New Brunswick

Person 20 to 44 years old among N.B.'s latest COVID deaths, child under 4 hospitalized

At least two more New Brunswickers have died from COVID-19, including one aged 20 to 44, while a child under four is among the 52 people hospitalized for or with the virus, the latest weekly figures released by the province Wednesday show.

Virus activity Oct. 29 to Nov. 4 remains 'moderate,' Respiratory Watch report says

A low camera angle showing a nurse standing over a patient lying on a stretcher, with the monitor for some medical equipment nearby.
A total of 557 New Brunswickers have now been hospitalized for or with COVID-19 since the start of the respiratory season on Aug. 27. (Patrick Lacelle/Radio-Canada)

At least two more New Brunswickers have died from COVID-19, including one aged 20 to 44, while a child under four is among the 52 people hospitalized for or with the virus, the latest weekly figures released by the province Wednesday show.

COVID-19 activity remains moderate, according to the Respiratory Watch report for Oct. 29 to Nov. 4.

"All indicators remained stable throughout the current reporting period."

Both people died in hospital during the reporting week. The other person was aged 65 or older.

Only confirmed cases who die in hospital are counted as COVID deaths, after the province changed its definition in September.

The pandemic death toll is no longer provided, but the virus has now killed at least 958 New Brunswickers.

Excess deaths could climb 20% in coming weeks

The province's "excess mortality" or "untimely mortality," will likely increase by an estimated 20 per cent per week in the coming weeks, as people die from either acute COVID or the downstream consequences of past infections, according to Tara Moriarty, an infectious diseases researcher.

That means New Brunswick will see about 20 per cent more deaths per week than predicted based on demographic factors, such as the growth and aging of the population.

"It's still going to take at least six months before we see all the numbers come in, but right now [that's what] the forecast is suggesting," said Moriarty, co-founder of COVID-19 Resources Canada, a grassroots group of experts and community members that aims to provide logistic and scientific support to public health response efforts.

Hospitalizations cost $1M a day, says researcher

Hospitalizations decreased from 57 the previous week, but the number of people who required intensive care increased to four from one.

Other than the child, the hospitalized patients include nine people 45 to 64 years old, and 42 people 65 or older.

COVID hospitalizations are costing the province an estimated $1 million a day, according to Moriarty, who is an associate professor at the University of Toronto.

A blonde woman wearing glasses and a red sweater looks into the camera.
Tara Moriarty, an associate professor and infectious diseases researcher at the University of Toronto, said last fall and winter saw some of the highest excess or untimely mortality of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country, but she hopes it won't be 'quite as high' this year. (Submitted by Tara Moriarty)

Hospitalizations and ICU admissions in New Brunswick and across the country are about 12 times higher than the lowest point of the COVID epidemic, and roughly the same as they were at this time last year when they were "quite high," said Moriarty.

"We're quite concerned right now … because of the effect of these COVID surges on the health-care system and access to health care for people who need it for all of the non-COVID reasons as well," she said.

Eleven lab-confirmed COVID outbreaks have been declared, according to the province — four of them in nursing homes and seven in "other facilities," which could include adult residential homes and correctional centres.

Estimated 1 in 30 infected

There have been 114 new cases of COVID confirmed through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) lab tests, down from 128, the Respiratory Watch report shows.

The positivity rate — the percentage of the total PCR lab tests performed that produced a positive result — is 12 per cent, down from 14 per cent.

Moriarty estimates about one in 30 New Brunswickers are currently infected with COVID.

That's down from the previous estimate of one in 17, as of Nov. 4 to Nov. 17.

"We think that's improving, based on what we can see from the test positivity rates and wastewater," said Moriarty.

But New Brunswick is still "not great right now," she stressed.

The national average for Nov. 4 to Nov. 17 was about one in 23 Canadians infected.

The province's hazard index for that period was tied with Ontario for third highest in the country at 20.9. Only Saskatchewan and Newfoundland were worse, at 21.0 and 21.6 respectively, her group's website shows.

'A lot' of in-hospital transmission

"A lot" of infections are being contracted in hospitals or health-care settings, based on data from across the country, said Moriarty.

"It's very important to have as much protection as possible in hospitals because people who are in them are, by definition, sick or having surgery and more vulnerable to, you know, the outcomes of an infection like COVID-19," she said.

Studies conducted in other countries suggest consistent masking is one way to reduce in-hospital transmission, said Moriarty.

Another is testing everyone upon admission, which most jurisdictions have dropped.

A person draws out Moderna vaccine during a COVID-19 vaccine clinic
The updated COVID-19 vaccines are 'a pretty good match' to the strains that are circulating right now, said Moriarty. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

"We really do need to be protecting people in these settings and recognizing that, you know, a COVID infection for someone who's hospitalized can mean death, or can mean that they take a long time to recover and they may never regain the abilities and, you know, the skills and daily life function that they had before getting sick."

Moriarty urges people who are eligible to get an updated COVID-19 vaccine.

"Don't delay, go and get it now because there are a lot of infections out there right now and you don't want to end up in the hospital or needing hospital when we have so many other people needing hospital at the same time," she said.

A total of 77,545 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered since Oct. 4, according to figures from the Department of Health.

Estimated 30% of seniors never infected

Moriarty also recommends wearing well-fitted masks indoors, avoiding non-essential indoor gatherings or moving them outdoors, and staying home when sick.

"They're not perfect, but if we layer them up … you really can reduce the risk of having an infection," she said, pointing to the estimated 30 per cent of Canadians aged 65 or older who may not have been infected yet, based on seroprevalence data from the COVID Immunity Task Force, or the percentage of people who have antibodies in their blood to the virus that causes COVID-19.

This age group is considered at greater risk and "generally have been taking more precautions," she said.

CBC requested an interview with outgoing Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell or another Public Health official. In an emailed response, Department of Health spokesperson Sean Hatchard said, "When there is something new or noteworthy to share with the public, or if its advice or guidance for the public were to change, Public Health ensures staff are available to provide information to the media. That may include an interview or a statement, depending on the individual situation."

Fewer hospital unit outbreaks

Horizon Health Network has 62 hospitalized COVID patients, as of Nov. 11, according to its COVID-19 dashboard. That's a 36 per cent decrease from the 97 people hospitalized for or with the virus the week before.

Three of the patients require intensive care, down from six.

Fewer Horizon health-care workers are off the job after testing positive for the virus — 20, compared to 34 absent infected employees the previous week.

There are also COVID outbreaks at fewer Horizon hospitals than a week ago. The current hospital unit outbreaks, as of Tuesday, include:

  • The Moncton Hospital: cardiology, family practice/stroke unit, oncology, rehabilitation, chronic/geriatric rehabilitation and general surgery.
  • Miramichi Regional Hospital: cardiac stepdown/stroke, and obstetrics/gynecology/pediatrics.
  • Saint John Regional hospital: psychiatry unit, obstetrical unit, cardiac services.

Vitalité Health Network is updating its COVID-19 report only monthly, with the next update not expected until Nov. 27.

It has, however, updated its COVID outbreaks page, and reports two outbreaks, as of Tuesday, up from one. They include the Tracadie Hospital's medical unit and the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre's nephrology (4F) unit.

4 lab-confirmed flu cases

Four new cases of the flu have been confirmed through lab tests.

Eighteen cases have now been reported since the respiratory season began on Aug. 27.

A total of 112,695 people have been vaccinated for influenza since Oct. 4, the Department of Health says.

With files from Information Morning Moncton and Fredericton