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N.B. redefines COVID deaths, hospitalizations

By Brad Perry Sep 13, 2023 | 7:21 AM

New Brunswick’s health department is updating how it reports on COVID-19 and influenza cases.

A new weekly ‘Respiratory Watch’ report, unveiled Tuesday, will include data on both diseases.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said several other provinces have already taken a similar approach.

“It makes sense to monitor both of these diseases together so that New Brunswickers can be informed of the impacts these diseases are having on the health of the population,” Russell said in a statement.

Health officials said changes have also been made to how COVID deaths and hospitalizations are tracked.

Public Health now defines a COVID death as “a confirmed case who was admitted to hospital and whose death occurred during their stay.”

“A death due to COVID-19 or influenza does not mean that it was necessarily the primary or contributing factor to the cause of death. Therefore, only deaths that occur in hospital will be reported,” said the department.

“Deaths that occur outside of hospital are subject to a reporting lag that can last months, while in-hospital deaths is a more timely indicator for disease severity.”

Hospital figures will now include patients hospitalized for and with COVID, not just those hospitalized because of complications from the disease.

Public Health said that aligns with the current reporting process they have in place for influenza.

“The department recognizes that both types of patients have an impact on the system,” said the statement.

The new report will now include the number of outbreaks for both diseases in nursing homes.

However, officials have decided to remove some pieces of information, such as rapid test results.

“While rapid test results did serve a purpose in earlier stages of the pandemic, now that the COVID-19 state of emergency has ended the department feels regular reporting of this information is no longer required,” said the department.

New Brunswickers will also no longer see sequencing breakdowns for different subvariants of COVID in the province.

Public Health said no other province in Atlantic Canada has been providing this information in its routine reporting.

“Going forward, Public Health will confirm the presence or non-presence of a subvariant upon request,” it said.

“It should be noted, however, that if the situation was to change, and a new subvariant was to emerge and pose more severe health risks to New Brunswickers, Public Health would inform the population as needed.”

COVID hospitalizations, cases up in N.B.

Public Health said New Brunswick is currently dealing with a “moderate” level of COVID activity.

There were 44 hospitalizations between Aug. 27 and Sept. 3, including one ICU admission.

That was compared to a total of 24 people hospitalized during the previous four weeks.

Of the most recent hospitalizations, 40 were aged 65 and over, three were aged 45 to 64, and one was aged 20 to 44. The one ICU admission involved someone aged 65+.

No COVID deaths were reported as part of the latest ‘Respiratory Watch’ report.

Public Health said there were 95 confirmed COVID cases, an increase from the previous week.

The test positivity rate also increased to 14 per cent, according to the report.