FREDERICTON (GNB) – Public Health is urging immunocompromised people and those in other high-priority groups to protect themselves from the Omicron variant by getting their COVID-19 booster and following public health advice which includes keeping their contacts low, wearing a close-fitting mask in indoor settings and maintaining physical distance.

“Our high-priority groups are at the greatest risk of serious illness due to COVID-19,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. “The best way to prevent serious illness is to follow public health guidance and get your COVID-19 booster shot.”

People who are immunocompromised can book a booster dose if at least five months have passed since their last mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

People in high-priority groups can book an appointment for a booster dose if at least five months has passed since their second dose. These groups include:

·         people 50 and older,

·         First Nations,

·         residents of nursing homes and adult residential facilities, including their immediate household family members who are 18 or older,

·         health-care personnel – including those working in long-term care facilities, regional health authorities and Extra-Mural/Ambulance New Brunswick,

·         school personnel and staff at early childhood education centres and daycares.

Health-care absences continue to rise

There are 571 health-care staff isolating at home due to COVID-19 today. Of these, 460 are from the Horizon Health Network, 70 are Vitalité Health Network staff and 41 are from Extra-Mural/Ambulance New Brunswick.

Reminder of new measures coming into effect tonight, Jan. 4 at 11:59 p.m.

Beginning tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 11:59 p.m., the province will reserve PCR tests for people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19. These are:

·         People in areas at highest risk, including health-care workers and those who live or work in long-term care facilities, homeless shelters and correctional facilities.

·         People who are symptomatic and aged 50 and over.

·         People who are symptomatic and immunocompromised or pregnant.

·         People who need a PCR test for travel.

·         People who are identified as a priority by Public Health.

Everyone else, including those who are symptomatic but under 50 and do not live in a vulnerable setting, will be advised to take rapid tests when symptomatic. A positive rapid test will be treated as a positive result for COVID-19 and people will be asked to register their result through a new form that will be available online. They will also need to follow new isolation guidelines.

Vaccinated people who have tested positive, as well as vaccinated, asymptomatic, close household contacts, will need to isolate for five days. Unvaccinated people who have tested positive, as well as unvaccinated, asymptomatic, household contacts, will need to isolate for 10 days.

Close contacts outside of a household will be asked to mask continuously, avoid vulnerable settings and people, and limit their contacts as much as possible for at least 10 days.

Upon release from isolation, people must wear a mask continuously and avoid vulnerable settings and gatherings for the next five days. If a close contact develops symptoms, they will be directed to take a rapid test, unless they meet the requirements for a PCR test.

Due to the high number of cases and lack of resources, contact tracing among the general public is no longer feasible. Instead, people who test positive will be asked to notify their close contacts and members of their household. Case and contact tracing will be reserved mostly for people in vulnerable settings to help prevent transmission among those who are most likely to be hospitalized.

Schools moving to home learning

Due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, students will not return to public schools on Jan. 10 but will move to home learning beginning Jan. 11. This measure will remain in place for at least two weeks and will then be assessed weekly.

Hospitalizations and case numbers

Public Health reported there are 16 people in intensive care and another 40 in hospital for a total of 56 people hospitalized. Of those in hospital, 37 are over the age of 60 and11 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.

Based upon information available from PCR tests, Public Health is reporting 73 recoveries and 746 new cases of COVID-19 today.

Of the new reported cases, 166 are in Zone 1 (Moncton region), 351 are in Zone 2 (Saint John region), 90 are in Zone 3 (Fredericton region), 44 are in Zone 4 (Edmundston region), six are in Zone 5 (Campbellton region), 37 are in Zone 6 (Bathurst region) and 52 are in Zone 7 (Miramichi region).

Three people have died as a result of COVID-19. One person 70-79 in Zone 1 (Moncton region) and two people aged 80-89 in Zone 2 (Saint John region).

As of today, 83 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 90.3 per cent have received their first dose of a vaccine and 21.3 per cent have received a booster dose.

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.

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