About 1 in 49 New Brunswickers is infected with COVID-19, researcher says
It is estimated that one in 49 New Brunswickers is currently infected with COVID-19, according to an infectious disease researcher and co-founder of COVID-19 Resources Canada.
Tara Moriarty said another 13,000 to 18,000 people are expected to be infected this week, helping New Brunswick get the country’s worst score on the group’s COVID-19 threat index.
“So that’s what people should be aware of when they go indoors,” Moriarty said.
She encourages everyone to wear a mask in grocery stores and drugstores, as these are the places where vulnerable people can’t avoid, and suggests postponing public events by a few weeks – “until things settle down a bit”.
signs of a slowdown
Moriarty believes New Brunswick’s experience with the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 is now at its peak.
The province is “still at a ‘severe’ level… but there are some signs of a slight downturn.”
The Department of Health “is unable to comment on the Hazard Index assessment until it receives more information” on how the Index was created and the data and methods used, spokesman Sean Hatchard said.
The staff asked a series of questions during a September meeting between representatives of the Atlantic provinces epidemiology teams and one of the compilers of the COVID-19 Resources Canada threat index, he said, and more questions were filed after the meeting.
The department is still waiting for those questions to be answered, Hatchard said.
“Heavy” index score
New Brunswick’s Hazard Index for the week ended March 4 is 9.2, which is considered “severe” compared to the national average of 6.4, or “very high,” according to COVID-19 Resources Canada.
The six-level hazard index is calculated based on several variables, such as: B. COVID-19 sewage data, test positivity rates, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths, said Moriarty, an associate professor at the University of Toronto.
“In the very early stages of a new flood or wave, we’re seeing much higher levels of sewage and infection than we saw in New Brunswick a while ago,” she said.
“This is usually followed by an increase in hospital admissions and deaths and these are currently driving the rigorous assessment for New Brunswick.”
It “makes sense” that New Brunswick would be among the first in the country to experience this XBB.1.5 wave given its geographic proximity to the east coast of the United States, where the subvariant emerged, Moriarty said.
The World Health Organization has called XBB.1.5 “the most transferrable” sub-variant yet.
It also appears to be able to infect people who have been vaccinated against COVID and people who were previously infected.
According to the Ministry of Health, a total of 111 cases of XBB.1.5 have been confirmed in the province since the subvariant was first detected in the province in January. That includes 22 cases in last week’s COVIDWatch report, Hatchard said.
Hospitalizations 9 times above the lowest point
Although COVID infections in the province are beginning to decline, they are still about seven times higher than the pandemic’s nadir, around early June 2021, Moriarty noted.
Hospitalizations and deaths are between nine and eleven times higher than the lowest point.
Moriarty said the upcoming March break, when students and their families will be traveling, is “always an issue”. It’s been “quite problematic in the past” for COVID to spread across much of Canada, she said.
At the same time, when students aren’t in school, it could help “put things down a bit.”
“I would say for the next few weeks it’s a really good time for people to start taking a little more care not to get infected,” Moriarty said. “And to realize that right now, quite a lot of people are infected and it’s really, really easy to contract COVID.”
She acknowledged that many people have stopped reacting to COVID numbers and adjusting their behavior. It’s understandable, she said. People are “desperate” that the pandemic is over and they can get on with their lives.
“The problem is that some people can’t do that, right? Some people really are at higher risk. And it has actually become much more difficult for them because many of us are not taking the precautions we need to protect ourselves as well as others. “
More than half of Canadians have risk factors for more severe COVID-19 or live with, care for, or are regularly around people who are at higher risk, she found.
It is “absolutely vital” that these people have the information they need to make decisions about how to protect themselves, she said. As such, her group, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, will continue to release their weekly Canadian COVID-19 Forecast.