N.B. changes COVID-19 testing strategy, reports 2,548 new cases since NYE
New Brunswick will start reserving PCR tests for people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19, as the province announced 2,548 new cases of the virus since its last report on Dec. 31, 2021.
This brings the number of active cases in New Brunswick to 5,448.
There are 51 people in hospital with COVID-19, 17 of those individuals are in intensive care, and 12 are on ventilators.
Horizon Health Network has 461 staff members self isolating, while Vitalité has 69 staff self isolating.
"We have really had to shift our focus to the highest risk areas, so vulnerable populations and vulnerable people, so when you look at the fact that we've changed our testing strategy to do PCR for the high priority groups, plus people age 50 or over again, that's to target those people most likely to become hospitalized,” said New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell.
The changes to PCR testing come into effect Tuesday, Jan. 4, at 11:59 p.m.
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.
"We will only to keep track of those POCTs reliably with the people putting in that information on the portal that we've put in the website so it will really be on the benefit of doing that obviously is so that we can track that,” Dr. Russell said.
The provincial liberal health critic is concerned that not all New Brunswickers will have access to tools such as high speed internet to inform public health of their positive result.
"I'm worried that we won't know the real numbers in the future and by real number I mean the real number of people who have COVID-19 because it will be a new way to inform the government if we are positive using the rapid test,” said MLA Jean-Claude D'Amours.
Dr. Russell says public health is at the mercy of deliveries from the federal government for rapid tests.
“I’ve seen in many locations where the timeframe to have access to rapid tests is very low plus sometimes within 30 minutes to an hour there’s no more rapid tests, so I’m worried that we will have a lack of information in the future,” D’Amours said.
D’Amours said that there are human resources shortages everywhere for healthcare professionals but other provinces did not pause testing over the holidays like New Brunswick.
“Other jurisdictions, other provinces are more proactive than we are and I’m afraid because you know at a time where we were at the busiest time of the year and the biggest risk was then, we have done little in the province,” he added.
There is a mixed reaction to the changes in the province.
"I'm a little bit nervous about it to be honest because I work in a school in Oromocto, I'm a language assistant there, and so the fact that I can only take rapid tests and won't be able to get a PCR is a little bit nerve wracking,” said Fredericton resident Jerry Faye-Flatt.
Rapid test pick up locations will reopen Tuesday.
"I don't think we have much of a choice there's just too many cases and I think they had to do something and the idea of having people over 50 being tested makes more sense than just everybody randomly,” added Fredericton resident Jill Peters.