N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 24 new cases, outbreaks at 2 more long-term care homes
Latest tally pushes number of cases during pandemic to more than 700
- Riverview, Hillsborough special care home outbreaks
- 2 schools have cases
- Changes Friday to keep U.K. variant out
- Possible cross-border case link under investigation
- Elsipogtog closed to visitors
- 103-year-old woman gets vaccine
- Exposure notifications
- What to do if you have a symptom
There are 24 new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, outbreaks at two more long-term care facilities and 836 people in isolation across the province, either because they have respiratory disease or may have been exposed to a positive case, the chief medical officer of health announced Thursday.
"The current situation is the worst we have seen so far during this pandemic," said Dr. Jennifer Russell.
"The fact that we have multiple outbreaks happening around the province and multiple vulnerable settings is unique. We haven't faced this situation before."
More cases and hospitalizations are expected in the coming days following holiday gatherings, said Russell, and of those in isolation, 101 are health-care workers.
"Our situation is grim, but that's a relative term when you look at what's happening in other provinces," she said, noting Quebec has 24,000 active cases, while Maine has 15,000 active cases.
"We don't want to see this happen here," said Russell, urging everyone to follow Public Health measures and to download Canada's free COVID Alert app on their smartphones to make contact tracing faster and easier and thereby help slow the spread.
Asked why the government is not rolling the entire province back to the most restrictive red level of recovery, given the anticipated increase in cases, she said it's "not necessarily a bad idea."
"But we just know that the ramifications of going to red in terms of what we saw with the first wave were quite negative in terms of unintended consequences and negative outcomes."
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said there has been "a lot of comments and chatter" on social media about the red level, but she pointed out the province only moved to orange from yellow on Tuesday at midnight.
"So we need to see what this phase will do to help us get things under control."
The red phase means closing schools, telling employers to send their employees home, making it difficult for parents who still have to work to find child care, said Shephard.
So the government is "very conscious" of the social and economic implications.
"I have no doubt in my mind if red is required, it will happen," she said. "But we're not there yet."
According to the province's COVID-19 recovery plan, the red level can be triggered if there are three unlinked chains of community transmission within six days, the health-care system is "overwhelmed," Public Health measures are "no longer effective" and outbreaks and new clusters can no longer be controlled through testing, tracing and self-isolation.
There are now 130 active cases in the province — the highest number since the pandemic began — and one person is in hospital in intensive care.
The new cases include:
- Zone 1, the Moncton region: 5
- Zone 2, the Saint John region: 2
- Zone 3, the Fredericton region: 7
- Zone 4, the Edmundston region: 5
- Zone 5, the Campbellton region: 5
All of these people are self-isolating and their cases are under investigation.
The latest cases pushed the total number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick since the pandemic began in March to 717.
To date, 577 people have recovered and there have been nine COVID-related deaths. The death of a 10th person with COVID-19 was not related to the disease.
A total of 157,265 tests have been conducted, including 1,222 since the report Wednesday.
Riverview, Hillsborough special care home outbreaks
Canterbury Hall, a 60-bed special care home operated by Shannex Inc. in Riverview, and Fundy Royal Manor II, a 28-bed special care home in Hillsborough, each have a confirmed case of COVID-19, said the province's chief medical officer of health.
An investigation and contact tracing are underway, said Dr. Jennifer Russell.
Members of the PROMPT (Provincial Rapid Outbreak Management) team will be testing residents and employees today, she said.
Shannex said the positive case at Canterbury Hall is an employee.
All residents are isolating in their rooms and anyone who tests positive will be notified immediately, the company said in a statement.
Employees must continue to follow "comprehensive precautions," which include active screening with temperature checks, the use of masks and other personal protective equipment, proper hand hygiene and physical distancing, it said.
The resumed outbreak at Shannex's Tucker Hall nursing home in Saint John has grown to 18 cases, including 11 residents and seven employees. Another seven employees are isolating because they were close contacts of positive cases, a company official said.
There is no indication that visiting from by family members over the holidays is responsible, said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard.
The source of that outbreak has not yet been determined, she said. Sometimes it can take up to a month before an index case is found.
An outbreak was declared at the nursing home on Nov. 20. Up until Monday, the last positive case was announced on Dec. 17.
Lisa Snodgrass, director of clinical practice and the infection control specialist at Shannex, told CBC that since that initial outbreak was "winding down," the nursing home worked with Public Health officials to "relax" some of the restrictions that were in place to allow families members to visit during Christmas.
"Not a lot of people coming into the building, or anything like that," she said, and the visits were "very closely monitored and managed."
"You know, we have to let people live as well. These are human beings and they miss their loved ones," Snodgrass added.
"So part of our investigation will certainly be to figure out what went wrong."
All of the new cases are in a different area of the home than the initial cases, she noted. Lily Court is a memory care unit for residents with forms of dementia.
Another round of testing of residents and employees is scheduled for Friday.
The new cases come as Shannex was anticipating Public Health lifting its outbreak status next week. Outbreaks are typically declared over 28 days — two COVID-19 incubation periods — after the latest case tested positive.
2 schools, hockey organization have cases
Two New Brunswick schools and a non-profit hockey organization have confirmed cases of COVID-19 this week.
Nic Jansen, executive director of Hockey New Brunswick, told Radio-Canada on Thursday, there was a confirmed case of the virus involving a Moncton team.
Nic Jensen de <a href="https://twitter.com/HockeyNB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HockeyNB</a> confirme qu'il y a UN cas de <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a> dans une équipe de la région de Moncton. <br>Peu de détails pour le moment sur qui et combien de personnes sont touché par un isolement préventif.—@rachelgausrc
In a Twitter post on Thursday night, Anglophone East School District said Bessborough School in Moncton's west end will be closed to students again on Friday following a report of a positive case of the virus.
It will be "an operational response/virtual learning day … with no students in the building," the post said.
On Wednesday night the school district had tweeted the kindergarten to Grade 8 school would be closed Thursday to allow Public Health officials to conduct contact tracing.
We have been informed by Public Health of a positive case of COVID-19 at Bessborough School. Bessborough will be closed tomorrow, January 7th, so that Public Health can complete their contact tracing. Below is the message that was sent home to the school community this evening. <a href="https://t.co/9GesvMd68X">pic.twitter.com/9GesvMd68X</a>—@AnglophoneEast
Meanwhile, Mah-Sos School in Tobique First Nation also sent a notice to parents about a confirmed case of COVID-19 at the school.
"We are working with Public Health officials to identify any students and school personnel who may have been in contact with the case," the notice said.
The kindergarten to Grade 5 school will revert to "learning from home" Thursday and Friday.
As an extra precaution, all busing will be halted for the next two days. This will include students in the middle and high school levels travelling to other schools outside Tobique First Nation.
The school said it will assess the situation and decide what plans will be put in place next week.
Changes Friday to keep U.K. variant out
The New Brunswick government will be announcing changes Friday designed to help keep the highly contagious U.K. variant of COVID-19 out of the province, said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard.
"We must continue to act quickly and decisively to protect our residents in our province. One way we are doing this is by taking steps to reduce the risk from travel as much as possible.
It is impossible to stop all travel into and out of our province. People need to be able to work and goods must be delivered. However, it's important that we do what we can to prevent the U.K. strain of the virus from entering our province."
The U.K. variant, referred to by some experts as the B.1.1.7 lineage, is believed to spread faster than the original version. Its emergence has prompted other countries to restrict travel to and from the region, but that hasn't prevented the variant from spreading outside of the country's borders.
New Brunswick Public Health has sent some suspected samples to the national microbiology lab in Winnipeg, but no cases have been confirmed to date, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell.
"The transmission rate of the new variant is very, very high. So if we have any outbreaks with that, it would be very difficult to manage," she said.
That is why New Brunswick must be "vigilant," the Health minister said.
"We are currently finalizing updated travel-related information and will have more to share about that tomorrow," Shephard said, indicating the changes will deal with travel restrictions and potential consequences.
Russell has previously said only people travelling from the U.K. are currently being tested for the new variant.
Possible cross-border case link under investigation
The Department of Justice and Public Safety offered no details Thursday about a possible cross-border infraction link to a confirmed case of COVID-19 in New Brunswick.
When asked if the department is investigating whether a positive case reported Monday in Zone 5 involving a man in his 50s may be the result of a man from Quebec coming across the Van Horne Bridge to play recreational hockey at the Campbellton Regional Memorial Civic Centre, spokesperson Coreen Enos said the department "is currently investigating one alleged instance similar to what you are describing."
"As the matter is still under investigation, no further information is available at this time," she said in an emailed statement.
Travel into New Brunswick is restricted to necessary travel only. Under the state of emergency order, residents of Listuguj First Nation and Pointe-à-la Croix, Que., are permitted to travel to New Brunswick twice every seven days to obtain essential goods and services.
"Neither playing nor watching sports are part of 'obtaining essential goods and services,'" said Enos.
All travellers requesting access to New Brunswick must pre-register and must present an approved registration at an entry point for validation.
Travellers who do not have an approved registration or have been deceitful in their application are denied entry and can be charged under the Emergency Measures Act, said Enos. "Those who are admitted for one purpose and then go other places are subject to charges and to being disqualified from future entry."
Under the state of emergency order, every business owner and proprietor and every occupier of land or buildings is required to take every reasonable step to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. When it comes to sports organizers and operators of sports venues, they are required to take steps to ensure they are not admitting people who have been outside of New Brunswick in the previous 14 days, said Enos.
"Failure to take steps could result in charges or other penalties," she said.
Elsipogtog closed to visitors
Elsipogtog First Nation is closed to visitors until further notice, the chief and council advised in a post on the band's Facebook page Thursday.
They cited the province being at the orange level of COVID-19 recovery and the significant rise in the number of confirmed cases.
All non-community member essential workers must enter through the main security gate on Big Cove Road, unless otherwise approved by security personnel, the post said.
Non-community members who are travelling through the security gates located at Bridge Road or Graham Road for work or essential purposes will be able to pass through, but will not permitted stop anywhere in the community, it said.
103-year-old woman gets vaccine
As of Thursday morning, 5,019 New Brunswickers have been given their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, announced Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. Each person being vaccinated requires two doses to be protected.
"By the end of this week, we will have administered more than 7,500 doses," she told reporters during a COVID-19 briefing in Fredericton.
The 1,871 people who were vaccinated during the province's first clinic in Miramichi Dec. 19-20 will be the first to receive their second dose this weekend and be fully inoculated, Shephard said.
Two more shipments totalling 6,600 doses are expected next week.
At 103, Evelyn Calder of Campobello Lodge received the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccination Wednesday.
In a tweet sent out Wednesday, the Government of New Brunswick said at this point, more than 700 residents at 11 long-term care facilities have been given the vaccine.
Public Health has identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious on Jan. 1 while on the following flight:
- Air Canada Flight 8910 from Toronto to Moncton, departed at 8:30 a.m.
Public Health earlier identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious on the following flights:
- Dec. 24 – Air Canada Flight 8506 – from Montreal to Fredericton, departed at 7:05 p.m.
- Dec. 24 – Air Canada Flight 414 – from Toronto to Montreal, departed at 2:10 p.m.
- Dec. 24 – Air Canada Flight 8620 – from Saskatoon to Toronto, departed at 8:35 a.m.
- Dec. 20 – Air Canada Flight 8910 – from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:23 a.m.
Public Health also identified potential public exposure at the following locations:
- Bo Diddley's Lounge, 295 Collishaw St., on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. (285 Collishaw St., Moncton)
- Miss Cue pool hall, 495 Mountain Rd., Moncton, Dec. 31 from 11 p.m. to Jan. 1 at 1:30 a.m.
- Walmart, 4 Jagoe St., Atholville, on Dec. 30 between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and on Dec. 31 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Moncton Squash Club, 71 Essex St., on Dec. 29, 30 and 31 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
- Foggerz Five-O-Six, an e-cigarette store in Woodstock, has closed because of possible COVID-19 exposure.
If you were at any of these locations, and you have no symptoms of COVID-19, self-monitor and follow all Public Health guidelines. If you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and do not need to talk to a nurse, complete the self-assessment and get tested.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online.
Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included:
A fever above 38 C.
A new cough or worsening chronic cough.
New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.
In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.
People with one of those symptoms should:
Stay at home.
Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.
Describe symptoms and travel history.