N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 6 new cases, idea of shorter quarantine period floated
Higgs, Russell discuss chance of yellow Christmas, vaccines and whether N.B. is ready to reduce quarantine
- Higgs addresses enforcement complaints
- Shorter quarantine period will be reviewed
- Head of vaccine rollout plan announced
- Longer holiday break for schools rejected
- Six new cases reported in New Brunswick
- One new case at Shannex in Saint John
- Outbreak officially over in Campbellton region
- Teen with autism barred from stores without a mask
- Potential public exposure warnings for Saint John, Moncton, Fredericton
- What to do if you have a symptom
Premier Blaine Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, are holding out hope of returning to the yellow phase soon for two zones in the province.
The Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John regions are all in the more restrictive orange phase of recovery.
At a news conference on Thursday, Russell noted that the Moncton region and Frederiction region, Zone 1 and Zone 3, will be undergoing a risk assessment on Sunday to evaluate the effectiveness of measures that were announced when they were rolled back to the orange phase last month.
"We are seeing some progress, people are following Public Health advice and measures," Russell said.
The Saint John region, Zone 2, is a bit further behind, Russell said.
Higgs also spoke about the hoped-for return to yellow and urged New Brunswickers not to let their guard down.
"We got complacent, and that's why we wound up back in the orange zones," he said.
He said he understands and shares the longing to return to "some semblance of normal family get-togethers, noting that he won't see his daughters or grandchildren at Christmas.
"My mother will celebrate her 100th birthday, and a lot of that will be online celebrations for my family members," he said. "So I'm excited to get back to yellow too ... but every one of us must play a role. It's urgent right now that we don't lose focus."
6 new cases reported on Thursday
Dr. Jennifer Russell announced six new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick on Thursday.
The cases break down this way:
- One new case in the Moncton region (Zone 1), age 30 to 39
- Three cases in the Saint John region (Zone 2), including one person under age 19, one 30 to 39, and one 60 to 69, and
- Two cases in the Fredericton region (Zone 3), both in people in their 60s.
Russell also declared the COVID-19 outbreak in Zone 5, the Campbellton region, officially over.
It has been 28 days, which is two COVID-19 incubation periods, since the last confirmed case within Zone 5.
Russell thanked the community and health-care workers for the role they played in bringing the outbreak to a close.
"It really was a collective effort, everyone who self-isolated when directed, wore masks, practised physical distancing, it really helped us bring this outbreak under control quickly," she said.
Shorter quarantine period will be reviewed
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, says she's aware of a U.S. move to reduce the recommended quarantine time for close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case by up to a week, but it isn't likely to happen in New Brunswick soon.
The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday it had shortened the recommended length of quarantine after exposure from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result.
Asked about the U.S. move, Russell said her team is "studying that right now."
"It's not a new concept," she said, "but thus far in New Brunswick we haven't really felt confident that we could reduce that, although other jurisdictions have."
Russell said New Brunswick has continued to err on the side of caution to be "as safe and secure as we possibly can."
While it is possible to catch the majority of people by the 10-day quarantine timeline, "we do find there are people who come back positive on day 10 and later."
"It really is a numbers game," Russell said. "So we are going to review that information, but I don't see a move to making any changes at this point in time."
Higgs addresses enforcement complaints
Premier Blaine Higgs devoted a portion of his address at the COVID-19 briefing Thursday to "frustration" with enforcement of rules in orange phase zones.
The issue has been in the spotlight in recent days, particularly in the Fredericton region (Zone 3), where videos and photos of enforcement of mask rules have made headlines.
"I know this surveillance has been challenging, for all of us," Higgs said. "And I know it's frustrating but it's a small price to pay to get back into yellow and get back to enjoying our families."
Higgs said that while "I've got complaints too" about enforcement officials and mechanisms, the officers are "just trying to do their jobs."
"I want you to put yourself in their shoes," he said. "They're out there every day, they're taking abuse."
Asked about whether enforcement officials were directed to hand out tickets or to hand out warnings first, Higgs said he didn't give any instruction related to specific infractions.
He noted that in the three orange zones — Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John regions — a total of 2,500 sites were visited, and 120 tickets were issued.
"What we have asked our public safety officers to do is ensure that the orange zone rules are being followed," he said. "It's what they do every day, they're well-trained to be looking at infractions."
In doing so, he said, they are helping to keep New Brunswick safe.
"I'm pleased to say thus far that's the situation we're in," Higgs said. "The pandemic is not out of control and people are being protected, because everyone's doing their job."
Head of N.B.'s vaccine rollout planning announced
Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, will lead the province's vaccine rollout, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Thursday.
MacCallum will be working with federal officials and the military to plan the logistics, including determining locations for administering the vaccine in New Brunswick.
"However, before we can do any of that we need to know the quantities we'll be receiving, and when," Higgs said at the COVID-19 briefing. "And we don't know any of that."
Higgs said he has a call with the prime minister and premiers Thursday night, and another with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc on Friday, "so maybe that will be answered."
Longer Christmas holiday rejected
Public school students and teachers won't get a longer holiday break this year, Education Minister Dominic Cardy said Thursday.
Cardy said he consulted Public Health before deciding against extending the break, which will run from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1.
Some teachers have complained of feeling worn out by the challenges of teaching during the pandemic and hoped for a few more days of rest over the holidays.
But Cardy said other teachers disagreed, and there is no health reason for extending the holidays beyond Jan. 1.
"I've heard from a lot of teachers who have said they are completely ready to start their work," Cardy told Radio-Canada.
Teen with autism barred from stores without a mask
A Moncton woman says she's too afraid to go out in public with her autistic son, who's exempt from wearing a mask.
Christine Roberts says her 16-year-old son, Jayden Moore, received a doctor's note for his exemption, as he's been diagnosed as moderate to high-functioning on the autism spectrum, with sensory processing disorder and high anxiety.
If he were forced to wear a mask, Jayden would have a breakdown or refuse to leave the house, Roberts said.
"He will just stop moving or sit down on the floor wherever he's at," she said. "If it's bad enough, he'll start crying."
Roberts said it's making her life very difficult because she doesn't drive. She and her son can't take the bus because masks are required.
"I'm fearful, I'm anxious and it's not over a virus," she said. "It's over getting fined when I can't afford it."
Masks are required in public spaces indoors and outdoors under the orange phase of COVID-19 recovery, where Moncton sits as part of the Zone 1 region health zone.
According to the New Brunswick government website, medical exemptions for masks are allowed.
When the Moncton region was in the yellow phase, Roberts would rush into a store and find the manager or staff right away to let them know of Jayden's exemption. But it didn't do much good.
"We're kind of jumped on by every employee."
Earlier this week, a woman in Woodstock was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice after an encounter with police after she didn't show a store proof of a medical exemption from wearing mask.
Education Minister Dominic Cardy told Information Morning Moncton on Wednesday that store owners are free to insist that masks are worn on their premises
Roberts said she's frustrated and saddened by this.
"It's not business owners' responsibility to uphold my son's human's rights. It's my government."
She has written letters to Premier Blaine Higgs and Health Minister Dorothy Shephard, but she hasn't heard back.
Roberts said she's still hopeful she will be able to shop for basic needs or to take her son outside for a walk, just to get some exercise.
"I really don't know what to do."
One new case at Shannex in Saint John
Results of testing done Tuesday at Shannex Parkland facility's Tucker Hall unit in Saint John have been processed and confirmed one new case of COVID-19 in an employee, Shannex said in a statement on its website Thursday.
The employee has been out of the workplace and self-isolating since Nov. 24 for being a close contact of a previously confirmed case, the statement said.
Test results for all of the residents of Tucker Hall were negative.
"At this time, we currently have a total of 16 confirmed cases: 10 residents and five employees at Tucker Hall, and one employee at Carleton Hall," Shannex said in the statement.
It noted that the residents who tested positive continue to be cared for in a special area located on Simms Court, and that they are in discussion with Public Health about re-testing.
Potential public exposure warnings for Saint John, Moncton
Public Health has warned of the following possible exposures to the virus in the Saint John and Moncton areas, including gyms, stores, bars, restaurants and on flights.
Saint John area
- Churchill's Pub on Nov. 20, at 8 Grannan St., between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., Saint John.
- Picaroons on Nov. 21, at 30 Canterbury St., between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., Saint John.
- Thandi's Restaurant on Nov. 21 between 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. 33 Canterbury St., Saint John
- Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio on Nov. 19 between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., 47 Clark Rd., Rothesay
- GoodLife Fitness on Nov. 21 at 555 Dieppe Blvd, Dieppe, between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Flights into Moncton:
- Air Canada Flight 8372 on Nov. 28 from Fort McMurray to Calgary, departed 6:10 a.m
- Air Canada Flight 144 on Nov. 28 from Calgary to Toronto, departed at 11:15 a.m.
- Air Canada Flight 8918 on Nov. 28 from Toronto to Moncton, departed at 8:30 p.m.
- Air Canada Flight 178 on Nov. 19 from Edmonton to Toronto, arrived at 5:58 a.m.
- Air Canada Flight 404 on Nov. 19 from Toronto to Montreal, arrived at 10:16 a.m.
- Air Canada Flight 8902 on Nov. 19 from Montreal to Moncton, arrived at 4:17 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.
New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.
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.
With files from Radio-Canada