EDITOR’S NOTE: There will be no COVID-19 news release or dashboard update Dec. 25-26 or Jan. 1-2. Information from those days will be provided on Dec. 27 and Jan. 3, respectively.

FREDERICTON (GNB) – New Brunswickers are asked to keep gatherings as small as possible during the holidays to slow the spread of COVID-19, particularly the more contagious Omicron variant.

Public Health is reporting 237 cases today.

“While additional measures will come into effect as we move to Level 2 at the end of the day on Dec. 27, please keep the number of contacts you have as small as you can, beginning today,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. “As you gather with your family or friends, use a rapid test before you do so and, if you test positive, do not go. The virus is in every corner of our province and the only way we can slow the spread is by each of us doing our part.”

Public Health reported today that 82.7 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 89.7 per cent have received their first dose, and 15.6 per cent have received a booster dose.

To further protect health-care and education facilities, booster dose eligibility has been expanded to include the following people if they are 18 or older and if 158 days have passed since their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine:

·         Immediate household family members of anyone working in a long-term care facility, hospital or school.

·         People working in child-care facilities and their immediate family members.

Those eligible for pediatric vaccinations or booster doses, and those who have yet to have their first or second dose, can schedule an appointment at a regional health authority clinic through the online booking system or at a participating pharmacy.

Clinics will continue to accept walk-ins in the days leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Day. Hours and dates of operations for clinics can be found online.

More than three million rapid tests have been given to New Brunswickers since Dec. 8 through schools, workplaces, airports and pickup sites. Information on pickup locations, including their hours of operation during the holidays, is available online.

Public Health guidance on masks has been updated. People should wear a well-fitted, non-medical-type, three-layered mask or a two-layered mask with a filter. For increased protection, people should consider wearing a properly fitted medical-grade mask such as a surgical mask, or a KN-95 or N-95 mask (not ventilated).

98 recoveries / 237 new cases

Public Health reported today that 98 people have recovered from COVID-19 and there are 237 new cases of the virus.

“The high number of cases today is not surprising. We are seeing the same thing happen in jurisdictions around us, which is why it is critical that people follow public health measures,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. “I know people are tired, but it is the small things we all do to reduce contacts which can help slow the spread. In addition, wear a mask that fits properly, keep physically distant, only go out when you absolutely need to, and book your booster vaccine as soon as you are eligible.”

There are 17 people in intensive care and another 23 are in hospital for a total of 40 people hospitalized. Of those in hospital, 24 are over the age of 60 and 11 people are on a ventilator. There is no one under 19 hospitalized.

The seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations is available on the COVID-19 dashboard.

Five of the 40 people hospitalized were initially admitted for other reasons and contracted COVID-19 due to outbreaks at hospitals in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton and Miramichi. Most of these people are exhibiting mild to moderate symptoms.

Public Health has confirmed a person 60-69 in Zone 3 (Fredericton region) has died as a result of COVID-19.

To date, 86 cases have been confirmed to be the Omicron variant. Testing is ongoing to determine how many other cases of the variant are in the province.

The rate of people hospitalized and in ICU, as well as new cases, continues to most greatly impact people who are unvaccinated. Information about the rates of cases and hospitalizations based on vaccination status is available on the COVID-19 dashboard.

Of the new cases today, 57 are in Zone 1 (Moncton region), 96 are in Zone 2 (Saint John region), 41 are in Zone 3 (Fredericton region), 22 are in Zone 4 (Edmundston region), two are in Zone 5 (Campbellton region), eight are in Zone 6 (Bathurst region) and 11 are in Zone 7 (Miramichi region).

Age and origin of new cases, as well as additional information, is available on the COVID-19 dashboard.

Update on schools and child-care facilities

Due to the winter break for schools and some early learning and child-care facilities, information on affected schools on the Healthy and Safe Schools website and on the COVID-19 dashboard will not be updated between Dec. 24 and Jan. 9. Regular updates will resume on Jan. 10.

Throughout the holidays, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s outbreak management team will continue to notify families of students who were at schools affected by the virus. Close contacts of cases in schools or child-care facilities will be contacted directly.

Learn more:

All of New Brunswick is currently in the Level 1 phase of the winter plan to manage COVID-19. More information on the plan, including additional temporary measures, is available online.

Any household in New Brunswick with a positive case of COVID-19 must isolate for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status. People advised by Public Health or a physician, including confirmed cases of COVID-19, must isolate. More information about isolation is available online.

Potential public exposure locations and dates are listed online. A map of potential public exposures can also be found on the COVID-19 dashboard.

Information and resources to help New Brunswickers live with COVID-19 is available on the COVID-19 guidance and resources webpage.

Information about testing, including booking PCR tests and using rapid tests, is available at www.gnb.ca/GetTestedCOVID19.

Travellers, including New Brunswickers returning to the province, must register their travel with the travel registration program.

Holiday guidelines for individuals, retailers and event organizers on how to plan for a happy and safe holiday season are available online.