EDITOR’S NOTE: There will be no COVID-19 news release or dashboard update Jan. 1-2. Information from those days will be provided on Jan. 3.

FREDERICTON (GNB) – New Brunswick’s health system is preparing for an influx of cases caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“The regional health authorities and Extra-Mural/Ambulance New Brunswick are examining what services can be further reduced to ensure essential services and emergency surgeries can continue to be provided to all New Brunswickers as we deal with the impact of the Omicron variant,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard.

The CEOs of the health authorities and Extra-Mural/Ambulance New Brunswick will work collaboratively to support the health-care system during a crisis that could include staff shortages, service reductions and high rates of COVID-19.

Public Health is reporting 486 new cases of COVID-19 today and five new hospitalizations. It is projected the Omicron variant will cause a rapid climb in the daily case count as it has in other provinces. New Brunswick is presently dealing with both the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19.

New Brunswickers urged to keep their contacts low to slow the spread of COVID-19

Public Health is urging New Brunswickers to limit their contact with others as much as possible and continue periodic testing with rapid point-of-care tests if they have a known exposure, even if they are asymptomatic.

“Under Level 2 of the winter plan, we all need to limit our household contacts to a maximum of a steady 10,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. “Whenever possible, we should try to keep our contacts even lower. The fewer people we spend time with, the less the virus is able to spread.”

Should you test positive using a rapid point-of-care test, you must immediately isolate and book your PCR test. Your household should also rapid test daily while you await your PCR test and results. As well, you should notify close contacts that you have tested positive on a rapid test and advise them to self-monitor for symptoms. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should schedule a PCR test via an assessment centre.

43 people hospitalized

There are 17 people in intensive care and another 26 are in hospital for a total of 43 people hospitalized. This is five more hospitalizations than reported Tuesday. Of those in hospital, 28 are over the age of 60 and 10 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, as well as new cases, 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.

Of the new cases today, 168 are in Zone 1 (Moncton region), 216 are in Zone 2 (Saint John region), 46 are in Zone 3 (Fredericton region), 10 are in Zone 4 (Edmundston region), eight are in Zone 5 (Campbellton region), nine are in Zone 6 (Bathurst region) and 29 are in Zone 7 (Miramichi region).

Public Health has confirmed that one person 90 and over in Zone 4 has died as a result of COVID-19. Since Tuesday, 121 people have recovered.

Public Health reported today that 82.8 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 90 per cent have received their first dose of a vaccine and 18.7 per cent have received a booster dose.

Assessment centre delays

Assessment centres continue to experience increased demands for PCR testing. More resources and extended hours have been allotted to the Saint John assessment centre to help clear the backlog of nearly 2,500 requests in Zone 2 and the Canadian Red Cross is on site to assist. All priority groups, which include Public Health referrals, health-care workers and those who work or live in vulnerable settings (such as long-term care) are being scheduled within 48 hours. The next priorities are any symptomatic individuals as well as those who test positive on a point-of-care test. These people are being booked for a test within 120 hours.

In Zone 3, there is a backlog of about 450 requests while, in Zone 1, there is a backlog of about 150 requests. All priority groups in these zones are being scheduled within 24 hours. The next priorities are being booked for a test within 48 hours.

Learn more:

All of New Brunswick is in the Level 2 phase of the winter plan to manage COVID-19. More information on the plan, including modifications, is available online.

Information about COVID-19 vaccines, including booking first, second or booster doses, is available at www.gnb.ca/COVID19vaccine.

Rapid-test kits are available across the province. More information on the rapid-test kits program and pickup locations is available online.

Potential public exposure locations and dates are listed online. A map of potential public exposures can also be found on the COVID-19 dashboard.

Information on cases in schools and daycares is available on the Healthy and Safe Schools website.

Any household in New Brunswick with a positive case of COVID-19 must isolate for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status. Individuals advised by Public Health or a physician, including confirmed cases of COVID-19, must isolate. More information about isolation is available online.

Information and resources to help New Brunswickers live with COVID-19 is available on the COVID-19 guidance and resources webpage.

Guidance on public health measures, restrictions and the mandatory order is available online.

Information about testing, including booking PCR tests and using rapid tests, is available at www.gnb.ca/GetTestedCOVID19.

Travellers, including New Brunswickers returning to the province, must register their travel with the travel registration program.