N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Edmundston returns to yellow phase, 2 new cases
Entire province will be in yellow phase of recovery as of midnight
- Edmundston region returns to yellow phase at midnight
- Two new cases, both in Moncton region
- New variant of COVID-19 has not been detected here
- 3,900 additional vaccine doses arrive in N.B.
- Protecting the 'island' of New Brunswick
- Potential public exposure warning
The Edmundston region, Zone 4, will return to the yellow phase of recovery at midnight Tuesday night.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, made the announcement at an afternoon COVID-19 update in Fredericton.
The change loosens restrictions in the Edmundston region, which was rolled back to orange on Dec. 11, just days before Christmas, and brings the entire province into the yellow phase of recovery.
Under the less restrictive yellow phase rules, residents are no longer restricted to a one-household bubble and informal indoor gatherings of up to 20 people are permitted.
Public Health recommends that these 20 people be limited to the same circle of close family and friends, a list it refers to as "your steady 20."
Other Public Health measures and guidelines must still be followed, including wearing a mask in all indoor public places. Recovery level rules are available online.
Public Health made the recommendation because the growth in new cases has slowed, and there are no new cases among health-care workers, Russell said.
The mental health and well-being of residents was also a factor, she said, given the "great importance" of the holiday season to many people.
Two new cases reported on Tuesday
There are two cases in New Brunswick, Dr. Jennifer Russell said Tuesday.
Both cases are in the Moncton region, Zone 1, and include:
- One person 20 to 29 years old, who is the contact of a previously confirmed case.
- One person age 60 to 69, whose case is travel-related.
Both cases are self-isolating, and Russell noted "we are seeing an increase in travel-related cases."
The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick now stands at 580 and 525 have recovered. The number of active cases is 46.
Eight people have died from COVID-19 and another person who tested positive also died but not as a result of COVID-19. Two patients are currently in hospital, one of them in intensive care.
As of Tuesday, 147,262 tests have been conducted, including 634 since the last report.
Rapid testing available, but not the 'gold standard'
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, was asked at Tuesday's COVID-19 update why Public Health isn't relying more on rapid testing.
Russell noted that while the province does have some rapid tests available, there are differences in how sensitively they pick up COVID-19, "so there are false positives, there are false negatives, depending on who you test."
In the case of travellers who are asymptomatic, Russell said, "the gold standard really is the PCR test that's done in the lab" at Moncton's Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre.
There are other rapid tests being used in situations such as outbreaks in long-term care homes, when people have to be isolated immediately, she said.
"We just don't have as many of those, so we use them quite judiciously."
Russell noted that the turnaround time for regular testing is not long, "about 48 hours from calling 811 to getting the test done ... unless there's a surge [in case numbers] and that does happen."
In that event, she said, tests are prioritized to focus on "the people we are most worried about."
New variant of virus hasn't been detected here
Asked Tuesday about a new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 that has been identified in the U.K., Dr. Jennifer Russell said it has not yet been detected in Canada.
Genetic variants of the virus are to be expected, Russell said, but at this point, "we haven't seen it."
Public Health Agency of Canada has said it is analyzing known cases to determine whether the new strain, which research suggests is significantly more transmissible than the variant currently dominant in Canada, is already in the country.
Additional 3,900 doses of vaccine arrive in N.B.
An additional 3,900 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived in New Brunswick on Tuesday morning, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said.
Half of those will be used as the second dose for the first group that received the vaccine in Miramichi on the weekend. An additional 975 people will be vaccinated at clinics in Moncton between Dec. 23 and 27, Shephard said.
"We also anticipate that, once it is approved by Health Canada, the Moderna vaccine will soon be available in New Brunswick."
Shephard urged residents not to worry if they are unable to travel to get the vaccine right now.
"As we receive shipments from different companies ... we will have more flexibility regarding storage, which will allow us to administer the vaccine in communities across New Brunswick."
Shephard noted that "this is going to be a slow process," with vaccine doses "trickling in" in January and February, but said "we expect things to pick up soon."
Protecting the 'island' of New Brunswick
Premier Blaine Higgs again reminded New Brunswickers to enjoy the holidays but stay vigilant.
"We have done so well for so long and following success of our first clinic, we can indeed see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
But he warned the danger is far from over.
"We have seen how quickly COVID-19 cases can surge," he said, citing rising cases in Quebec, the full lockdown coming to Ontario on Dec. 26, and the new virus variant of the coronavirus that is spreading quickly in the U.K.
"So we are indeed a little island unto ourselves and we are certainly proud of the island that we have become," Higgs said.
"But we cannot be complacent. We must enjoy the season but ... be sure that everything we do is in consideration of what impact our actions could have on someone else."
Higgs predicted that New Brunswick would recover more quickly from COVID-19 than "anywhere else in Canada" if cases are not allowed to spike over the holidays.
"If this virus is controlled through this time period and we stay focused, we will be able to roll out the vaccinations faster than anyone else," he said.
"We will have a province that gets back to green quicker than anyone else ... and no longer has an emergency order. And that is obviously what we are trying to achieve."
Potential public exposure warning
Public Health has identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious on the following flight:
Air Canada Flight 8506: From Montreal to Fredericton, arriving at 9:16 p.m. on Dec. 16.
Anyone who travelled on this flight should self-monitor for symptoms. If any symptoms develop, they should self-isolate and take the self-assessment online or to call 811 to get tested.
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.