N.B. COVID-19 roundup: State of emergency extended as confirmed cases climb to 81
7 of the confirmed cases include health-care workers as concerns rise about protective equipment supplies
- 11 new cases include 2 people in hospital
- Health-care workers infected outside work
- No need for public to wear masks
- 40,000 people apply for one-time income benefit
- The Greater Moncton Romeo LeBlanc Airport reports sixth flight where passengers are at risk of COVID
- Fredericton International Airport continues expansion work
- Premier and chief medical officer share microphone
- J.D. Irving Ltd. and McCain Foundation donate $1 million to food banks
New Brunswick has extended the state of emergency for another two weeks, Premier Blaine Higgs announced on Wednesday, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, with 11 new confirmed cases, bringing the province's total to 81.
Public Safety officers are now monitoring public areas, such as beaches and parks, to ensure people are obeying physical distancing guidelines and not gathering in groups, he said.
The province is also putting up barriers in public places "as needed" and deploying security guards and law enforcement officers, Higgs told reporters during the daily update in Fredericton.
"It is unfortunate this is necessary but gatherings put us all at risk," he said.
Fines can range between $292.50 and $10,200.
"We are willing to do what it takes to protect the safely of all New Brunswickers."
If anyone doesn't care about themselves, Higgs urged them to think about their parents or grandparents.
Anyone who sees people breaking the rules, should not confront them and risk a physical altercation, but rather report them by calling 1-844-462-8387, he said.
The all-party cabinet committee on COVID-19 and cabinet will review the emergency declaration, issued on March 19, in another two weeks and continue to extend it as needed, the premier said. The law says a declaration can only last for 14 days before it has to be renewed.
Here is a roundup of other developments.
Health-care workers infected outside work
Seven of the province's confirmed COVID-19 cases include health-care workers, chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell announced Wednesday.
But they contracted the virus outside the health-care setting, she said.
"While I cannot speak to any of the specific cases, health-care workers like the rest of us could acquire this illness in a variety of ways — some have travelled, some are contacts of cases and some have had contact with others."
If they have been in direct contact with the public, that will be made public, said Russell. Otherwise, their close contacts will be notified.
"This virus doesn't discriminate. We are all vulnerable to it."
The infected workers have all self-isolated and will not return to work until they are healthy, she added.
Russell acknowledged there are concerns about the supply of personal protective equipment for health-care workers.
"I am confident we have what we need," she said. "But we have to maintain our supplies and use them appropriately."
No need for public to wear masks
Medical health officer Jennifer Russell is urging the general public not to use N95 masks. They're not necessary for the general public, but essential for health-care workers, she said.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it becomes increasingly important that we protect those who are protecting us," said Russell.
Doctors, nurses, paramedics, lab technicians and other health-care professionals are "putting themselves in harm's way for all of us and they deserve our profound gratitude."
There is a supply of personal protective equipment on its way to New Brunswick from the federal government, she added.
Premier Blaine Higgs said he was pleased to hear the federal government will invest $2 billion to produce necessary supplies, including personal protective equipment such as masks, face shields, gowns and hand sanitizer, as well as ventilators and testing kits.
"We will continue to work closely with the federal government and the other provinces to ensure we have access to these supplies in New Brunswick as the demand increases," he said.
11 new cases include 2 people in hospital
The new cases include:
Zone 1, Moncton area:
- Two cases between the ages of 20 and 59.
Zone 2, Saint John health region.
- Three cases between the ages of 40 and 69.
Zone 3, Fredericton health region.
- Four cases between the ages of 30 and 59.
Zone 5, Campbellton health region.
- Two cases between the ages of 50 and 69.
There are four people hospitalized, including two of the latest cases, but none are in intensive care, said Russell.
Fourteen people have now recovered from the viral infection.
Of the 81 cases, 43 people travelled outside New Brunswick in the 14 days prior to becoming ill, 22 are close contacts of confirmed cases, three are community transmissions and 13 are still under investigation.
40,000 people apply for one-time income benefit
During Wednesday's news conference, Premier Blaine Higgs said about 40,000 people have applied for the one-time income benefit of $900 for workers or self-employed people who have lost their jobs because of the state of emergency.
This program is costing the province about $36 million so far.
Passengers on 6th Moncton flight at risk of exposure
The Greater Moncton Romeo LeBlanc International Airport is reporting a sixth flight where passengers are suspected of being at risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Air Canada flight 8900 from Montreal arrived at the Moncton airport on March 16 at 10:12 a.m., according to a news release Tuesday.
The flight was announced by medical health officer Dr. Jennifer Russell last week.
The Greater Moncton Airport Authority said it is continuing to monitor developments of the spread of COVID-19.
"The health and wellness of our passengers, visitors, business partners and employees are our top priority."
The authority said it is aware of six people who have now tested positive for COVID-19 who passed through the airport, including at least two people from Prince Edward Island.
Flights where passengers could've been put at risk include:
- Sunwing Flight WG445 arriving to Moncton on March 20 from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
- Air Transat Flight TS2653 arriving to Moncton on March 18 from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
- Air Canada Flight AC7518 departing from Toronto on March 17 and arriving in Moncton on March 18.
- Air Canada flight 8900 from Montreal to Moncton on March 16.
- WestJet flight 3456 arriving to Moncton March 16 from Toronto.
- WestJet flight 3440 arriving to Moncton on March 8 from Toronto.
During Wednesday's news conference, Russell said information about flights at risk of COVID-19 is also being provided by the airlines.
She said residents can access information about whether a flight was at risk of COVID-19 on the Public Health Agency of Canada website.
That information is not available on the New Brunswick government's website, but is available on the websites of other provinces, such as P.E.I.
Anyone who has been in close contact with someone on one of those flights is urged to self-isolate for 14 days and should call 811 if they develop symptoms.
Renovation ongoing at Fredericton International Airport
Construction at the Fredericton International Airport could see potential impact with supplies coming in from other provinces.
"We're expecting to have some challenges there," said Johanne Gallant, CEO and president of the airport authority.
The renovation project, which started almost two years ago, is continuing.
"That's a closed site so the mingling between our employees and the construction workers, that has completely stopped over a few weeks ago," said Gallant.
The airport changes are expected to include more ticket counters, a larger kitchen, renovated washrooms, a children's play area, more seating and more energy-efficient geothermal heating.
The Fredericton airport has been operating above capacity for almost a decade.
The airport hasn't laid anyone off during the outbreak, but Gallant said it's been "very quiet."
The airport is looking at a 70 per cent loss in revenue for the year and Gallant is hoping the federal government will step in to help.
"This is a huge impact for all airports across the nation and all over the world."
Premier and chief medical officer share microphone
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health and Premier Blaine Higgs have been urging people to keep their physical distance and stay home.
At daily news conferences both Russell and Higgs have been sharing a microphone to inform New Brunswickers.
"We can definitely address that," Russell said. "We do have some Purell here that the premier and I are using."
Russell said she and the premier are using the Purrell to disinfect their hands when they speak at the podium.
Last month, Higgs and Russell were sitting on opposite sides of the room to answer questions from reporters. Over the past two weeks, they have been sharing one microphone while addressing questions from reporters over the phone.
Both Higgs and Russell use one podium to provide news updates and answer reporters' questions.
JDI and McCain Foundation donate $1 million to food banks
J.D. Irving Ltd. has announced it will donate $1 million to the Food Depot Alimentaire, which supplies food banks in New Brunswick.
The company said the donation would help offset the growing demand on New Brunswick's network of 60 food banks across the province because of the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
"J.D. Irving has been a strong community partner of the Food Depot Alimentaire over the past number of years with both food and funding support," said Dale Hicks, president of Food Depot Alimentaire.
"This significant donation, at an unprecedented time in our history, is a testament to their continued support of our programs and those New Brunswickers who benefit from this generosity through local food banks."
While many food banks have lost their ability to raise money, it is anticipated there will be a 50 per cent increase in the meals the Food Depot Alimentaire will need to provide across New Brunswick.
The McCain Foundation has also donated $1 million to Food Depot Alimentaire to serve New Brunswick's "most vulnerable communities in the weeks and months head."
The foundation is funded by McCain Foods Ltd., and supports projects across Canada.
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.