N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Higgs steps up plea for caution as 3 new cases are reported
Pharmacists ordered to provide patients with medication for no more than 30 days at a time
Three new presumptive cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the past 24 hours, bringing the province's total to 11 confirmed or presumptive cases, the chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell announced on Wednesday.
She said some New Brunswickers are not following the government's advice to stay home to help prevent the spread of the "serious health threat" and she expects there will be "many" cases in the next few days.
"New Brunswick is not immune to the spread of the virus," Russell said.
Premier Blaine Higgs again emphasized the need for people to practise social distancing and said mandatory measures could soon follow.
"We aren't there yet, but as a province and as a country we will do what is necessary to keep residents safe," he told reporters during the daily update in Fredericton.
Higgs advised against playdates, joyriding in vehicles filled with people, sleepovers, and getting together with friends to watch movies.
"This is not a drill. This is reality like we've never seen before."
The latest cases include:
- A woman in her 60s in the southeast, who had been on a cruise.
- A man in his 60s in central New Brunswick, who had been in contact with an individual who had direct contact with a traveller.
- A woman in her 60s in central New Brunswick, who had travelled to the United Kingdom.
Russell, too, reiterated the importance of people staying home and keeping a social distance of six feet, or about two metres, from others.
"This is not the time for house parties," said.
Here is a roundup of other developments Wednesday.
Government won't answer questions
The province has scaled back on how much it wants to share with the public about its response to the coronavirus and related problems.
Information about COVID-19 is delivered at a short daily health briefing by Dr. Jennifer Russell and Premier Blaine Higgs.
But on Wednesday, reporters were allowed to ask only one question each and were not allowed to follow up, even when the answers were confusing or incomplete.
Bruce Macfarlane, the spokesperson for the Health Department, brought the briefing to an end without explanation.
Nursing resources added to 811 line
New Brunswickers are still complaining about the long waits on the Tele-811 line.
After Wednesday's news conference, Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said in an emailed statement, that additional nurses are being added to the Tele-811 line starting on Thursday.
"We expect to add more resources over the next few days," he said in an email.
The provincial government is following Public Health's advice to allow patients to book virtual appointments with their family doctor to curb the spread of COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Russell encouraged patients who don't have family doctors but need prescription renewals or help unrelated to the coronavirus to call 811. Normally these patients would try to go to clinics.
It wasn't clear from Russell's answer how the 811 service would get people help from doctors but she did say the province was working on the issue with the New Brunswick Medical Society.
Stockpiling could create drug shortages
Pharmacists in the province have been ordered to provide patients with medication for no more than 30 days at a time, the New Brunswick College of Pharmacists says.
The college warned that requesting early refills or stockpiling medication could create drug shortages and put others at risk.
"While there are currently no early warning signs of a global drug shortage, pharmacists are looking toward the long-term needs of New Brunswickers and want to ensure that medications are dispensed responsibly during this uncertain time," the College said in a news release.
Pharmacies and grocery stores will stay open across the province.
Parents won't be charged for daycare
Premier Blaine Higgs says parents will not be charged while daycares are closed, and essential services workers will continue to pay their regular rates for spaces.
"We are asking daycare operators not to increase their usual rates at this time.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a massive $82-billion aid package to help Canadians and businesses cope with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The province is trying to determine how this applies to daycares, Higgs said.
Operators have said they have to charge parents for spaces, even if daycares are closed to most children.
Horizon cancels non-urgent services
Horizon Health Network has started cancelling all non-urgent services at all of its hospitals, including:
- Therapeutic services.
- Laboratory services.
- Diagnostic imaging.
- The Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation.
- Electrodiagnostics and respiratory therapy.
Dentists stop doing non-essential procedures
All non-essential and elective dental procedures are suspended until further notice, the New Brunswick Dental Society has announced.
Emergency procedures will still take place. An emergency procedure includes oral facial trauma, significant infection, prolonged bleeding or pain that can't be managed by over-the-counter medication.
Dental offices are rescheduling appointments with their clients and assessing what's an emergency and what's non-essential.
Help for homeless shelters
The Department of Social Development has put contingency plans in place, should a homeless shelter client develop symptoms.
A client with symptoms would be taken form the shelter and put in an alternative place. Then other clients would be tested.
Many homeless shelters are operating at or near capacity.
Reducing transit hours
Starting Wednesday, Fredericton Transit has switched to operating on a Saturday schedule, where buses will run every hour.
Codiac Transpo services in Moncton will be modified starting Friday.
From Monday to Saturday, all transit services will end at 6:30 pm. Sunday will remain unchanged.
Starting Thursday, Saint John Transit will suspend all fare collection on all of its services.
Passengers will be asked to use the rear doors for boarding and exiting. For those with disabilities, the front door will continue to be used.
Saint John Transit continues to operate on its regular schedule. It's cleaning buses daily and has increased the cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
You can still give blood
The Canadian Blood Services has recorded an increase in appointment cancellations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Individual and group cancellations can have a dramatic impact on patients in Canada who continue to need blood products to treat cancers, trauma, and many surgeries," said Delphine Denis, a spokesperson for Canadian Blood Services.
"The increase in blood donation appointment cancellations is worrying, but a benefit of operating a national blood system is our ability to shift products around the country to meet hospital and patient needs."
The organization is adhering to the guidance of experts, federal and provincial governments. And that protocols for screening donors and cleaning sites "have always been extremely robust — respiratory infections are common and we are prepared."
The organization is also taking additional measures to enhance protocols to better protect anyone who comes to donate blood.
"To ensure we can continue to meet the needs of Canadian patients, we need everyone who is eligible and healthy to continue to book and honour their appointments to donate blood."
Protect your mental health
Chief medical health officer Jennifer Russell said it's important people look after themselves, both physically and mentally.
This includes healthy eating, exercise, proper sleep and doing different hobbies.
"Right now your mental health is just as important as your physical health," she said.
What to do about grocery shopping
If you're going out to the drugstore or to a grocery store, do it when stores aren't usually busy. The province advises you to keep that two-metre distance and wash your hands once you return home.
Russell said some people are even wiping down the products they purchase once they return home.
Meals on Wheels continuing to deliver
Meals on Wheels, a volunteer service that delivers meals to vulnerable individuals and families in Fredericton, is still operating.
The organization has ordered minimal contact between clients and volunteers.
Betty Daniels, executive director for Meals on Wheels Fredericton, said packaged meals are being left outside a client's home. Volunteers must knock on the door and stand back to ensure clients receive their meal safely.
The program is looking for more volunteers, as some current volunteers have recently returned from abroad and are self-isolating for 14 days.
Food banks prepare for growing need
The Saint John Community Food Basket, is preparing for a growing need of people who will rely on the local food bank.
The organization is limiting access to one person at a time, said John Buchanan, executive director of the community food bank.
Individuals using the food bank will enter, check in with a computer operator and receive a bag of food from a volunteer. The Individual will then be asked to leave immediately.
Meanwhile, Greener Village in Fredericton, is temporarily closing its retail store, suspending its Learning Kitchen programming and restricting access to the food bank building.
Food Depot Alimentaire in Moncton, which serves food banks across southeastern New Brunswick, said it is not accepting walk-ins. People must call to book an appointment.
Food Depot Alimentaire also launched a food delivery service for seniors. And it's also providing food delivery services to children who were relying on food programming.
What to do if you have any symptoms?
Symptoms of coronavirus can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. With any of these, residents should:
- Stay at home.
Immediately call Tele-Care 811.
Describe symptoms and travel history.
Follow instructions carefully.
With files from Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon