New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Circuit breakers lifted, new household isolation rules provincewide

The COVID-19 circuit breakers in the Moncton and Miramichi regions will be lifted Friday at 6 p.m., but new household isolation rules are being implemented provincewide to try to curb a recent spike in cases.

Province pushes ahead with mandatory vaccination policy for government employees Friday

Premier Blaine Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, addressed the public Thursday afternoon. (Government of New Brunswick)


  • Province sticks to mandatory vaccination deadline
  • Pandemic milestone
  • Vaccination of young children
  • Cases at 3 schools, 3 child-care facilities
  • Atlantic COVID roundup

The COVID-19 circuit breakers in the Moncton and Miramichi regions will be lifted Friday at 6 p.m., but new household isolation rules are being implemented provincewide to try to curb a recent spike in cases.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19 everyone in their household must self-isolate for up to 14 days regardless of their vaccination status, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Thursday.

This is because 49 per cent of the new cases in the past week have been the result of household transmissions.

"Rather than penalize everyone, we are focusing on key areas of concern," he told the COVID briefing.

"Even though you've been vaccinated, you can still be a carrier, you can still transmit to someone else. So if someone in your household tests positive and you're connected with that person and you've had exposure, you need to ensure that you, too, don't become someone who's transmitting it to someone else."

Household members who are fully vaccinated will be released from isolation with a negative PCR test on Day 5. A PCR test on Day 10 will also be required to confirm the negative result.

Anyone who violates a Public Health order to self-isolate faces a fine of between $480 and $20,400.

Job protection is in place for those who are not able to work because they have COVID-19, are caring for a person with whom they have a close family relationship who has the virus, or are following self-isolation or quarantine protocols as directed by Public Health, the government noted in a news release. Further details are available online.

"The course of the pandemic is changing and we must change with it, adjusting our measures to precisely target the causes of COVID-19 spread," said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health.

"It is clear that a different approach is necessary."

The new isolation rules come after a six-week circuit breaker in the Moncton region, Zone 1, which limited private gatherings to single households and restricted travel in and out, failed to reduce the spread of infections.

Russell said the case count there remains high and "continues to threaten our hospital system."

You can protect yourself by avoiding the three Cs — closed areas, crowded venues and close contact.- Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health

The 72 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed across the province Thursday, on the heels of the month-high 82 new cases Wednesday, is also above the rolling seven-day average of 60 new cases per day.

Russell said the average age of the confirmed cases this week is 33, much younger than earlier in the pandemic.

And she noted a "slight increase" in the number of people admitted to hospital and to intensive care, "most" of whom are unvaccinated.

Twenty-eight people are in hospital because of the virus, down from 30 Wednesday, including 14 in intensive care, down from 16.

"But we also have reason to be hopeful," said Russell.

She said the number of daily recoveries remains strong, at 71 on Thursday. This "demonstrates that the majority of people who contract the virus are recovering quickly without experiencing the worst effects of the disease."

In addition, there are very few new cases in northern and northwestern New Brunswick, which had been under circuit-breaker restrictions just a few weeks ago.

"You can protect yourself by avoiding the three Cs — closed areas, crowded venues and close contact," Russell said, citing recent medical studies that have shown the virus can be spread through the air "in tiny droplets of moisture, especially in close-contact situations."

Other Public Health measures, such as wearing a mask in public places, regular and thorough handwashing, staying home if you don't feel well and getting tested if symptoms develop, are also key, along with vaccination, she said.

A total of 87.1 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 or older are fully vaccinated, up from 87 per cent, and 93.3 per cent have received their first dose, up from 93.2.

Province sticks to mandatory vaccination deadline

The province won't extend the Friday deadline for government employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave, Higgs said Thursday.

But instead of the requirement they be fully vaccinated by Friday, the government now says they must, at a minimum, show proof of at least one dose and an appointment for a second.

Nearly 2,000 employees, just over three per cent of the workforce, will be sent home without pay, Higgs said, while 860 who have one dose and a second-dose appointment will be allowed to continue to work.

"We're willing to consider that as a good faith approach to being vaccinated," he said, adding he remains hopeful those who are unvaccinated will choose to get their shots.

Over the past several weeks, work has been underway to offset the loss of the unvaccinated employees, including 734 in the health-care system, Higgs said.

"Obviously, we will ensure that the public health is protected and we will ensure that the hospitals can function and deliver services as they have been," he told reporters. "We are working very closely with the health authorities and we're working to mitigate the situations."

On Nov. 4, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said the government was 'reviewing' the decisions of Ontario and Quebec to drop their mandatory vaccination policies for health-care workers. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

On Oct. 5, Higgs announced all provincial government employees in the civil service, the health-care system, the education system and Crown corporations, as well as staff in long-term care facilities, schools and licensed early learning and child-care centres must provide proof they are fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption by Nov. 19. If not, they'll be placed on leave without pay. 

Earlier this month, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard had opened the door to the province dropping its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for health-care workers.

In response to questions from People's Alliance MLA for Miramichi Michelle Conroy, Shephard told the legislature the government was "reviewing" the decisions of Ontario and Quebec, which both backed away from requiring health-care workers to be vaccinated, citing fears of staffing shortages.

The New Brunswick Medical Society has urged the government to maintain its mandatory vaccination policy for health-care professionals.

Pandemic milestone

The 72 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed Thursday puts the provincial active caseload at 566 and marks a milestone in the pandemic for the province.

The COVID-19 case count since the province moved to the green phase in midsummer has now surpassed 5,000.

That means the province has recorded double the number of cases in the fourth wave than in the first, second and third waves combined.

It's also 78 per cent more than the rest of Atlantic Canada combined, 2,797, as of Wednesday.

On July 30, before New Brunswick moved to the green phase and lifted all COVID restrictions, the case count stood at 2,365, and COVID-related deaths at 46.

Since then, 5,057 more cases have been confirmed, and COVID has claimed 76 more lives.

Nova Scotia has confirmed 2,076 more cases, Prince Edward Island, 127, and Newfoundland and Labrador, 594, as of Wednesday.

Although COVID-19 circuit breakers in Zone 2, 3, 4 and 5 helped reduce spread of the virus, case counts remain high in the Moncton region, Zone 1, which has been under a circuit breaker since Oct. 8. (CBC News)

The regional breakdown of the new cases confirmed in New Brunswick Thursday includes:

Moncton region, Zone 1, 32 cases:

  • 16 people 19 or under
  • Four people 20-29
  • Four people 30-39
  • Four people 40-49
  • Two people 50-59
  • A person 60-69
  • A person 70-79

Twenty-three of these cases are under investigation and nine cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

Saint John region, Zone 2, 13 cases:

  • Six people 19 or under
  • Two people 30-39
  • Two people 40-49
  • Two people 50-59
  • A person 60-69

Seven of these cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and six cases are under investigation.

Fredericton region, Zone 3, 21 cases:

  • A person 19 or under
  • Two people 20-29
  • Three people 30-39
  • Six people 40-49
  • Four people 50-59
  • Five people 60-69

Sixteen of these cases are under investigation and five are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

Miramichi region, Zone 7, six cases:

  • A person 19 or under
  • Three people 30-39
  • A person 40-49
  • A person 60-69

Four of these cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases and the other two are under investigation.

A total of 542,178 COVID-19 tests have been done to date, including 1,263 on Wednesday.

New Brunswick has had 7,422 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, including 6,733 recoveries so far and 122 COVID-related deaths.

Vaccination of young children

New Brunswick will be ready to vaccinate children aged five to 11 as soon as a vaccine is approved for this age group, the chief medical officer of health said Thursday.

Health Canada will announce the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages five to 11 on Friday, CBC News has confirmed.

"A plan is in place to begin vaccinations for children in all regions of the province, and as a parent, I know that everyone wants to protect their children and keep them healthy," said Dr. Jennifer Russell.

"I urge every New Brunswick family to make sure that their children are vaccinated because this will help us slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect those most vulnerable in our society."

Asked whether the province will make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory in schools, Premier Blaine Higgs told CBC News he believes "that's where we'll need to be ultimately.

"But that's not the position that's formalized at this stage."

At this point, the goal is to "really put the push on for everyone to get vaccinated," and limit transmissions, he said.

"We would be hoping that parents would decide to [get their children] vaccinated and we'll weigh that against the total aspect of vaccinations within the province and the issues that we have in schools with transmission."

Confirmed cases at 3 schools, 3 child-care facilities

Since Wednesday, a new case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at each of the following three schools: Inglewood School, Grand Bay Primary School, and Millidgeville North School, all in the Saint John region, Zone 2.

A total of 456 cases have been confirmed at 125 schools since the beginning of the school year.

A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Joy Pre-School and at Spring Roots Early Learning & Child Care Centre, both located in the Fredericton region, Zone 3.

In the Moncton region, Zone 1, a new case has also been confirmed at Love and Learn Child Care Center, which was previously impacted.

People who have been in close contact with a confirmed case will be notified directly by Public Health or the daycare for contact tracing, Public Health said.

Since Sept. 7, 82 early learning and child-care facilities have had confirmed cases of COVID-19. The total number of cases has not been released.

Atlantic COVID roundup

Nova Scotia reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, putting the active caseload in the province at 236. Seventeen people are in hospital with the virus, including seven in intensive care.

Prince Edward Island announced one new case Thursday and has 10 active cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases on Wednesday and has 22 active cases.

Public exposure notices

Public Health issued a number of new public exposure notices on Thursday, including the Avenir Centre in the Moncton region, Zone 1, on Nov. 13, the Ridgewood Veterans Health Wing in the Saint John region, Zone 2, on Nov. 17, the Fredericton provincial courthouse in Zone 3 on Nov. 15, and United Pentecostal Church in the Miramichi region, Zone 7, on Nov. 7.

For the full list of new and previous public exposure notices, please visit the provincial government's website.

People who have not been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure and who have symptoms should get a COVID lab test. They can book an appointment online or call Tele-Care 811 and must isolate while waiting for their test result.

People who are not fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms are now being instructed to pick up an At-Home COVID-19 Rapid Point of Care Test (Rapid POCT) screening kit. They do not need to isolate if they have not been directed by Public Health to do so.

All positive point-of-care test results must be confirmed with a laboratory polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test.

It can take up to 14 days to test positive after being exposed to COVID-19, so even if results come back negative, people should continue to self-monitor for any symptoms and get tested immediately if any develop.

They should also avoid visiting settings with vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes, correctional facilities and shelters during that 14-day period.

For people who have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to a possible exposure, Public Health recommends they monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the possible exposure and get a COVID lab test if symptoms develop.

They do not need to isolate while they wait for their test results.

If they do not have symptoms, they can pick up a rapid test kit and do not need to isolate.

What to do if you have a symptom

People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment test online.

Public Health says symptoms of the illness have included a fever above 38 C, a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, a new onset of fatigue, and difficulty breathing.

In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.

People with one of those symptoms should stay at home, call 811 or their doctor and follow instructions.

With files from Robert Jones