2 N.B. regions forced back into orange phase after 13 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed
Changes in Moncton and Campbellton regions take effect at midnight Friday
Two parts of New Brunswick have been forced back into the more restrictive orange phase of COVID-19 recovery after 13 new cases were confirmed on Friday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 37.
The change for the Moncton health region (Zone 1) and Campbellton health region (Zone 5) will take effect at midnight, Premier Blaine Higgs announced during a news conference in Fredericton.
It's based on the recommendation of Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health," because of additional potential public exposure to the virus identified through the investigation of existing cases, possible community transmission and reports of low compliance in some higher-risk settings," he said.
There is an outbreak in Moncton at the Manoir Notre-Dame special care home, affecting 19 people, and Sugarloaf Senior High School in Campbellton has confirmed a positive case — the first reported school-related case of COVID-19 since New Brunswick schools reopened in September.
The 13 new cases reported Friday include one in the Moncton region and 12 in the Campbellton region.
"It is not an easy choice to move any area of this province to orange, but we must all use the tools available for us to slow down the spread of this virus," said Higgs.
"If everyone follows the simple rules in place, they will protect us. I am confident we'll be able to keep these cases contained and quickly flatten the curve once again."
Residents in the two affected zones will need to stay within two-household bubbles within the orange zones, said Higgs. Unlike the previous version of the orange phase, bubbles can extend to include caregivers and immediate family members, he said.
Some businesses will have to close, including "close contact personal services," such as barbers, hair stylists and spas.
Gyms, fitness facilities and recreational centres, casinos, amusement centres, bingo halls, arcades, cinemas and large live performance venues will also have to close.
Food, beverage and retail business can operate under a COVID-19 operational plan, but seated venues must keep a record of patrons.
Daycares and kindergarten to Grade 12 schools can also remain open under strict guidance, with virtual learning to be used for at-risk populations.
Outdoor gatherings must be limited to 10 or fewer with physical distancing. Indoor religious services, weddings and funerals are permitted with 10 people or fewer.
Travel in and out of the two impacted zones is being discouraged, except for essential reasons, said Higgs.
"If you live in another zone [and] travel on the Trans-Canada Highway, which passes through Greater Moncton, please do not stop at this time."
A total of 150 people are self-isolating as a result of the outbreak at the Manoir Notre-Dame in Moncton, said Russell.
The new potential public exposure identified involves the Moncton McDonald's restaurant on Morton Avenue, she said.
People who visited the restaurant from Sept. 28 to Oct. 5, between 8 a.m. and noon, should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days. If any symptoms develop, they should self-isolate and take the self-assessment online or call Tele-Care 811 to get tested.
The pandemic is not done with us. And this week has shown us that in no uncertain terms.- Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health
Russell could not immediately say how many people in the Campbellton region are self-isolating.
But the Vitalité Health Network announced Friday that 18 of its employees from the Restigouche (Campbellton) region are in isolation, either because they have COVID-19 or were found to be close contacts through Public Health's contact tracing.
"The pandemic is not done with us. And this week has shown us that in no uncertain terms," said Russell.
There's no indication of a link between the Moncton outbreak and the 13 cases in the Campbellton region, she said, but contact tracing is still underway.
Russell confirmed the source of the outbreak at the Manoir Notre-Dame special care home is "associated with travel."
She did not say whether the person was travelling for essential work and therefore exempt from the 14-day isolation requirement.
But Russell did say the current modified isolation rules for essential workers will be discussed — and possibly changed — next week.
"We're going to see how we can make it a little bit more safe," she said. "Maybe we'll include other things like regular testing to reduce risks for people who work in other provinces."
The investigation into the Campbellton cases continues, said Russell. One of them is travel-related.
The two regions will remain under the orange phase until the case numbers decrease and "everything is under control," said Russell.
"I think we can expect about two weeks for assessment intervals because that's the incubation period of the virus. But as we continue our investigation and testing, it's possible that we'll find more cases in other areas."
Impact on health services
The Vitalité Health Network has cancelled most visits to the Campbellton Regional Hospital because of the growing number of cases in the area.
"This is a precautionary measure to protect patients, visitors and employees," it said in a statement.
Visits to the obstetric, pediatric and palliative care units are allowed but restricted to one designated visitor per patient.
Patients who will receive medical assistance in dying are allowed to have two designated visitors, one at a time, except when one of the visitors requires assistance to go to the patient's bedside.
There is also a temporary reduction of some services at the St. Joseph Community Health Centre in Dalhousie.
Blood work services are closed until further notice.
The walk-in clinic and collaborative practice will both be closed on Monday. Patients who need to consult a physician are asked to call Tele-Care 811 or to go to another walk-in clinic.
If certain ambulatory care services are impacted, the affected patients will be contacted to rebook their appointments or be directed to the Campbellton Regional Hospital, according to the release.
Because of the outbreak in the Moncton area, patients with non-urgent symptoms are asked to avoid visiting the emergency department of the Dr. Georges L. Dumont University Hospital Centre or the Moncton Hospital.
The ERs remain available for those with urgent, critical or emergent medical conditions, but those experiencing non-urgent symptoms can expect long wait times, the Vitalité and Horizon networks advised in a joint statement Friday.
Other options for care can include contacting a family physician or pharmacist, visiting an after-hours or walk-in clinic or phoning Tele-Care 811, they said.
Anyone exhibiting mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19 should complete the online self-assessment by visiting www.gnb.ca/coronavirus or call Tele-Care 811.
The new Moncton case involves an individual in their 40s.
The 12 new Campbellton cases include one person in their 20s, one in their 30s, four people in their 40s, one person in their 50s, four people in their 60s and one person in their 70s.
All of the cases are under investigation and the people are self-isolating, said Russell.
Of the 37 cases in the province, 21 are in the Moncton region, two are in the Saint John region (Zone 2), one is in the Fredericton region (Zone 3), and 13 are in the Campbellton region.
Three people are in hospital, none in ICU.
Mask use to be monitored
The rest of the province remains in the less strict yellow phase of COVID-19 recovery, but people must continue to follow Public Health measures, said Higgs.
That includes a new rule that came into effect at midnight Thursday, making masks mandatory in most indoor public spaces.
Peace officers will be monitoring public spaces across the province in the days ahead to ensure people are complying, he said.
"We have no desire to issue fines, but we do want to encourage people to change their behaviour. We all have a responsibility to wear masks to protect the people around us."
He said he's optimistic the number of people wearing masks will "improve significantly."
New Brunswick has had 238 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March. Two people have died and 199 have recovered.
On Thursday, 808 tests were done, for a total of 83,173 tests during the pandemic.