N.B. reports more than 2,500 new cases of COVID-19 in first 3 days of January

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: New isolation requirements coming to New Brunswick' COVID-19: New isolation requirements coming to New Brunswick
Amid surging COVID-19 cases in new Brunswick, the province’s top doctor says it’s reducing the amount of time vaccinated people spend in isolation after testing positive. This change comes after their admission that containing the virus is no longer possible. Nathalie Sturgeon has that story – Jan 1, 2022

More than 500 regional health authority employees in New Brunswick are isolating due to COVID-19 as the province reported a staggering 2,548 cases and two deaths over the last three days.

In a release, the province said the isolating employees include 461 from Horizon Health Network and 69 from Vitalité Health Network.

“We are monitoring the health system very closely,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard in the release.

“As Omicron spreads across New Brunswick, case counts will continue to escalate and it will affect our health-care workforce. The Regional Health Authorities, Extra Mural / Ambulance New Brunswick and the Department of Health are on heightened alert and are diligently working, as they have throughout the holidays, to ensure critical life-saving services are there for New Brunswickers when needed.”

Read more: COVID-19 - New Brunswick students preparing to move to online learning for 2 weeks

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The new cases include 797 on Saturday, 829 on Sunday, and 922 on Monday — setting a new record each day.

Two people in the Fredericton region have died as a result of COVID-19. One was in their 60s and the other was in their 70s.

There are currently 51 people in hospital — six more since the last report on Friday — and 17 people are in intensive care. Of those in hospital, 33 are over the age of 60 and no one under 19 is hospitalized. Twelve people are on a ventilator.

Of the new cases since Friday, 697 are in Zone 1 (Moncton region), 1,070 are in Zone 2 (Saint John region), 299 are in Zone 3 (Fredericton region), 132 are in Zone 4 (Edmundston region), 58 are in Zone 5 (Campbellton region), 149 are in Zone 6 (Bathurst region) and 143 are in Zone 7 (Miramichi region).

With 435 recoveries, there are now an estimated 5,442 active cases.

Read more: Hundreds stand in kilometre-long line for COVID-19 rapid tests in Saint John

The release said 82.9 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 21.2 per cent have received a booster dose.

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It said due to a limited supply of the Pfizer vaccine until April 2022, New Brunswick’s vaccination clinics will exclusively offer the Moderna vaccine to people over the age of 30.

“The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending that the limited supply of Pfizer be reserved for individuals 12-29 years of age as there is evidence that the risk of myocarditis/pericarditis for this age group is decreased with Pfizer vaccine,” it said. “This risk is less in Moderna in the over 30 population.”

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said in the release that Moderna remains a safe and effective vaccine and the spread of Omicron makes it even more important to get vaccinated.

New restrictions

The province is putting in new restrictions on Tuesday “to mitigate impacts on the health-care system and other critical infrastructure in response to the highly contagious Omicron variant.”

As of 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Public Health will be changing the criteria for PCR testing. PCR tests will be reserved for:

  • 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 point-of-care rapid tests when symptomatic, the province said.

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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 next week. They will also need to follow new isolation guidelines.

Read more: COVID-19: N.B. premier tests positive, students returning to online learning 

Vaccinated people who test positive will face a lower isolation period of five days while unvaccinated people will face a period of 10.

Upon release from isolation, people must wear a mask continually and avoid vulnerable settings.

As well, schools will move to home learning, beginning Jan. 11, for at least two weeks.

The province also said it will no longer be reporting public exposures “as it moves away from contact tracing for the general public.”

“The Omicron variant is so contagious that New Brunswickers should assume that it is everywhere and that they are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 at all times,” said Russell in the release.

Click to play video: 'Provinces reduce isolation periods for vaccinated Canadians' Provinces reduce isolation periods for vaccinated Canadians
Provinces reduce isolation periods for vaccinated Canadians – Jan 1, 2022

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