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 being reminded to follow Public Health guidance, especially with regards to gatherings during the holidays.

“We know New Brunswickers are looking forward to celebrating with friends and family over the holidays, but it is important we do so in as safe a manner as possible,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. “If you are planning to get together with loved ones, please keep your gatherings small, make sure your vaccinations are up to date, rapid test regularly, and stay home if you are not feeling well. By doing this, you can help everyone to have a safe and healthy holiday season.”

Vaccination update

Public Health reported today that 82.8 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 89.8 per cent have received their first dose, and 16.8 per cent have received a booster dose.

More than 19,000 appointments have been booked for children aged five to 11 and 59,700 appointments for boosters have been booked through regional health authority clinics. Since booster eligibility was expanded Wednesday to include household family members of those working in long-term care facilities, hospitals, schools and child-care facilities, nearly 4,000 appointments have been booked for that group. Participating pharmacies are also experiencing high uptake for appointments.

Those who are eligible for pediatric vaccinations or booster doses, and those who have yet to receive 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.

A list of those eligible for a booster dose is available online.

Some clinics hosted by Horizon and Vitalité health networks, as well as participating pharmacies, will continue to accept walk-ins for first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the days leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Day. Hours and dates of operations for clinics can be found online.

98 recoveries / 257 new cases

Public Health reported today that 98 people have recovered from COVID-19 and there are 257 new cases of the virus.

There are 16 people in intensive care and another 23 are in hospital for a total of 39 people hospitalized. Of those in hospital, 25 are over the age of 60 and 12 people are on a ventilator. There is no one under 19 hospitalized.

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

Five of the 39 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 that a person 50-59 in Zone 2 (Saint John region) and a person 80-89 in Zone 4 (Edmundston region) have died as a result of COVID-19.

To date, 102 cases have been confirmed to be the Omicron variant, however none of these cases have been hospitalized. All Omicron cases have been contact traced, with the source of transmission of five cases still under investigation.

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, 39 are in Zone 1 (Moncton region), 139 are in Zone 2 (Saint John region), 49 are in Zone 3 (Fredericton region), 17 are in Zone 4 (Edmundston region), two are in Zone 5 (Campbellton region), five are in Zone 6 (Bathurst region) and six are in Zone 7 (Miramichi region).

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

Enhanced monitoring protocol for hospitals

Staff who have been exposed to positive cases within hospitals will be following a Public Health-directed policy for regular testing and symptom monitoring should they be required to maintain services at their facility. 

“It is important to understand this enhanced surveillance protocol is similar to the policy used by the other Atlantic provinces,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. “New Brunswickers can be confident they will be protected if they go to a hospital. Residents who do not need emergency services are asked to consider going to a walk-in clinic or calling 811.”

Contact tracing

Public Health contact tracers, for the most part, are no longer notifying close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases due to the higher number of cases; instead, they are focusing on notifications for high-risk settings, such as congregate living settings for vulnerable people.

“We are asking people who test positive to help us by notifying their close contacts,” said Russell. “This gives close contacts the opportunity to isolate and use a rapid test, and reduces the chances of further transmission, while protecting family, friends and the broader community, as well as critical health-care resources.”

When Public Health contacts a person who tested positive, guidance is provided on what to tell their close contacts regarding testing and isolation procedures. Public Health continues to conduct contact tracing in schools, daycares and First Nations communities, as well as long-term care homes, correctional facilities, hospitals, shelters, group homes and within transient populations. The goal is to ensure that any potential cases in these areas are notified within 24 to 48 hours of exposure.

If you are identified as a close contact, you should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days, use rapid testing and, if symptoms develop or you receive a positive result on a rapid test, book a PCR test. Isolation requirements for close contacts are outlined in the winter plan level measures.

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. Individuals advised by Public Health or a physician, including confirmed cases of COVID-19, must isolate. More information about isolation is available online.

Public Health guidance on masks has been updated and is available online.

Rapid-test kits continue to be available across the province. Information on the rapid-test kits,  pickup locations and hours of operation during the holidays 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.