N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Police have the power to pull vehicles over, check on compliance
Dr. Jennifer Russell urges people not to gather for Easter weekend, with 3 new cases bringing total to 108
- Weekend could be 'turning point, Higgs says
- Passover Seder will be different
- Health-care professionals urge residents to respect 30-day limit on prescription refills
- Expiry date for lotto tickets extended
- Tech group develops COVID-19 tracking tool for Saint John food program
- RV company donates vehicles to health-care workers
- The difference between allergy symptoms and COVID-19
- What to do if you have symptoms?
Police and Public Safety officers have the power to pull vehicles over during the COVID-19 state of emergency to check whether the occupants are complying with the rules, Premier Blaine Higgs said Wednesday.
"We are in unusual times right now," he told reporters during the daily update in Fredericton.
"And although the directive is not to say, you know, you can't go from point A to point B within our province, the directive is, we encourage people to stay home and use their common sense and go for essential travel only."
Higgs said he personally commends the initiative being shown by officers to understand where people are going and why because that information will help the government make better decisions about what changes are required to limit possible exposure to the virus.
"The more the safety officers can glean from people, I'm not going to complain about it."
New Brunswick has three new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the province's total to 108, the chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell announced on Wednesday.
Six COVID-19 patients remain in hospital, including four in the intensive care unit.
The new cases include:
- Zone 3, the Fredericton region: two people in their 60s.
- Zone 6, the Acadie-Bathurst region, one person in their 80s — the first case in that region.
Higgs said officers might pull over carloads of people, for example, to ensure the occupants are all members of the same household because otherwise they would be in violation of the requirement to keep a physical distance of at least six feet or about two metres.
"If someone … [drives] around their community, they don't get out of the car, they're family, they're not friends and neighbours, just travelling — you know are we going to fine them for that? No, we're not going to find them for that.
"But there is a common sense element here," he said. "Don't take anything for granted, don't take any chances."
He believes there have been instances of people travelling through different communities — and even attempting to cross New Brunswick borders — for something as basic as a cup of coffee.
Why would you put yourself at risk or why would you put others at risk at a time like this?- Blaine Higgs, premier
"That's not an essential service. Maybe some think it is, but basically right now it's not."
The province has also been getting questions from "different communities" about what to do about unwanted visitors, Higgs said.
Although he doesn't want to put up borders between communities, people have to start using their judgment and stop making unnecessary visits to communities they don't live in.
"Why would you put yourself at risk or why would you put others at risk at a time like this?"
Here is a roundup of other developments.
Weekend could be 'turning point,' Higgs says
Of the 108 cases, 60 are travel-related, 33 are close contacts of confirmed cases, six are the result of community transmission and nine remain under investigation.
The province continues to do better than many jurisdictions in terms of the number of cases and hospitalizations, chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell told reporters during the daily update in Fredericton.
It would be tragic to see an upsurge in cases next week if New Brunswickers ignore the advice of Public Health to stay home and choose instead to gather over Easter weekend, she said.
"You may think, 'It's just my family,' or 'It's just my friends.' But the COVID-19 virus may be an uninvited guest at your table, brought along by someone who has only mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Do not let that happen."
In-person religious services and recreational events are also prohibited, but Premier Blaine Higgs said he is aware of at least two ATV rallies planned for the weekend.
He called them a "mistake."
"A rally exposes you to friends and neighbours unnecessarily," he said.
Fifty of the 108 infected people have recovered to date, "which shows we are gradually improving," said Higgs.
But "that could all be lost this weekend," he said.
He cited the example of a funeral in Newfoundland, where one person with no evident symptoms quickly multiplied to 143 cases.
"This long weekend could be the turning point," he stressed. This is not the time to be complacent.
"We must stay strong, stay focused and stay home."
Enforcement officers will be out over the weekend, Higgs said. The goal continues to be to educate, he said.
"Ideally, no one will be ticketed. Ideally, everyone will be following the rules."
Passover Seder will be different
For the Jewish community, Passover starts Wednesday at sundown and lasts for eight days.
Most Jewish families celebrate Seder, where they retell the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Then, they take part in a special meal.
Afterwards, families sing traditional songs.
But this year might look a bit different.
"The fact that we cannot gather as a family anymore is going to be hard," said Francis Weil, president of Tiferes Israel Synagogue in Moncton.
"Only the family [who] lives together can do it. But brothers and sisters cannot get together and that's going to be very hard this year."
Typically, observant Jews aren't supposed to use technology during this holiday, but Weil said it's a way for family to still be together during the traditional holiday.
He was celebrating Passover over Skype on Wednesday afternoon with his daughter and her family, who live in France.
"The important thing is to remain safe."
Pharmacists urge people to respect 30-day prescription rule
The New Brunswick Medical Society and New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association are urging residents to respect efforts to limit prescriptions to 30 days.
The 30-day limit on prescription refills was imposed by pharmacists in late March to protect the province's drug supply.
"We understand that this is a challenging, frustrating time for New Brunswickers," the two groups said in a news release Wednesday.
"Please do not direct your frustration on the health-care professionals who are doing their best to take care of your needs and those of your families while risking their own health and safety, as well as that of their loved ones."
All 233 pharmacies in the province have stayed open during the pandemic, medical health officer Dr. Jennifer Russell said Wednesday.
In the last few weeks, New Brunswick pharmacists have seen a surge in demand for medical supplies and medications as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The news release said health-care professionals are working together to try to ensure medications are available for all patients.
Once the pharmacy regulatory authorities across Canada are confident in the security of the drug supply, pharmacies will be able to return to normal practice.
"By limiting supply to 30 days, pharmacists are taking a proactive step to ensure their patients continue to have access to their medications," she said.
Expiry date for lotto tickets extended
The Atlantic Lottery Corporation has extended the expiry date for winning tickets.
In a release issued Tuesday, the corporation granted players an extra six months to claim prizes for tickets that have an expiry date from March 17, 2020, to Sept. 17, 2020.
ALC closed its prize claims offices to help curb the spread of COVID-19, but it "recognizes that these measures have affected some players' ability to claim prizes."
In addition to draw-based games, the extension also applies to scratch tickets.
Tech group develops COVID-19 tracking tool for Saint John food program
A volunteer tech group in Saint John is developing a tracking tool to help a local food program see who their employees are coming into contact with.
Civic Tech, a group that tries to come up with solutions to community problems, has created a tool to assist in tracking who relies on the Greater Saint John Emergency Food Program.
This will help the non-profit organization track the potential spread of COVID-19 in the area.
"You want to be able to track who's touched what in an infectious disease situation," said Lorna Brown, a member of Civic Tech.
About 10 people are involved in building the tool, which could be used by Public Health for contact tracking.
Before Civic Tech came up with the idea, the Greater Saint John Emergency Food Program was using an Excel spreadsheet to track who had packed food bags, who delivered them and who received them.
Civic Tech is hoping to deploy the tool in the coming weeks.
RV company donates vehicles to health-care workers
An RV dealership in Moncton is donating motor-homes to frontline health-care workers needing to self-isolate.
"I just feel like it's something that we have to do," said Matthew Brown, general manager and owner of Pine Acres Moncton.
Brown saw a Facebook post from another RV company in Canada that was offering up its RVs to health-care workers, and decided he should do the same.
Twelve RVs are available for use.
So far, 40 people have expressed interest in acquiring an RV.
Brown plans to restrict distribution to people living in the Moncton area.
The RVs come equipped with fridges and a bed.
"All they need to do is have a hot water hose and some power hookup for us."
The company will drop off the RV and set it up, without coming into contact with the person receiving the vehicle. It will also send a video via text giving a quick tour of the unit and how to use it.
There's no time limit on how long people can keep the RV.
"As long as this pandemic is still going and they're working in the health-care system, then obviously we're going to make sure that they're protecting themselves as well as their family."
The difference between allergy symptoms and COVID-19
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said there are many similarities between COVID-19, seasonal allergies and the flu.
Although COVID-19 has many symptoms, a cough and fever are still the main symptoms health-care workers are looking for.
"Most people with allergies would have burning eyes and runny nose and sneezing," she said.
What to do if you have symptoms?
Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough or breathlessness. In this case, residents should:
Stay at home.
Immediately call Tele-Care 811.
Describe symptoms and travel history.
Follow instructions carefully.
With files from Sarah Morin, Colin McPhail