After a few days of watching new COVID infections decline slightly, the numbers jumped significantly on Thursday, Oct. 7, as Public Health reports 115 new cases across the provinces. The province is now dealing with a record 825 active cases.
New Brunswick hospitals are currently treating 55 COVID-19 patients, including a record 31 in ICU.
Carleton MLA Bill Hogan told the River Valley Sun Thursday morning that hospitalizations are the critical factor driving the province’s urgent efforts to reduce the virus spread.
“The number one thing is we can’t overwhelm our hospitals,” he said, “There’s only so many ICU spaces.”
As medical resources stretch to handle COVID cases, Hogan said that every New Brunswicker feels the impact as they await treatment for other types of medical services.
He said the Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville reached more than 110 per cent of capacity recently. While the number has dropped below 100 per cent since then, he is not sure where it stands today.
Hogan said he talked to a URVH medical provider who told him the hospital is still converting space to handle the patient load.
In its Oct. 7 daily update, Public Health reported 41 of the 55 COVID patients in the hospital are unvaccinated, while 11 are fully vaccinated. It said three patients are partially vaccinated.
The report also broke down Thursday’s new infections list, showing just over 62 per cent unvaccinated and 30 per cent fully vaccinated. Those with a single vaccination make up 8.6 per cent of the new infections.
While New Brunswicks, like all areas around the globe, see breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said the unvaccinated remain at much greater risk from the virus.
“While we continue to see cases pop up in the vaccinated population, we know you are 16 times more likely to contract COVID-19 if you are unvaccinated,” she said. “You are also much less likely to get seriously ill or end up in hospital.”
Russell, Premier Blaine Higgs and Hogan all emphasized the importance of as many New Brunswickers as possible getting two vaccine shots to quell the spread and impact of the more contagious and severe Delta variant.
First dose vaccines hit 90 per cent
The Thursday report delivered some good news on that front, as the province passed 90 per cent of eligible New Brunswick residents with at least a single shot of the virus.
“This is very encouraging news that 90 per cent of us are at least partially vaccinated,” Higgs said. “If we can get everyone who has had a first dose to get their second dose, we could reach 90 per cent fully vaccinated within a month. Every person who gets the vaccine reduces the overall risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
Hogan said the small group of New Brunswickers who don’t take the virus seriously played a significant role in putting the province in its current situation.
“We ended up here for no reason whatsoever if you ask me. It was avoidable. If people would just get the vaccine, wear the mask and do what they were asked to do,” he said.
Hogan said, in hindsight, the province may have returned to green and ended mandates too early, but Public Health and the government made their decisions in July based on the data they had then.
“You make decisions using the best data at the time,” he said.
Hogan said New Brunswick’s situation looked good at the time, but it got hit by a spike in cases following the Labour Day weekend.
Hogan said the province brought the emergency order back because people refused to wear a mask without it.
As the province reaches the 90 per cent level of first vaccinations, Hogan hopes everyone who needs it makes an appointment for its second dose as soon as possible.
Still, he said, there will be a small but boisterous portion of the population who can’t be convinced to get the vaccine or follow any health-care recommendations.
“We’re talking about a very small percentage of the population that are extremely well organized and extremely loud,” Hogan said. “They appear a lot bigger than they are. They’re not. You’re not going to change the minds of many in that small group of the population.”
Thanksgiving restrictions and the circuit breaker
The Carleton MLA said he understands people are disappointed by the tight restrictions that won’t allow families beyond their own household to gather over Thanksgiving weekend but said data demonstrates private gatherings are responsible for most recent outbreaks.
Hogan said the restrictions mean his daughter and grandchildren won’t be able to join them for Thanksgiving dinner as planned.
The government-imposed restrictions beginning Friday at 6 p.m. through Monday at 11: 59 p. m. will prohibit gatherings beyond a single household other than at a place where the law requires proof of vaccination to enter.
Three “hot zones” in the province will see those tight restrictions expanded for at least two weeks. The areas falling under those “circuit-breaker” measures include the Upper River Valley in Zone 3, from the Florenceville-Bristol area north. It also consists of Zone 4, the Edmundston region, and a portion of Zone 1, from Moncton to Sainte-Anne-de-Kent.
Positive case at HCS
Public Health continues to identify positive COVID cases at schools in the province, including the Hartland Community School, for the second day in a row.
Anglophone West School District advised staff and the students’
families that the K-to-12 school will revert to distance learning on Thursday and Friday. District officials said they would contact families on Thanksgiving Monday with further information about the timing of returning to school.
Thursday evening, the school district officials advised staff, students and parents that Public Health informed them of a positive Covid-19 case at Meduxnekeag Consolidated School. As a result, Friday will will be a distance learning day for all students, with plans to return to school on Tuesday, Oct. 12.
New infections breakdown
Zone 1, the Moncton region, reported the most significant number of new infections on Thursday. Still, Zone 2, the Saint John region, where numbers remained relatively low in recent weeks, saw a substantial increase in new cases.
The following is a breakdown per Zone.
Zone 1: the Moncton region, 39 cases;
Zone 2: the Saint John region, 19 cases;
‘Zone 3: Fredericton and the Upper River Valley, 20 cases;
Zone 4: Edmundston, Grand Falls and St. Quentin, 20 cases;
Zone 5: The Campbellton region: 11 cases
Zone 6: The Bathurst region: 5 cases;
Zone 7: The Miramichi region: 2 cases