N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 4 new cases bring province's total to 95
Projections to be announced next week, says chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell
New Brunswick has four new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the province's total to 95, chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell announced Friday, but case projections for the province won't be announced until next week.
Demands on the health-care system will be significant, whether the modelling is accurate or not, she told reporters during the daily update in Fredericton.
Russell said she shares Premier Blaine Higgs's concerns about test supplies and protective equipment, but the province is working with federal partners to ensure there will be enough when they are needed.
She remains confident there will be, "as long as we are prudent in our use," she said.
These are our neighbours, our friends, our fellow New Brunswickers.- Jennifer Russell, chief medical health officer
The federal government has said a shipment is slated to arrive on April 6, she added.
As of Thursday, the province had about 3,700 testing kits and 4,900 swabs left, Russell said.
The lab in Moncton is analyzing about 500 tests a day but has the capacity to do about 1,000 and will be ramping up in the coming days.
The new cases include:
Zone 3, Fredericton region:
- Three individuals, aged 30 to 69.
Zone 5, Campbellton region:
- One individual in their 30s.
Four patients remain in hospital, with one in intensive care.
Russell stressed it's important to think of these as not just cases, but people.
"These are our neighbours, our friends, our fellow New Brunswickers," whose lives have been "dramatically altered by this disease."
She urged everyone to show kindness and compassion.
Of the 95 cases, 54 are travel-related, 28 are close contacts of confirmed cases, three cases are from community transmission and 10 cases remain under investigation.
Twenty-five people have recovered, to date.
Russell said she remains "hopeful," but "we cannot afford to take chances with this virus."
It's crucial people who have been directed to self-isolate continue to do so and that others stay at home as much as possible to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 and protect health-care providers.
"This is in your hands, so keep your hands clean," she said.
Here is a roundup of other developments:
Government provides funding to university students
Premier Blaine Higgs also announced an emergency bridging fund for vulnerable post-secondary students in New Brunswick. Up to $500,000 is available in this fund for students directly impacted by COVID-19.
The funds will be distributed by post-secondary institutions in New Brunswick based on eligibility criteria, including international students who demonstrate a financial gap in meeting their basic needs between now and the end of the term.
The province will provide a one time amount of up to $750 per student.
To qualify, students need to be directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and must not qualify for the $900 emergency relief fund distributed by the province as of March 30.
They also cannot have access to funds through student loans, employment insurance, personal savings or other COVID-19 related financial assistance programs.
"Students must contact their institution directly to be considered and will be assessed on a case–by–case basis," he said. "All post-secondary institutions are encouraged to provide additional funding where possible."
Localized flooding in some parts of New Brunswick
The province is starting to see some minor localized flooding in the northwest.
Premier Blaine Higgs said New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization is monitoring water levels across the province and "are ready to help."
"It's much too early to say what the freshet will look like."
Although there is no major flooding in the forecast, Higgs said now is the right time to start getting ready for flooding season.
"If you've experienced flooding before, it's important to take steps now to protect your property and your family. And be ready in case you need to evacuate."
The province has seen severe flooding over the past two years.
Higgs hopes the province won't need to call in the military to help with flooding, but "it's nice to know they're there when we need them."
State of emergency and evictions
Premier Blaine Higgs said there has been some confusion around New Brunswick's state of emergency declaration and tenants.
The right of landlords to evict tenants for not paying rent has been suspended until May 31.
"People can still be evicted, just not because they can't pay rent due to COVID-19," Higgs said. "All other tenant obligations remain."
If a tenant can't pay rent, he said it's important they discuss the issue with their landlord.
"This is no time to abuse either your landlord or the situation we're in," he said. "This is the time to protect those that need protection."
Saint John men's shelter moves to new location, open 24/7
Outflow Men's Shelter has extended its hours and moved to a new location to wait out the pandemic.
The shelter is now open 24/7 and has relocated to the Boys and Girls Club, located at 1 Paul Harris St.
Outflow Men's Shelter was located at 162 Waterloo St., an old baptist church built in 1842. The shelter moved to a new location earlier this week so that its staff and residents could practice physical distancing.
"As we move forward, I think there'll be some some different ideas of how we can approach this and, you know, keep guys busy, but apart from one another," said Jayme Hall, executive director of Outflow Ministry.
Outflow Ministry operates the men's shelter and several social enterprises in the city, including Catapult Coffee.
The new shelter space also has a TV lounge area, although staff have to limit the number of people allowed in the room at once.
Plexiglass barriers have been erected between beds and at the intake area, to protect staff when a new person enters the shelter.
There are 30 men staying there.
Hall expects the shelter will stay at the Boys and Girls Club for at least three months.
Northside Market closes in Fredericton
The Northside Market in Fredericton has permanently closed, leaving dozens of vendors without a place to sell their products.
The market made the announcement in a Facebook post Thursday night, blaming the closure on the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We are all unsure how long it will take to be back to normal or what normal will be," said owner Peter Perry in the Facebook post.
"We are all experiencing hardship and uncertainty."
Many vendors are struggling to find a new home for their businesses and have been left wondering why they weren't told about the closure sooner.
A number of businesses have been posting their concerns over Facebook and have been looking for new locations to set up, including Ginger Beef Company and Buttercream Dreams Fredericton.
The Facebook post has since been taken down.
Maple syrup industry hit by COVID-19
New Brunswick's maple syrup industry is expecting to lose more than $1 million this year because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Louise Poitras, executive director of the New Brunswick Maple Syrup Producers Association, said that money doesn't even include a drop in maple syrup sales.
"Everybody was so ready to have a great success around the maple season and unfortunately everything was cancelled," Poitras said.
Poitras is working with producers to ensure they have a plan in place, in case sales hit an all-time-low this upcoming season.
David Briggs, owner of Briggs Maples near Fundy Park, produces syrup at his operation in Riverview. He's keeping busy, but sales are "in the toilet."
In the spring, Briggs typically sees a "huge" increase in sales. This year, sales have dropped off significantly, he said.
He has also had to lay off employees.
"It's really hitting us quite hard with the season hitting us at the same time as the virus," Briggs said.
Codiac Soccer gives out free balls
Codiac Soccer is working to keep their players engaged while the season is on hold.
The club posts a challenge for its players daily online, said Kyle Reade, Codiac Soccer's technical director.
The club has also been placing soccer balls on people's lawns to encourage new people to partake in the sport.
Anyone who reaches out to the club and doesn't have a soccer ball is eligible for a free one, Reade said.
So far the club has given out more than 150 free soccer balls in the Moncton area.
Moncton-area man asks government to contact people exposed on flights
A Moncton area man says Public Health officials should be notifying airplane passengers if they were on a flight with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
Tony Austen says his wife had no idea she may have been exposed to the coronavirus until they saw it on the news. Austen's wife, Tish, did not want to do an interview with CBC.
Tish Austen had travelled to Montreal to visit her twin sister and returned home on Air Canada flight 8900, one of the flights where a passenger later tested positive for COVID-19.
"I do think that Public Health, once they have the knowledge that somebody on the plane was ill, then they should be contacting the airline, retrieving the passenger list … and then informing them to self–isolate," Austen said.
Austen and his wife have not experienced any symptoms of COVID-19.
There are six flights where passengers are currently suspected for being at risk of COVID-19, including:
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.
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.
With files from Sarah Morin