N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 25 new cases Friday, Higgs on whether we'll go red in the week ahead
Premier hopes to avoid pushing the 'red' button, says next week will be a 'critical' deciding factor
- 25 new cases Friday
- New cases in six of seven zones
- New record high of 256 active cases
- First vaccine clinic held in Edmundston
- 2 schools extend closures by one week
- Tourism minister says travel rebates coming by end of February
The week ahead will be a crucial one for the province as it teeters on the edge of the orange recovery phase.
On Friday, after two weeks of climbing cases and two weeks since the holiday season ended, Premier Blaine Higgs was asked yet again about whether the province will be tipped back to the most restrictive "red" phase of recovery.
Higgs said he really doesn't want to do that, because it "shuts everything down" and has a drastic impact on business.
But he isn't ready to rule it out yet, either.
Case numbers are "levelling off," Higgs told reporters in a scrum at the legislature, "but we need to see them going down."
"If we see them starting to drop off to 20, to 15 to 10, then you get the kind of comfort level," he said.
"But if they stay at 25 for the next seven days, you kind of say, 'OK, we should be at the other end of this by now.' And then you look across the province and say ... 'Are we in a situation where some areas have to go red and others don't?' "
The week ahead will likely be a deciding factor, Higgs said, noting the "biggest problem we face" is whether the people who have been told to isolate are doing so. As of Thursday, there were 2,161 New Brunswickers self-isolating as they awaited test results.
"And if they are isolating, we're good," Higgs said.
"But if they're not, if they're basically saying 'I'm supposed to isolate, but I need to go to the store,' that's an issue ... That's why the next few days are so critical."
25 new cases, new record-high active case count
Public Health is reporting 25 new cases of COVID-19, with new cases in six of seven zones and a new record-high number of active cases. The cases break down this way:
Moncton region, Zone 1, four cases:
- three people 30 to 39
- an individual 40 to 49
Saint John region, Zone 2, five cases:
- two people 19 or under
- two people 40 to 49
- an individual 70 to 79
Fredericton region, Zone 3, five cases:
- two people 20 to 29
- an individual 40 to 49
- an individual 60 to 69
- an individual 80 to 89
Edmundston region, Zone 4, six cases:
- an individual 20 to 29
- an individual 50 to 59
- three people 60 to 69
- an individual 80 to 89.
Campbellton region, Zone 5, four cases:
- an individual 19 or under
- an individual 20-29
- an individual 40-49
- an individual 60-69
Bathurst region, Zone 6, one case:
- an individual 30 to 39
All cases are self-isolating and under investigation.
There are 256 active cases across the province.
Four people are hospitalized, including one who is in intensive care.
The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick since the pandemic began in March is 884 and 615 have recovered. There have been 12 COVID-related deaths.
As of Friday, 169,256 tests have been conducted, including 1,480 since Thursday's report.
Edmundston rolls out the vaccine
Health-care workers in Edmundston rolled up their sleeves Thursday evening as the first COVID-19 vaccine clinic got underway.
Staff members from the Edmundston Regional Hospital, the extramural program, Ambulance New Brunswick and health-care workers from First Nations communities and nursing homes received vaccines.
The clinic received a total of 488 doses to be administered.
How the 7 zones stack up for case rates
New Brunswick recorded a new record-high number of active cases on Friday, with 256 cases.
The following chart shows the active case rates and total case rates for each of the province's seven zones, based on population numbers provided by the Department of Health and on current case counts.
|Region||Active cases||Active case rate*||Cases to date||Rate of cases to date*|
*per 100,000 population
Minister apologizes for travel rebate delays
Following a host of complaints from New Brunswickers who still haven't received their promised travel rebates, Tourism Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace is apologizing for a month of delays.
More than 25,000 people applied for a 20 per cent rebate on their local travel through the Explore NB Travel Incentive program between July and October.
The applications include 47,000 receipts worth more than $17.4 million.
"It was an incredibly popular program and we really are proud of it, but we know there's been some hiccups along the way … and we apologize for that," the minister of the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture said.
While the incentive designed to pay New Brunswickers to vacation at home was widely accepted, the province now faces backlash as just over 6,000 of the applications have been processed so far.
Scott-Wallace said the province decided to implement the program just as New Brunswick was moving out of lockdown and announced the program before it was built to get people travelling over the summer months.
"That did mean building a brand-new program, and that definitely has taken more time than we expected," she said.
Scott-Wallace said New Brunswickers were initially told they would receive rebates 10 to 12 weeks after applying, but about 16 weeks have passed.
"We apologize for that, but it has been developing that program that's taken a bit longer than expected," she said.
Scott-Wallace said the applications will likely be processed by the end of January or February. Upwards of 15 Service New Brunswick staff are working to process them, she said.
"We are not denying there has been disappointment from people who haven't heard" back yet on their claims, she said.
"Many" claims have been denied because they did not include the required overnight stay with a hotel accommodation, the minister said.
But there have also been cases where receipts were illegible because of scanner issues, or where applications included a hotel confirmation email instead of a receipt.
"There are these things that we know are just human-error and unintentional," she said.
Specific reasons for a denied claim will now be outlined, and applicants will have a couple of weeks to resubmit.
Scott-Wallace said the department will look at whether it will reimplement the program this summer.
Two Woodstock schools extend closures by one week
The Anglophone West School District announced Thursday night that learning at Woodstock High School and Townsview School will continue online until Jan. 21 in order to allow students and staff to self-isolate for the recommended 14 days.
Students will be allowed back in the schools beginning Jan. 22.
The decision was made following discussions between the Anglophone West School District and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
"I have had very positive feedback on the commitment of students and their engagement with learning," superintendent David McTimoney said in a message to parents Thursday.
"I am grateful to the teachers and staff who are working hard to make sure the learning continues in a meaningful way."
Students and staff of both schools were asked to self-isolate last weekend, after three cases were confirmed at Woodstock High School and one case was reported at Townsview School Saturday.
Edith Cavell School in Moncton reported its second COVID-19 case this week.
In a tweet Thursday night, Anglophone East School District said Edith Cavell and T.E.S.S. (Therapeutic Education Support Site) students would have an "at home learning day" on Friday.
Kennebecasis Valley High School in Quispamsis closed Thursday morning, and the Anglophone South School District later reported the school's first case of COVID-19 in an email to parents.
Garderie Tic Tac Toe, a Dalhousie daycare centre, also reported one case.
Public Health identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious while on the following flights:
Jan. 3 – Air Canada Flight 8910 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:23 a.m.
Jan. 6 – Air Canada Flight 8910 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:30 a.m.
Public Health also identified potential public exposure at the following locations:
Gusto Italian Grill & Bar, 130 Westmorland St., Moncton, on Jan, 3, 4 and 7, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Bo Diddley's Lounge, 295 Collishaw St., on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. (285 Collishaw St., Moncton)
Miss Cue pool hall, 495 Mountain Rd., Moncton, Jan. 1 to 3 from 6:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.
Foggerz Five-O-Six, an e-cigarette store in Woodstock, has closed because of possible COVID-19 exposure.
If you were at any of these locations, and you have no symptoms of COVID-19, self-monitor and follow all Public Health guidelines. If you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and do not need to talk to a nurse, complete the self-assessment and get tested.
No exposure alert was issued after Saint-Quentin industrial company Groupe Savoie reported four cases this week.
Public Health only issues exposure notifications when it believes members of the public are at risk.
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 Isabelle Leger, Marie Sutherland, Mia Urquhart, Jacques Poitras, Information Morning