N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Revised vaccine rollout unveiled, Zone 4 back to orange
Second dose will be temporarily withheld for some residents, entire province in orange phase at midnight
- Revised vaccine rollout plan unveiled
- Edmundston region moves to orange phase at midnight
- Shephard pressed on rules around visiting dying relatives
- Fifth variant case confirmed
- Four new cases reported, all in Zone 4
The province announced the rollout of its revised COVID-19 vaccination strategy Thursday, issuing warnings about limited supply and the heightened risk posed by variants.
"We are in the eye of a perfect storm" of new, more aggressive strains of variants and other risk factors, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, said at a live update.
She noted it is urgent that province "act quickly" to get vaccines in the arms of its most vulnerable citizens.
This will mean broadening the scope of the vaccine campaign and delaying the second dose of the vaccine in some cases.
- Province to delay second COVID shot for some so more people can get at least one dose
- By the numbers: A look at New Brunswick's first year with COVID-19
"We are learning that a single dose is effective," offering more than 90 per cent protection for up to 90 days, Russell said.
"We will delay the second dose for those who are at lower risk of severe outcomes, while giving the two-dose schedule on time for the most vulnerable. Everyone will get the second dose."
Russell acknowledged "this is not a perfect approach," and stressed that all New Brunswickers will eventually get two doses of the vaccine.
Shephard pressed on rules around visiting dying relatives
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard is facing mounting pressure to change the rules preventing families from visiting dying loved ones in hospitals.
The issue, recently highlighted in a CBC News story about a mother who was not allowed to visit her dying son, has been a frequently recurring controversy throughout the pandemic.
On Thursday, Miramichi MLA Michelle Conroy called on the Health Department to find a "better way."
Conroy said she gets daily calls and emails from people who are desperate to see relatives who are alone in hospital.
- Mother not allowed to visit dying son, though both were patients on same hospital floor
- 80-year-old kicked out of hospital for holding husband's hand
"It's wrong on so many levels," Conroy said. "We can pack the malls, but you can't have one person going into a hospital masked and with the proper personal protective equipment."
Conroy suggested that, in addition to wearing masks and PPE, family members could receive rapid testing before being allowed in to visit.
"There has to be a better way than how it's being handled now," she said.
At Thursday's COVID-19 update, Shephard acknowledged the situation is "heartbreaking," and suggested that changes are being discussed.
"We are working with the [regional health authorities] to find a path forward," Shephard said, adding that she hopes to have "more news next week" following those discussions.
"Protecting our most vulnerable is what this is all about, so it's not easy, and our hearts go out to everyone in this situation."
Shephard said there are some exemptions for compassionate visits, such as palliative patients being allowed to have up to 10 designated individuals who can visit one at a time.
"There are some restrictions," she said, "but every effort is being made to get families in at end of life."
Fifth variant case confirmed
New Brunswick now has five confirmed cases of the variant that originated in the U.K.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard confirmed at Thursday's COVID-19 update that a previously suspected fifth case has now been confirmed.
She did not specify the zone where the case was identified.
Zone 4 moves to orange at midnight
The Edmundston region, Zone 4, will move to the less restrictive orange phase of recovery Thursday night at midnight, bringing the entire province into the same phase.
The region had been moved to a full lockdown on Jan. 23, and then to the red phase on Feb. 8.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, said the fact that all of New Brunswick is back to orange is "a great accomplishment," but she urged residents to continue to wear well-fitting masks, practise physical distancing and follow other protective measures.
"We must keep doing everything we can to stay the course."
Russell showed a slide that depicted cases in Zone 4 since the beginning of the year to illustrate the impact of Public Health measures. In the slide, an orange line represented the number of cases, not including the cases at long-term care homes, and a blue line factored in all of the cases, including the cases at long-term care homes.
"And what you can see is that when the lockdown was implemented — and we had moved to the red phase a few days prior to that — it demonstrates that the Public Health measures proved to be effective … and the cases dropped at the end of that slide," she said.
"So having all of New Brunswick at the orange level is a significant achievement, but we must continue to do all that we can to maintain this positive momentum."
Four new cases, all in Zone 4
Four new cases of COVID-19 were reported Thursday.
All of them are in Zone 4, the Edmundston region, Dr. Jennifer Russell said, and break down in this way:
- an individual 19 or under
- two people 60 to 69
- an individual 80 to 89
The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 1,411. Since Wednesday, 11 people have recovered for a total of 1,275 recoveries. There have been 24 deaths, and the number of active cases is 111.
Five patients are hospitalized, and one is in intensive care. A total of 220,912 tests have been conducted, including 1,002 since Wednesday's report.
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.