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

FREDERICTON (GNB) – The highly contagious Omicron variant continues to spread, with Public Health reporting 572 new cases of COVID-19 today. There are a total of 40 people in the hospital with the virus, including 16 in intensive care.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said mitigating the impact on the health system is the top priority, and said regional health authorities and Extra-Mural/Ambulance New Brunswick continue their efforts to prepare the system for both an increase in hospitalizations and the possibility of more health-care staff out on sick leave. She advised New Brunswickers to stay away from emergency departments unless absolutely necessary.

“Omicron is now believed to be the dominant variant in the province. Due to its high transmissibility, cases are expected to continue to rise, affecting the health system and other sectors,” said Shephard. “Hospitals will continue to ensure people have access to the urgent care they need, but they will feel the strain due to this rise in cases.”

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, urged people to keep their contacts as low as possible.

“New Year’s Eve is tomorrow, but this should not be a typical year of large gatherings or parties,” said Russell. “Now more than ever, New Brunswickers need to do their part to slow the spread of the virus. Please keep your celebrations small with members of your household or people in your Steady 10.”

Rapid tests

More than 3.8 million rapid tests have been distributed to New Brunswickers since Dec. 1 through schools, workplaces, airports and pickup sites.

While the delivery of rapid tests to the province has slowed during the holiday season it is expected to return to normal in the new year. Daily limits have been established at each distribution site to ensure enough inventory.

“Those with multiple test kits at home should wait and use them before replenishing their supply and they should reach out to family or neighbours who may be looking for test kits and share their supply with them,” said Shephard.

Information on hours and locations for rapid test kits throughout the holidays is available online.

40 hospitalizations

Public Health is reporting 572 new cases of COVID-19 today.

There are 16 people in intensive care and another 24 are in hospital for a total of 40 people hospitalized. Of those in hospital, 27 are over the age of 60 and 11 people are on a ventilator. No one under 19 is currently hospitalized. The seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations is available on the COVID-19 dashboard.

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

Of the new cases today, 140 are in Zone 1 (Moncton region), 219 are in Zone 2 (Saint John region), 89 are in Zone 3 (Fredericton region), 46 are in Zone 4 (Edmundston region), eight are in Zone 5 (Campbellton region), 33 are in Zone 6 (Bathurst region) and 37 are in Zone 7 (Miramichi region).

A person 70-79 in Zone 2 (Saint John region) and a person 70-79 in Zone 3 (Fredericton region) have died as a result of COVID-19. Since Wednesday, 111 people have recovered.

Public Health reported today that 82.9 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 90.1 per cent have received their first dose of a vaccine and 19.6 per cent have received a booster dose.

Assessment centre delays

Assessment centres continue to experience delays due to increased demand for PCR testing. More resources and extended hours have been allotted to the Saint John assessment centre to help clear the backlog of more than 2,200 requests in Zone 2. The Canadian Red Cross is on site to assist.

Priority groups, which include Public Health referrals, health-care workers and those who work or live in vulnerable settings (such as long-term care facilities), are being scheduled for a PCR test within 24 hours. The second priority group, which includes symptomatic people and those who had a positive result from a rapid test, are being booked for a test within 120 hours (five days).

In Zone 3, there is a backlog of about 750 requests while, in Zone 1, there is a backlog of about 540 requests. All priority groups in these zones are being scheduled for a PCR test within 24 hours. In Zone 3 the second priority group are being booked for a test within 68 hours (about 3 days) and in Zone 1, within 48 hours.

News conference on Dec. 31

The provincial government will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 31, to provide an update on the approach to testing, isolation and contact tracing in light of the dominant Omicron variant.

Learn more

All of New Brunswick is in the Level 2 phase of the winter plan to manage COVID-19. More information on the COVID-19 alert system, including guidance on public health measures, restrictions and the mandatory order, is available online.

Other useful links: