New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Variant first recorded in India now in province

A case of the COVID-19 variant first identified in India has been confirmed in New Brunswick, Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, announced on Monday.

More aggressive variant identified in a previously reported case in Fredericton region, Zone 3

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said the variant from India is more aggressive. (Government of New Brunswick)

Latest

  • Lockdown at UNB Fredericton extends to St. Thomas, NBCC
  • 7 new cases
  • Outbreak declared at UNB Fredericton
  • Half of Fredericton region's 12 active cases are at UNB
  • 122 active cases in New Brunswick
  • New possible public exposures
  • Enforcement at N.B.-N.S. border
  • COVID numbers in Atlantic provinces
  • Update on Edmundston hospital
  • Lockdown, orange level continue in Zone 4
  • Previous possible public exposures
  • What to do if you have a symptom

A case of the COVID-19 variant first recorded in India has been confirmed in New Brunswick, Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, announced on Monday.

The case was previously reported in the Fredericton region, Zone 3. 

The microbiology laboratory at the Dr. Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton has now identified the sample as the variant.

"With the arrival of this more aggressive variant, now more than ever, New Brunswickers must be vigilant and follow all Public Health measures to reduce the spread and protect our health-care system," Russell said in a statement.

All variants of concern are highly contagious, cause more severe symptoms, require more people to be hospitalized, result in more ICU admissions and ventilation, and cause more deaths than the previous strains, Russell has said. Outbreaks involving variants are also more difficult to contain and take longer to contain.

But unlike the other variants, including the two confirmed in New Brunswick — the one first reported in the U.K. and the one first reported in South Africa — the variant linked to the pandemic's growth in India has two mutations that make it "more concerning than all the others," she has said.

The variant, also known as B1617, first detected in India last fall, has also been confirmed in B.C., Quebec, Alberta and Ontario.

Last week, in response to growing concerns about rising case counts, the federal government imposed a ban on passenger flights from India and Pakistan to Canada for 30 days.

"The case has been self-isolating, so hopefully there isn't a lot of transmission," Russell told CBC Monday. "We'll have to just wait and see how things go."

She declined to say whether the case is related to a lengthy list of new possible public exposures in the Fredericton and Nackawic areas.

"I can't really say at this point in time, we're trying to protect confidentiality, obviously."

Russell did say she spoke to Public Health nurses who were conducting contact tracing over the weekend about "who is out and about doing whatever with symptoms."

"We still really need people to understand that, no, it's not allergies. No, it's not a cold. Please get tested for COVID. The symptoms are very, very similar."

Outbreak declared at UNB Fredericton

Public Health has declared an outbreak at the University of New Brunswick's Fredericton campus after six cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, as of Monday, at Magee House, an apartment-style residence with 101 units for mature students, some of whom have children.

"The transmission pattern of the variant in this outbreak is very concerning," Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said in a statement.

She did not say whether the highly contagious variant first recorded in India is involved.

All residents, family members and staff of Magee House were tested Sunday afternoon, except for "maybe a couple of exceptions," Russell told CBC. "And those people are being communicated with by the Public Health."

Results are expected Monday and Tuesday, Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said. As of Monday evening, no new results had been released.

UNB spokesperson Heather Campbell did not respond to questions about how many people live at Magee House, but the residence has 49 one-bedroom, 47 two-bedroom and five three-bedroom units, according to the university's website.

The building is "for mature students 21 and older; families and children welcome," the website states.

It's unclear whether any children attend local daycares or schools.

Magee House is residence with 101 apartment-style units for mature students, some of whom may have children. (Google Street View)

Residents and staff of Elizabeth Parr-Johnston residence will be tested Tuesday "due to an exposure to a case of COVID-19," Public Health said. All the residents are self-isolating.

This building can house up to 169 people, according to the university's website, and is also intended for mature students 21 or older, but without children.

It has 68 suites, primarily two or three single bedrooms per suite. "Students are assigned a bedroom in a suite with shared washroom, kitchen and living areas," according to the website.

"We ask people who have symptoms to get tested and self-isolate until they receive their test results," Russell said.

UNB is working with and taking all direction from Public Health, said Campbell.

"With updates and developments changing hourly, this situation is fluid," she said in an emailed statement.

Because of confidentiality and privacy concerns, UNB is provided with only the necessary information required to support contact tracing, said Campbell.

She did not respond to any questions about when Magee House residents were first told about a positive case or what they were advised at the time.

Nor did she respond to any questions about how the university is supporting those in isolation with their needs, such as food, garbage or laundry, or ensuring compliance with isolation rules.

"Our utmost priority has been and will always be, the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and our community."

UNB lockdown extends to St. Thomas, NBCC

A lockdown at the University of New Brunswick's Fredericton campus because of six confirmed cases of COVID-19 has been extended to St. Thomas University and the New Brunswick Community College because of the potential for exposure.

St. Thomas president and vice-chancellor Dawn Russell advised students and staff in an email Monday that effective at 1 p.m., STU would be moving to an essential services model with the campus closed and buildings locked.

Employees are required to work from home unless they have been designated for essential work on campus, the notice states. They are, however, permitted to retrieve any work items they require from campus.

The move follows a conference call with Public Health and New Brunswick Community College officials Monday morning "to understand the significance" of the positive cases confirmed at UNB's Magee House, said Russell.

"Given that there could be potential for exposure on our campus, we are following the direction of Public Health that we exercise an abundance of caution and follow a similar approach as UNB," she said.

St. Thomas has asked students at its Rigby Hall residence to continue to follow Public Health protocols and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. (CBC)

Earlier in the day, UNB announced it has returned to essential services for 72 hours and campus access will be prohibited under the direction of Public Health.

STU asked the "small number of students at Rigby Hall" to continue to follow Public Health protocols and self-monitor for symptoms.

The university will reassess the situation with Public Health in 72 hours as more information becomes available, Russell said.

NBCC's vice-president of academic and research, Ann Drennan, sent a similar notice to students Monday, advising activity at the Fredericton campus would be limited to critical functions only, effective immediately, for 72 hours.

"Students will only be admitted to campus for scheduled hands-on practical training or other urgent needs at this time," the email states. "Please check with your instructor for detailed instructions."

Those on campus are asked to follow all COVID-19 protocols, which include maintaining a two-metre distance from others, wearing a face mask when physical distance cannot be maintained or when in common areas, and washing  hands thoroughly and frequently.

"As this situation continues to evolve, we encourage you to follow the latest updates from the chief medical officer of health and our partners at UNB," Drennan told students.

On Sunday, UNB confirmed that the campus had cases. The university did not say how many people tested positive for the disease but said they were at Magee House.

In an email Sunday to the campus community, the university said it would be scaling down operations to "only those essential to the delivery of courses by alternative methods and business continuity processes on UNB Fredericton campus."

Students living in residence are not permitted to leave campus for any reason, including returning to their homes, unless otherwise directed by Public Health.

"This closure will provide New Brunswick Public Health and UNB the opportunity to properly assess the current COVID-19 situation on our campus," Paul Mazerolle, president and vice-chancellor of the University of New Brunswick said in the email.

UNB said Public Health will contact anyone who is considered a close contact and provide further direction. 

"We understand that this is a difficult and confusing time for all," Mazerolle said. "It is important for us to come together as a community and demonstrate patience and understanding.

"This is an extraordinary situation and we will need to work together to navigate the next few days.

Testing can be arranged by contacting COVID test online or by calling Telecare 811 to make an appointment at your nearest screening centre. UNB community members who are asymptomatic can also arrange to be tested.

7 new cases

Public Health reported seven new cases of COVID-19 Monday.

There are 122 active cases is in New Brunswick. Seven people are in hospital, including three in intensive care.

The new cases break down as follows:

Saint John region, Zone 2: three cases

  • A person in their 50s

  • Two people in their 70s

All three cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

Fredericton region, Zone 3: two cases:

  • A person in their 40s

  • A person in their 60s

One case is a contact of a previously confirmed case, and the other is under investigation.

Edmundston region, Zone 4: two cases:

  • A person in their 40s

  • A person in their 50s

Both cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

The seven new cases of COVID-19 announced on Monday put the total number of active cases in the province at 122. (CBC)

New Brunswick has had 1,858 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. There have been 1,700 recoveries and 35 COVID-related deaths.

A total of 284,253 tests have been conducted, including 919 tests on Sunday.

New possible public exposures

Public Health has identified a potential public exposure to the virus at the following locations. People who were at these sites are eligible to be tested for COVID-19, even if they are not experiencing symptoms. They may book a test online or by calling Tele-Care 811.

Fredericton:

  • YMCA Fredericton, 570 York St., on April 24 between 10 a.m. and noon.
  • Walmart Supercentre, 1399 Regent St, on April 23 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Princess Auto, 21 Trinity Ave., on April 23, between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Home Depot, Corbett Centre, on April 23, between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Swiss Chalet, 961 Prospect St., on April 23 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Canadian Tire, 1110 Smythe St., on April 22 between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
  • Digital World, 524 Smythe St., on April 22 between 10 a.m. and noon.
  • Tim Hortons, 1713 Woodstock Rd., on April 22 between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
  • Costco, 25 Wayne Squibb Blvd., on April 22 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Nackawic:

  • Canada Post, 135 Otis Dr., from April 19 to April 22.

Enforcement at N.B.-N.S. border

There was a large presence of provincial enforcement personnel at the border with Nova Scotia on Monday, stopping vehicles as they arrived in New Brunswick. 

"I've never seen this amount of border security at the Aulac border …  and I have not stopped working through this whole pandemic," said Michael Wilson, who lives in Sackville but commutes to work in Nova Scotia.

The New Brunswick government put modified isolation rules for truckers and cross-border commuters into effect on the weekend.

New Brunswick Public Safety officers pulled vehicles over Monday after they crossed the border into the province from Nova Scotia. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Under the new rules, Wilson still can still commute to work, but when he's home, he essentially has to stay put. Wilson, who gets a COVID test every week, thinks the restrictions are unfair.

"I now have to moderately self-isolate, which as far as I understand is keeping more distance from my own family in my house," he said. "Can't go to grocery stores unless it's curbside pickup."

At midday Monday, enforcement officials were pulling over most cars at varying intervals along the Trans-Canada after they crossed the border, and there was no clear checkpoint. There were also no lineups, and traffic consisted mostly of commercial vehicles, which were not stopped.

Public Safety officials did not respond to a request for information about border enforcement activities under the new regulations.

COVID numbers in Atlantic provinces

Nova Scotia reported 66 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, which marked the most new cases announced there in a single day since the start of the pandemic. There are 323 known active cases in the province. Five people are in hospital, including two in intensive care.

Prince Edward Island confirmed two new cases Monday, pushing its total active cases to 11. The one person who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 has been discharged, so there are no COVID-19-related hospitalizations in P.E.I.

Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador saw four new cases confirmed Monday. There are now 28 active active cases and one person in hospital.

The reopening of the Atlantic bubble has been postponed until at least May 3. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said last week the premiers have discussed further delaying the reopening.

The date has not been decided, she said.

Update on Edmundston hospital

There are still seven COVID-19 patients at the Edmundston Regional Hospital, according to an update issued by the Vitalité Health Network on Monday.

But the number of patients in intensive care has dropped to two, from four on Friday. Both of them are on ventilators.

The other five patients are in the COVID unit, Vitalité said.

The emergency department remains open for people who require emergency care. Some ambulatory care services and elective surgeries are reduced temporarily.

Visits are prohibited, except for patients in obstetrics, pediatrics, intensive care, palliative care and for those who will receive medical assistance in dying.

Lockdown, orange level continue in Zone 4

A section of Zone 4 remains under lockdown, while another section remains at the less restrictive orange COVID-19 alert level Monday.

Last Thursday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell had recommended to cabinet the alert levels of the two areas being reassessed on Monday.

Although cases in the region were slowly decreasing, Public Health wanted to wait a few more days to ensure the trend continued, she had said. The goal was to see the rolling seven-day average drop from five to three or less, with no decline in testing numbers.

There were still untraced cases that also posed a risk, Russell had said at the time.

A news release issued by Public Health on Monday afternoon made no mention of a planned reassessment, only a reminder of the existing levels. By Monday evening, no update had been provided.

Edmundston and the Upper Madawaska area are under lockdown, the province's tightest health restrictions. They have been at that level since April 11.

No travel is permitted in and out of the lockdown area, or within the lockdown area, except when necessary such as for vaccinations, medical appointments, work, or to purchase essential goods.

Grand Falls, Saint-Léonard, Drummond, New Denmark and Four Falls at under orange level. No travel is recommended in or out of areas in the Orange level.

The Saint-Quentin and Kedgwick regions remain at the yellow level, along with the rest of the province.

Of the 122 active COVID-19 cases in the province, 70 are in Zone 4, as of Monday.

Previous possible public exposures

Public Health has identified the sites, dates and times of possible public exposure in four regions. People who were at these sites are eligible to be tested for COVID-19, even if they are not experiencing symptoms.

Fredericton:

  • April 21 between noon and 4 p.m. – Shoppers Drug Mart (1040 Prospect St., Fredericton)

Moncton: 

  • April 12 between 5:45 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. – emergency department – Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre (330 Université Ave., Moncton)
  • April 12 between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. – X-ray department – Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre (330 Université Ave., Moncton)
  • April 14 between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. – Urban Planet, Walmart and H&M – CF Champlain (477 Paul St., Dieppe)

Saint John:

  • Holy Spirit Parish (Saint Matthews worship site), 45 Dollard Dr., Saint John, on Sunday, April 18, between 11 a.m. and noon. The church has closed for two weeks as a preventive measure, and St. Rose of Lima Church (part of Holy Spirit Parish) will also be closed for the next two weeks, until May 8-9. 
  • Service New Brunswick, 15 King Square North, on April 15 between 3 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.
  • Rocky's Sports Bar, 7 Market Square, on April 15 between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Edmundston region:

  • E.& P. Sénéchal Center, Vitalité Health Network vaccination clinic, 60 Ouellette St., Grand Falls, on Monday, April 19, between 1:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. .m.; and on April 12, between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. 

Public Health also identified travellers who may have been infected while on the following flights:

  • April 20 - Air Canada Flight 318 – from Calgary to Montreal, departed at 11:45 a.m.
  • April 20 - Air Canada Flight 8906 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 7:01 p.m.
  • April 15 - Air Canada Flight 8919 – from Toronto to Moncton, departed at 8:56 p.m.  
  • April 15  – Air Canada Flight 8906 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 7:08 p.m.
  • April 15 – Air Canada Flight 318 – from Calgary to Montreal departed at 11:53 a.m.
  • April 14 - Air Canada Flight 8970 – from Ottawa to Montreal, departed at 6:28 a.m.
  • April 14 - Air Canada Flight 8898 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 8:14 a.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:

  • Fever above 38 C.

  • 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.

With files from Kate Lettrick and Harry Forestell

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