N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Province expands testing protocols after 10th day of no new cases
Dr. Jennifer Russell adds a few more symptoms to the list that determines need for testing
- 24 hours to move post-secondary students back to home province
- Temporary foreign workers not allowed into New Brunswick
- Dental offices could have whole new drill when they reopen
- Millions of dollars in potatoes sitting in storage
- Popular Saint John hair salon closes
- Village of Alma asks tourists to avoid visiting
- What to do if you have symptoms
The province is expanding testing protocols for COVID-19 to capture a wider range of symptoms for the virus.
This comes after Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, announced no new cases of COVID-19 for the 10th straight day in a row Tuesday afternoon.
"We are not declaring mission accomplished," Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical health officer, said in her daily briefing.
The new symptoms are:
- a new onset of fatigue.
- a new onset of muscle pain.
- loss of sense of taste or loss of sense of smell.
- In children, purple markings on the fingers or toes.
The province has already been testing people with two of these systems: fever, a new or worsening cough, and breathlessness, sore throat, headache and runny nose.
In the case of children with purple markings on their fingers or toes, testing will be done even if none of the other symptoms are present.
"It is crucial that we do more testing at this stage, and with a broader range of symptoms," Russell said.
"This list of symptoms covers our current knowledge of the signs of COVID-19. As we continually learn more about the virus, and as symptoms are confirmed, they will be added to our testing protocols."
Of the 118 confirmed cases of the virus, 114 people have recovered — a 97 per cent recovery rate.
Only one patient is in hospital with COVID-19.
"These coming weeks and months will be crucial," said Premier Blaine Higgs. "We will either backslide or continue to cautiously move forward. The decisions we make today will determine our province's future in the face of COVID-19.
Here's a roundup of other developments.
24 hours to move post-secondary students back to home province
Parents or guardians from other provinces looking to bring their college or university students home for the summer, can come into New Brunswick for 24 hours to remove belongings from the students' residences or apartments.
Russell said they are expected to isolate themselves as best as they can while in the province.
"They should really just be coming to do the moving part and only be interacting with the person they're moving and really self-isolate the whole time they're here," Russell said.
Staying longer than 24 hours is considered remaining in the province, and the 14-day self-isolation period would apply.
But before travelling to New Brunswick, the province advises people to check with their home province to see if further restrictions may be applied upon their return home.
Meanwhile, anyone leaving New Brunswick for any length of time to remove belongings from a residence in another province, must self-isolate for 14 days.
Temporary foreign workers not allowed into New Brunswick
The province has updated its mandatory order under the state of emergency to restrict temporary foreign workers from entering New Brunswick.
However, Premier Blaine Higgs said the province will not change the status of any temporary foreign workers currently working in New Brunswick.
Under normal circumstances we welcome foreign temporary workers in the province," he said. "But right now, the risk of allowing more people to enter the province is simply too great."
Dental offices could have whole new drill when they reopen
Shields, gowns and temperature checks are likely to be part of the regular drill when dentists offices reopen in three to four weeks.
Paul Blanchard, executive director of the New Brunswick Dental Society, says dental offices are working out protocols for reopening.
Since restrictions were adopted near the end of March, dentists have been providing only emergency and essential care, for patients who have prolonged bleeding or infection, for example.
Blanchard expects a return to full operation will be gradual.
"We have been having some discussions with government throughout this period … and we're all hoping for the best and planning for all contingencies,"he said Tuesday.
He expects returning to full operation will be gradual.
For reopening, dentists are considering ways to increase space between employees, staggering appointment times so fewer people are entering the office, and eliminating waiting rooms.
"Patients may be asked to wait in the car or they may be met at the door."
Dentists will be outfitted in protective gear, including gowns and masks.
Offices will also be asking patients standard COVID-19-screening questions before appointments, such as whether they've travelled in the last 14 days or are at risk of contracting the virus.
Patients will also have to rinse their mouth before being treated.
Dentists will likely forgo handing out appointment cards and free toothbrushes.
"We don't want to have any more social contact than we need to."
The cost of providing dental services are projected to increase, Blanchard said.
"We're going to be running at a slow pace initially, so the costs are going to be borne by everybody."
Offices will be working with clients to ensure they're able to pay, he said.
Millions of dollars in potatoes sitting in storage
Millions of dollars worth of potatoes are sitting in storage across the province without a place to go, according to the grower advocacy group Potatoes NB.
COVID-19 has stalled potato processing and shipping, leaving New Brunswick growers without a market for their produce.
"The restaurants, bars, food service stopped, 70 per cent of our French fry business stopped," said Roy Culberson, a fifth-generation potato farmer in Jacksonville, a rural community outside Woodstock.
Culberson said he has more than $1 million in potatoes sitting in storage that he's unable to ship for processing.
He's already bought about $40,000 worth of seed, but he's expecting to cut his production back by 15 to 20 per cent this year.
Cutting production by that much is the standard, said Matt Hemphill, executive director Potatoes NB.
Culberson isn't the only potato farmer without a home for his produce, Hemphill said.
About $30 million worth of potatoes are sitting in storage in New Brunswick. There's also a surplus of seed potatoes that will either need to be donated or dumped, Hemphill said.
"It's about $40 million dollars [worth] everything that won't have a home or a market," Hemphill said.
Potatoes NB and processors are working together to find homes for the potatoes. Some have been donated to the food bank.
"The challenge we have with a perishable product is we're running out of time."
Hemphill said the industry has until September to find places to store or donate the old crop before it spoils.
Popular Saint John hair salon closes
A longtime hairdressing shop is closing indefinitely after nearly four decades in Saint John because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Ang & Sals Hairstyling, at 15 Market Square, has been in business for 36 years. Now, it's being forced to close without saying goodbye to any of its clientele.
"I didn't want this to end the way it is," said owner Sal Scicholone.
Scicholone began apprenticing as a barber when he was eight in Italy. He became a barber when he was 13. He began his career working with his brothers, before opening his own shop in City Hall in 1984.
He has two daughters who he wanted to take over the business.
"I guess it won't have that finish because coronavirus killed [the business]."
A longtime customer emailed him and asked to be the first client when the shop reopened after restrictions were lifted. Scicholone had tears in his eyes when he had to send him an email back telling him the shop wouldn't be reopening.
"It wasn't work for me being in the shop because I knew all the people and the clients," he said.
"Anyone that comes in, we treated them as family."
Village of Alma asks tourists to avoid visiting
The mayor of Alma is asking visitors and road trippers to stay away from the village by the Bay of Fundy, even as restrictions are slowly beginning to lift.
"We want to keep everybody safe," said Mayor Kirstin Shortt.
"We want to avoid spreading the disease, so we're taking proactive action here by telling visitors to stay home."
There are no public washrooms available in the village. Nearby Fundy National Park remains closed, as do most businesses.
The local gas bar, convenience store and one takeout pizza shop have remained open during the pandemic.
People who don't live within 20 minutes of the village should stay away, the mayor said.
Shortt is hopeful her village will return to business as usual, but she said it will be a while before that happens.
"It's impacting everyone in this village, not just the people that come to visit."
Tourism season for the village typically begins in mid-May. Shortt is hoping it won't be delayed more than a month.
"[Businesses] may not make a profit this year, but they're hoping that they'll at least break even."
What to do if you have symptoms
People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment on the government website. People with two of those symptoms are asked to:
Stay at home.
Immediately call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor
Describe symptoms and travel history.
With files from Information Morning Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton