvaccinated face the greatest risk from COVID-19 right now,” Russell said.  She noted that the rate of ICU admissions for unvaccinated people with COVID-19 is “more than 10 times” that of those who are fully vaccinated.  Russell also noted that among the hospitalized cases, 59 per cent are over the age of 60 — “again showing that age increases your risk.”   The Edmundston region, Zone 4, has no active COVID-19 cases, as of Friday. It is the only one of the seven health regions with no active cases. (CBC News) The 97 new cases announced Friday break down as follows: Moncton region, Zone 1 — 13 cases  four people 19 or under  a person 20 to 29  two people 30 to 39  two people 40 to 49  two people 50 to 59  a person 60 to 69  a person 70 to 79  Ten cases are under investigation and three cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases. Saint John region, Zone 2 — 27 cases four people 19 or under six people 20 to 29 four people 40 to 49 two people 50 to 59 five people 60 to 69 five people 70 to 79  a person 80 to 89 Fourteen cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and 13 are under investigation. Fredericton region, Zone 3 — 34 cases 15 people 19 and under three people 20 to 29 four people 30 to 39 five people 40 to 49 four people 50 to 59  three people 60 to 69. Twenty-one cases are under investigation, 12 cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases, and one case is travel-related. Campbellton region, Zone 5 — one case  a person 40 to 49 who is a contact of a previously known case. Bathurst region, Zone 6 — two cases  two people 19 and under. One case is under investigation and the other is a contact of a previously confirmed case. Miramichi region, Zone 7 — 20 cases  five people 19 or under two people 20 to 29 three people 30 to 39 two people 40 to 49 a person 50 to 59 three people 60 to 69   four people 70-79. Seventeen cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and three are under investigation. COVID-19 outbreaks on four units of the Moncton Hospital have grown to include 37 people, Horizon Health Network says. (CBC) Moncton Hospital outbreaks grow to 37 cases COVID-19 outbreaks on four units of the Moncton Hospital have grown to include 37 people, says the Horizon Health Network. All 18 cases on the COVID-19 unit, Unit 6600, are now related to the outbreaks, according to a status report released Friday. There are also two COVID patients in intensive care. A staff member on the COVID unit has also tested positive, but Horizon says an investigation determined this transmission “meets the definition of an exposure, not an outbreak.” As of Friday morning, 30 patients and seven staff have tested positive for COVID-19 in connection with the outbreaks on the family medicine and palliative care unit, Unit 3600, rehabilitation unit, Unit 4400, stroke and family medicine unit, Unit 4600, and family practice and geriatric unit, Unit 5100.  Patients and staff were last tested Thursday. Patients will be tested again Monday and staff will be tested again Tuesday, according to the status report. Expanded testing of patients on other units to ensure there are no other asymptomatic cases, known as sentinel surveillance, has found no other cases, Horizon said. The hospital is maintaining as many services as possible and encouraging patients to continue to attend scheduled surgeries and appointments, such as labour and birth services and ambulatory care and professional services. Some non-urgent surgeries may be postponed, but those affected will be notified, Horizon said. Since the last update, Unit 5100 has had one new positive patient case on Thursday. Unit 4600, which includes patients transferred from Unit 4400, has had two new positive cases — one on Tuesday and the other on Monday. Unit 3600 has had no new cases since last Friday. Booster doses are now available to those over the age of 65 and will be expanded to include people in their 50s next week, Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader/The Associated Press) Booster shot eligibility expands next week Public Health will expand the availability of booster doses next week to include people in their 50s, Dr. Jennifer Russell said at a COVID-19 update. Booster doses are now available to those over the age of 65 who got their second vaccine dose six months ago. “In the coming weeks eligibility will be expanded to people in their 40s, and then to all other New Brunswickers,” Russell said. “When you become eligible for a booster dose, please get one as soon as you can.”  As of Friday, 81.9 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 87.1 per cent have received their first dose. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) 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 new report issued today, 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. I believe we have found a really good balance to allow people to live their lives and for us to be able to work together to bring our numbers down.- Dorothy Shephard, health minister Asked whether New Brunswick will follow the lead of other provinces, such as Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, and restrict travel for children under 12 taking part in interprovincial sport tournaments or art and cultural events, she said the government has looked to its sister provinces to see what measures have reduced COVID cases. “But I believe we have found a really good balance to allow people to live their lives and for us to be able to work together to bring our numbers down.” Vaccinations are helping “considerably,” Shephard said. “They are the first line of defence in serious illness, hospital admissions, ICU admissions and death.” Masking along with vaccinations “can take it to a whole new level.” “Everyone has the power to keep themselves safe,” she stressed. “If you don’t want to go to the Christmas party, don’t go to the Christmas party.” She noted 50 per cent of transmission is still occurring in households. 55 travellers from omicron-barred countries in isolation Health Minister Dorothy Shephard provided an update on the omicron variant in New Brunswick. Public Health is now monitoring 55 people who travelled recently from one of the 10 omicron-variant-barred countries, she said. That’s up from eight just two days ago. The number increased when the federal government increased its list of countries to 10 from seven, she said. “They’re isolating at home and they are all over the province,” Shephard said.   Shephard did not disclose where they’re isolating but said they’re being monitored daily by the federal government, and the province is making sure they have access to testing. “I haven’t received any kind of indication that omicron is in New Brunswick,” she said. So far, there are no confirmed cases. She is not aware of any suspected cases either. Miramichi hospital outbreak affects surgeries, procedures There have been no new confirmed cases in a COVID-19 outbreak at the Miramichi Regional Hospital’s intensive care unit and family practice unit (2 West) since Nov. 27, when one patient tested positive, the Horizon Health Network said Friday. But surgeries, procedures and treatments have been affected by the outbreak, as staff were needed to open and sustain a second ICU. “Patients should continue to come in for appointments, such as surgeries; labour and birth services; and ambulatory care and professional appointments unless notified,” Horizon said in a status report. Testing protocols for staff and patients are in place on the affected units. The hospital has three patients on the COVID-19 unit and three COVID patients in intensive care. Saint John hospital outbreak stands at 2 COVID-19 outbreaks at the Saint John Regional Hospital’s orthopedic surgery (3CS) and internal medicine (4CN) units stand at two, the Horizon Health Network said Friday. No new cases have been confirmed since Nov. 25, when one patient on each unit tested positive. No staff have tested positive in relation to these cases. There are five patients on the COVID-19 unit and nine COVID patients in intensive care. All hospital services are continuing. “Some non-urgent surgeries may be postponed; those affected will be notified,” Horizon said in a status report. New cases at 3 schools, 1 child-care centre Three new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in three schools since Thursday, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s website shows. In the Fredericton region, Zone 3, a positive case has been confirmed at  Montgomery Street Elementary School, which was not previously impacted, and at Nashwaaksis Memorial School. There is also a positive case at Le Galion des Appalaches in the Campbellton region, Zone 5. The website does not indicate whether the cases involve students, teachers or staff. Thirty-two schools are currently impacted. Five schools had COVID-related operational days Friday, according to the department’s website. A total of 551 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 151 schools since the beginning of the school year. One new case has also been confirmed at a child-care facility in the Campbellton region, Zone 5 – Garderie les débrouillards(es). The website does not indicate whether the case involves a child, staff member or volunteer. There have been 98 early learning and child-care centres affected by COVID-19 since Sept. 7. The total number of cases has not been released. Atlantic COVID roundup Nova Scotia reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the active caseload in the province to 199 cases. Thirteen people are in hospital with the virus, including five in intensive care. Prince Edward Island reported one new case on Friday and has 19 active cases. Newfoundland and Labrador reported five new cases in the province since Wednesday. There are now 20 active cases in the province. Public exposure notices Public Health has issued several new public exposure notices Friday, including a Walmart in the Moncton region, Zone 1, the Ridgewood Addiction Services cafeteria and the specimen collection at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the Saint John region, Zone 2, a Tim Hortons in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, and the care attendant course at the CCNB Acadian Peninsula Campus in the Campbellton region, Zone 5. For the full list of new and previous 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.

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