Have all application Software updates stopped for Z15.3 Core?

I have noticed that Firefox and Thunderbird versions are several increments behind latest on my Z15.3 system.

I am talking about apt source, not Snap/Flatpak etc.

I know Z15 may be end-of-life this year, but does that mean apt source apps are no longer getting updates, or are they just delayed?

My plan was to jump to Z17 from Z15.3, skipping Z16, to avoid the anticipated pain getting sound to work when I do a major version upgrade.

Yes, this is correct. Zorin OS 15 is now past the EOL as of June of 2023.
It is no longer receiving standard package updates as of this past June.

Zorin OS 15 will continue to receive Security Updates until April of 2028.

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Zorin OS is based on the LTS - Long Term Support - versions of Ubuntu.
Ubuntu LTS versions are fully supported for Five Years.

ESM is Extended Security Maintenance, which runs for an additional five years providing Security Patches, only.
All Ubuntu LTS qualifies for the ESM security patches, as does Zorin OS.

I received OS updates yesterday for Z15.3 Core, which included "Update Zorin OS" i.e. the new Zorin OS Updater, but no kernel updates.

There is some confusion whether the Updater is still in Beta, as there is no indication of "beta" in the menu description. Ref: The Zorin OS Upgrader has Arrived! - #67 by zabadabadoo

I just got another update on that application that i installed a few minutes ago. It has been getting quite a few updates.

I do not know if it is still officially considered a Beta or not. We can ask...
@zorink or @AZorin - Is the Zorin Upgrade officially released or still in Beta?

One thing about a Direct Upgrade - on any distro - always make backups.
Always Back Up.
Because on any distro, performing the Direct Upgrade will always have a small element of risk. From packet loss due to net connection to a file write error.
Every time I ever tested a Zorin Beta product, it always performed flawlessly. I often wondered if like Montgomery Scott, they pull our leg by calling a fresh release a Beta a while just to make them look really good.

The only time I ever saw a pre-release that had issues that needed to be resolved was the very early pre-release Alpha of Zorin OS 16.
And the ZorinGroup had already listed the things that were issues so we knew to ignore them.

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That is always good advice before doing any OS version upgrade.

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