COVID-19 has claimed the lives of five more New Brunswickers and the number of people hospitalized because of the virus has increased in the past week, according to figures released Tuesday.
The number of new cases has decreased compared to last week, with the highly transmissible Omicron subvariants BA.5 and BA.4 now representing more than 90 per cent of the most recent random samples sent for sequencing.
But the number of tests conducted also decreased, the weekly COVIDWatch report shows.
“We are continuing to be in a period of increased COVID activity right now,” said Dr. Yves Léger, the acting chief medical officer of health.
“It’s not unusual to see hospital admissions continuing to increase. It’s what we call a lagging indicator.”
Cases typically go up first, followed by an increase in hospitalizations, Léger said.
Given this week’s decrease in cases, the next week or so will be telling, he said.
“If that trend continues, [it] may mean that we’re heading in a period of decreasing activity.”
Deaths and hospitalizations
The latest deaths for New Brunswick include one person in their 60s, two in their 70s, and two in their 80s, according to the province’s COVIDWatch report.
The pandemic death toll has now reached 443.
Forty people were newly admitted to hospital for COVID-19 between July 17 and July 23, up from 30 the previous week.
Among them is a person in their 20s, three in their 40s, three in their 50s, eight in their 60s, seven in their 70s, 13 in their 80s and five in their 90s.
The number of active hospitalizations has also increased to 34, from 22. Three of the patients require intensive care, up from one. These include two people in their 50s and one in their 60s.
The province only reports on patients who are admitted for COVID.
Horizon and Vitalité health networks, which also include patients who were initially admitted for another reason and later tested positive for the virus, report having 119 COVID patients in hospital, as of Saturday.
That’s a nearly 42 per cent jump from the previous week when 84 people were hospitalized either for or with COVID.
Seven patients are in intensive care, up from two.
The highest portion of hospitalizations for COVID-19 is among people aged 70 to 89, according to the province’s report.
“Individuals that are unprotected by vaccine continue to have the highest rate of hospitalization for COVID-19 and death,” it states.
A total of 53.1 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have now received their third COVID-19 vaccine dose, up 0.1 per cent from last week after 607 shots were administered.
The two-dose rate remains unchanged at 88.3 per cent after only 208 people rolled up their sleeves and the first-dose rate also remains stalled at 93.3 per cent with only 155 new shots given.
The fourth-dose rate is not included in the weekly report but about 27.3 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 50 or older have received their second booster, said Léger, up from 23 per cent last week.
The fourth-dose rate among those under 50 stands at “just under two per cent,” he said.
Two weeks ago, the province expanded eligibility for second boosters to all New Brunswickers 18 or older, provided at least five months have passed since their last dose.
The decision to lower the age eligibility from 50 was based on increasing risk, officials had said.
A total of 1,967 new cases of COVID were reported in the past week, down from 2,324 last week and 2,465 the previous week.
Of the new cases, 938 were lab-confirmed by PCR tests (down from 1,004), while the other 1,029 were self-reported by people who tested positive on rapid tests (down from 1,320).
Both tests are limited in New Brunswick to people with symptoms. PCR tests are also limited to certain groups of people who are considered higher risk.
There were 5,408 PCR tests conducted in the past week, down from 5,905 July 10 to July 16.
Random sampling of the most recent cases found 71 per cent are the Omicron subvariant BA.5, 20 per cent are BA.4, and nine per cent are BA.2.
There are now 1,374 active PCR-confirmed cases across the province, down from 1,506 in last week’s report.
New Brunswick has had 71,479 confirmed cases of COVID since the beginning of the pandemic, with 69,662 cases considered resolved so far.
Public Health says next week’s update will be released on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, due to the New Brunswick Day holiday.
Hospitalizations up at Horizon, dip at Vitalité
Horizon has 90 active COVID-19 patients in hospital as of Saturday, up from 84 a week ago, its weekly dashboard update shows. The number who require intensive care has doubled to four.
The distribution of the cases include:
- Moncton region, Zone 1 — .19
- Saint John region, Zone 2 — .40
- Fredericton region, Zone 3 — 16
- Miramichi region, Zone 7 — 15
Horizon does not provide details about which hospitals have COVID patients.
Vitalité had 26 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Saturday, down from 30, including three in intensive care, up one, its COVID-19 dashboard shows.
The Campbellton Regional Hospital in Zone 5, has the largest share, at eight, followed by the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in the Moncton region, Zone 1, with five patients, including one in ICU.
The Tracadie Hospital in Zone 6 also has five COVID patients, while the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst, also in Zone 6, has four, including one in ICU, and the Edmundston Regional Hospital, in Zone 4, also has four patients, including one in ICU.
There are more hospital units with COVID outbreaks this week — 26, compared to 22, Tuesday’s update shows.
Eighteen of them are in Horizon hospitals. Horizon officials did not respond to a request to provide the details about which hospitals and units, but seven are in the Moncton region, Zone 1, five in the Saint John region, Zone 2, three in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, and three in the Miramichi region, Zone 7.
The other eight outbreaks are on Vitalité hospital units, up from five the previous week, the dashboard shows.
The three new outbreaks include:
- Chaleur Regional Hospital’s extended care unit, 4 West, and the obstetrics unit.
- Edmundston Regional Hospital’s medical unit.
The other outbreaks include: the Dumont’s general surgical unit 4A; Tracadie Hospital’s medical unit and 2nd north unit; Campbellton Hospital’s geriatric unit and Restigouche Hospital’s continuous rehabilitation unit C-1.
Fewer health-care workers are off the job because of COVID compared to a week ago.
Sixty Horizon employees have tested positive, down from 88.
And 128 Vitalité employees have been removed from work after either testing positive for COVID-19 or coming into contact with a positive case, as of Saturday. That’s down from 141 the previous week.
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