New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Some classes go online, testing sites boosted after 5 new cases

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, directly addressed the youth of New Brunswick at a news conference now underway, urging them to do what they can do to reverse the trend of COVID-19.

Dr. Jennifer Russell announces new cases in Saint John and Moncton regions

Dr. Jennifer Russell appealed directly to the province's youth on Tuesday, urging them to take COVID-19 seriously as the number of cases among youth and young adults rises. (Submitted by the Government of New Brunswick)

Latest

  • 93 active cases of COVID-19
  • Community transmission hasn't been detected in N.B.
  • Cardy on cases in schools, and why they're staying open
  • Testing capacity boosted in Saint John region
  • Pre-op COVID-19 testing for N.B. patients in Nova Scotia
  • How much is too much information in a pandemic?
  • Saint John mayor asks public to stay calm
  • Bars and restaurants should be shut down, Saint John bartender says 
  • Potential public exposure warnings for Saint John, Moncton
  • What to do if you have a symptom

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, directly addressed young people during Tuesday's news conference, urging them to do what they can do to reverse the trend of COVID-19.

"Today, I want to speak directly to the youth of New Brunswick," Russell said in her opening remarks.

New Brunswickers under the age of 30 are contracting COVID-19 in growing numbers, and currently make up 56.3 per cent of the province's active caseload, she said. Until recently, they accounted for 29.4 per cent of all cases.  

"Children, teens and young adults are not immune to this disease. They can become gravely ill ... and they can pass it on to others who are more vulnerable."

Russell urged them to wear a mask in public, maintain physical distancing and observe other preventive measures.

"You can help return all zones to the yellow phase," she said. 

Russell also announced five new cases on Tuesday, although Public Health originally reported six.

Three of the new cases are in the Saint John region (Zone 2), and include:

  • two people 19 or under, and
  • one individual 30 to 39.

Two cases are in the Moncton region (Zone 1), both cases are individuals age 20 to 29.

WATCH | Dr. Jennifer Russell appeals directly to New Brunswick's youth, young adults

Russell says people under 30 can 'break the chain' of COVID-19 spread

1 year ago
1:15
Dr. Jennifer Russell says it's people under 30 who are contracting and spreading COVID-19 in New Brunswick, but they can also help stem the spread by wearing masks in public and avoiding large gatherings. 1:15

There are now 93 active cases in the province, with no one in hospital with the disease.

"There will be more cases," Russell warned. "A record number of people across the province are self-isolating ... and the risk that our hospitals will be overwhelmed is high."

Russell was repeatedly asked why she is not rolling Zones 1 and 2 back to the red phase in light of rising case numbers in schools and in the community.

She stressed that the situation is being closely monitored and that the goal is to balance the mental health and livelihoods of residents with protecting them from COVID-19 and protecting the health-care system from being overwhelmed.

"I understand the worry and concern, but we are evaluating the situation every single day," Russell said. "It's a very fluid situation."

WATCH| Education Minister Dominic Cardy says he's prepared to switch system to online learning at a moment's notice

Student-to-student spread of COVID-19 has not been identified in N.B. schools

1 year ago
1:51
Education Minister Dominic Cardy says students must continue going to school as there has been no evidence of student-to-student transmission in New Brunswick. 1:51

Community transmission hasn't been detected in N.B.

Dr. Jennifer Russell said Tuesday that community transmission of COVID-19 has not been detected in New Brunswick.

While 20 cases are still classified as "under investigation," she said it can take time to trace all the contacts and establish links.

"In the Zone 5 (Campbellton) outbreak, there were about five unlinked chains of transmission," Russell said. "At the time, because we didn't have those links, we assumed we had community transmission. But by the end of the outbreak we were able to link them all."

That hasn't been the case in the Saint John region, she said.

"Every single case in Saint John is linked. There is no community transmission."

In the Moncton region, there are several unlinked chains, but contact tracing and interviewing are still underway "and that's why we haven't declared community transmission," Russell said.  

Cardy on cases in schools, and why they're staying open

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said Tuesday that classes at some schools will move online temporarily, but took a firm stance on keeping schools open for now.

He said the province learned from the earlier outbreak in the Campbellton region, took the summer to develop a plan and was able to push COVID-19 back.

"In the summer I was clear," he said. "I said there would be more cases, and more deaths. This is not a surprise."

For now, he noted, a handful of classes in Zones 2 and 3 will be learning from home "in the coming week or two." Cardy said parents will be able to access remote IT services if there are technical issues, and provided this number: 1-833-453-1140. 

The classes that are moving online are at Centreville school and Montgomery school in Zone 3 and Hampton Middle School and Lakefield Elementary School in Zone 2.

Case counts in New Brunswick as of Tuesday, Nov. 24. (CBC News)

An email was sent to Lakefield school parents on Monday, saying that the kindergarten to Grade 5 school in Quispamsis is working with Public Health to identify students and personnel who might have come into contact with the coronavirus.

"Public Health officials will contact you if your child has been in close contact with the confirmed case and will tell you if your child needs to self-isolate," the email said. 

On Tuesday, Cardy took pains to acknowledge that this is an "incredibly stressful" time for parents, and said he knows some are asking that schools be shut down completely.

"But school is so incredibly important" for students' mental health and well-being, he said.

"So unless you've heard from Public Health, students need to continue going to school." 

However, he added, he would "not hesitate for a moment to move schools online" if the situation worsens.

Asked if he was concerned that any Department of Education staff might not be following the orange phase rules during their off-hours, Cardy spoke bluntly.

"I'm not the minister for Public Safety and I have no responsibility over what staff do when they're not working," he said. "However, I can tell them that they better shape up. That if I find out anyone in my department is not following the requirements imposed by the orange phase, they'd better be ready to face the consequences."

Lakefield Elementary School in Quispamsis has confirmed its first case of COVID-19. (Candace Patterson)

Testing capacity boosted in Saint John region 

A second assessment centre is being set up on Rothesay Road to deal with a backlog of testing in the Saint John region, Dr. Jennifer Russell said Tuesday.

The new site will be set up at James the Less Church, located at 1760 Rothesay Rd. in Rothesay, and will begin taking appointments soon.   

Additional resources are also being sent to the assessment centre on Ropewalk Road in the north end, which is already operational.

Pre-op testing changes for N.B. patients in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Health is now requiring that all patients from Zones 1 or 2 in New Brunswick who will be undergoing a procedure involving anesthesia must be tested for COVID-19 beforehand. 

The announcement came Tuesday as Nova Scotia reported 37 new cases of COVID-19, and New Brunswick reported five new cases and two public exposure warnings.

Patients can expect to be booked for testing up to 72 hours before the procedure is scheduled. 

They will be asked to limit movement within their community in the days leading up to the surgery, especially public places and gatherings. 

In the case of an emergency surgery, patients may be asked to undergo testing the same day as the procedure. 

Premier Higgs warns not to travel unless essential as Atlantic bubble shrinks

1 year ago
1:45
Premier Blaine Higgs announced Monday that New Brunswick will not be making changes to the Atlantic bubble, despite Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador temporarily pulling out. 1:45

How much is too much information in a pandemic?

There's a fine balance between saying too much and not enough during a public health crisis, an associate professor of public policy at the University of British Columbia says.

"Feeling the information is consistent and trustworthy will really help with compliance, so it's completely crucial," said Heidi Tworek, who is also the co-author of Democratic Health Communications during COVID-19: A Rapid Response, which has been featured in the New York Times, Financial Times, CNN and elsewhere.

Tworek spoke to Information Morning Fredericton on Tuesday. 

When a crisis emerges, she said people tend to have a lot of anxiety and want as much information as possible.

"At the same time, we have to recognize there is a limit to information authorities may be able reveal," she said.

New Brunswick Public Health has been cautious about how much information it makes available to the public, withholding all details except the health zones where cases have turned up, the ages of the people who tested positive, and whether their cases are travel-related or under investigation.

Although some of her counterparts have used data to show how the disease has spread through a particular area, Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, has said she will share only what she's decided the public needs to hear.

Heidi Tworek, an assistant professor in international history and public policy at University of British Columbia, says governments and public health agencies have to be more effective at communicating to the public because disinformation will spread faster than facts. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

There are seven zones in New Brunswick. 

However, Zone 3, the Fredericton and River Valley area and the largest zone in the province, contains more than 20 communities.

Tworek said that if New Brunswick Public Health got too specific about where cases are, people in other areas might let their guards down, causing the virus to spread.

"We need to figure out the balance how specific to get ... while at the same time trying not to reveal so much, for example, we're stigmatizing certain people," she said, citing what happened during the early years of AIDS and HIV which caused some stigmatization around gay people.  

Russell has also avoided answering questions on other issues related to COVID-19 during the COVID news conferences that have happened on and off since the outbreak started in March.

But there isn't a magic formula, Tworek said.

She said countries around the world have taken different approaches to releasing public health information, partly because they have different laws about privacy, she said. 

Some countries are also more transparent. When the respiratory virus first broke out, authorities in Taiwan made a point of being transparent with the public, telling the public it didn't have enough masks to go around and those that were available were needed for health-care workers. 

Vehicles lined up to get back into New Brunswick from Prince Edward Island when the Atlantic bubble was still intact this past summer. (Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

However, countries like Canada have different degrees of disclosure depending on where a person lives. And some members of the public might have more trust in public health authorities than others. 

She said the most important objective is for public health officials to build trust with the people they're communicating with. And they can do this by explaining how and why they're making certain decisions.

"It's a very tricky balance." 

Saint John mayor asks public to stay calm

Saint John Mayor Don Darling says he's never been happier to have the flu.

Darling received a negative COVID test result Monday. But it's been a roller-coaster experience.

"I am following the rules.," he told Information Morning Saint John on Tuesday. "I'm masked and I've never washed my hands more in my life. 

"There's a fear, there's a shame. I didn't know if folks were going to show up with tiki torches outside my home."

He has been self-isolating since Friday after experiencing several COVID symptoms, including aches, trouble breathing, a cough and fever. 

The Saint John region was recently sent back to the orange phase because of the recent spike in cases.

There are currently 43 active COVID cases in the Saint John region

Darling is reminding residents to stay patient and calm. 

"We've seen it in our community, folks speculating and hunting down those that have COVID," he said. "Those that have COVID are human beings."

The hospitality industry has been "barely hanging on," throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the vice- president of Restaurants Canada in Atlantic Canada says. 

Bars, restaurants should be shut down, Saint John bartender says 

A Saint John bartender says the government should temporarily shut down bars and restaurants in order to control the local COVID-19 outbreak.

Liv Wagg, 26, has been off work and self-isolating since last Thursday, after a possible COVID exposure notice at her workplace.

It's been a stressful week, said Wagg, and every bartender she knows is on edge.

Wagg said she normally enjoys going to work and she thinks it's nice for people to be able to socialize in bars, but she doesn't agree bars should be open right now.

"I don't think they should be," she said. "I think we should be seeing a little bit more leadership from the government."

Wagg said bar owners are taking precautions and following the rules, but a closure order would be a more clearcut way to reduce the spread. 

Bar and restaurant staff have felt "weird" about working since the mandatory mask order came into effect, she said.

That's partly because it's hard to get patrons to follow the rules, said Wagg.

Customers often absent-mindedly pull down their masks to talk to her. And she has to remind them to put them back on.

"People forget and they're like, 'Oh, I can't talk with this thing in my mouth.'"

Community spread has not been identified in N.B., despite rising COVID-19 case numbers

1 year ago
1:22
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, says there hasn’t been evidence of community spread in the province, but there are still 13 active COVID-19 cases under investigation. 1:22

It happens so often, she said, it's "almost comical," except for the threat it currently presents to public health.

It puts bartenders in a difficult position, said Wagg, to expect them to catch and confront people who put fake names down for contract tracing or come in with people who are not members of their bubble, as the premier said during Monday's news conference.

"I feel like it's going to be really, really difficult to execute," said Wagg.

When the bar is busy, she said, there isn't time to double check names.

And often young bar patrons will have IDs that show their parents' address, not their student accommodations. 

Wagg would also like to see the government make COVID testing more available to bar and restaurant staff. Nova Scotia has just done that. And it's been recommended by epidemiologist Colin Furness based on what's been learned from the way the disease has spread in Ontario. Chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell said Monday that she'd consider it.

"I think that's a really good idea," Wagg said. "Anyone working in customer service really should be able to have more access to testing right now."

Wagg said she hasn't even tried to get a COVID test because she's heard from other bar staff that she won't get one because she doesn't have symptoms.y. 

Potential public exposure warnings for Saint John, Moncton

New Brunswick Public Health has released the following possible exposure to COVID-19 warnings for locations in Moncton and Saint John, including gyms, stores, bars, restaurants and on flights.

Anyone who visited the following businesses during the identified times should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

Anyone who develops any COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate and take the self-assessment online to schedule a test.

Saint John area

  • Rothesay Route 1 Big Stop Restaurant on Nov. 14 between 12:45 p.m. and 2 p.m. (2870 Route 1, Rothesay).
     
  • Pub Down Under on Nov. 14, between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (400 Main St., Saint John)
     
  • Fish & Brew on Nov. 14 between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (800 Fairville Blvd., Saint John)
     
  • Cora Breakfast and Lunch on Nov. 16 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. (39 King St., Saint John).
     
  • Goodlife Fitness McAllister Place on Nov. 16 between noon and 1 p.m. and on Nov. 18 between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. (519 Westmorland Rd., Saint John).
     
  • NBCC Grandview campus on Nov. 16, 17, and 18 between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (950 Grandview Ave., Saint John).
     
  • Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio on Nov. 19 between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. (47 Clark Rd., Rothesay)
  • Let's Hummus at 44 Water St. between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.

  • Eighty-Three Bar Arcade at 43 Princess St. on Nov. 14 between midnight and 2 a.m.

  • Callie's Pub at 2 Princess St. on Nov. 14 between midnight and 2 a.m.

  • O'Leary's Pub at 46 Princess St. on Nov. 14 between midnight and 2 a.m.

  • Five and Dime Bar at 34 Grannan St. on Nov. 14, between 12:30 to 2:30 a.m

  • Freddie's Pizza at 27 Charlotte St. on Nov. 14, between 2:30 to 3 a.m.

  • Big Tide Brewing Company at 47 Princess St. on Nov. 16, between 12:30 to 2 p.m.

  • Java Moose at 84 Prince William St. Nov. 16, between 2 to 2:30 p.m.

  • Rocky's Sports Bar at 7 Market Square on Nov. 13, between 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Potential public exposure was also reported on Nov. 14 between 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

Moncton 

  • RD Maclean Co. Ltd. on Nov. 16, 17 and 18 at 200 St. George St., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.  
  • GoodLife Fitness on Nov. 21 at 555 Dieppe Blvd, Dieppe, between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.  
  • Fit 4 Less at 165 Main St. on Nov. 6-12, at various times between 5 p.m. and midnight. Full list on Public Health website. 

  • GoodLife Fitness at Moncton Junction Village Gym on Nov. 6, between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Potential public exposure was also reported on Nov. 9, between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

  • Aldo Shoes at Moncton Champlain Mall on Nov. 6-10 at various times between 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
  • CEPS Louis-J. Robichaud fitness room at 40 Antonine-Maillet Ave. on Nov. 6, 9, 10 and 12 at various times in the evening from 5:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

  • Tandoori Zaika Cuisine and Bar at 196 Robinson St. on Nov. 8, between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.

  • Keg Steakhouse and Bar at 576 Main St. on Nov. 17, between 7:45 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

  • Flights into Moncton:

  • Air Canada Flight 8954 on Nov. 15 from Winnipeg to Toronto, arrived at 8:16 p.m.

  • Air Canada Flight 8918 on Nov. 15 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:43 p.m.

  • Air Canada Flight 0992 on Nov. 7 from Mexico City to Toronto, arrived at 7:20 p.m.

  • Air Canada Flight 8918 on Nov. 7 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:43 p.m.

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.

  • Sore throat.

  • Runny nose.

  • Headache.

  • New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.

  • 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 Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.

  • Describe symptoms and travel history.

  • Follow instructions.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said six new COVID-19 cases were reported in New Brunswick. Public Health later revised this number, to five.
    Nov 24, 2020 4:10 PM AT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marie Sutherland is a web writer with CBC News based in Saint John. You can reach her at marie.sutherland@cbc.ca.

With files from Jennifer Sweet, Information Morning

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