New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 4 new cases detected in province

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, announced four new presumptive cases of COVID-19 in the province Sunday afternoon. 

There are now 5 presumptive cases and one confirmed case of COVID-19 in New Brunswick

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, and Premier Blaine Higgs practice social distancing as they speak to reporters at a news conference Sunday afternoon. (Gary Moore/CBC News)

New Brunswick has four new presumptive cases of COVID-19, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced Sunday.

At an afternoon briefing, Russell said the new cases were all in close contact with the case that was confirmed last week, a woman who was diagnosed after flying home to New Brunswick from France.

"I know this can be very disconcerting and very stressful to hear, but I'm not surprised by this," Russell said of the presumptive cases.

The cases include:

  • A man between 50 and 60 years old.
  • A woman between 50 and 60 years old.
  • Two men between 20 and 30 years old.

All four patients live in the central part of the province and have mild symptoms. 

Russell expects there will be more travel-related cases of COVID-19 from close contacts or household members.

If you're calling 811 and you can't get through, it's because we're tremendously overloading the system.- Premier Blaine Higgs

Additional testing to confirm whether these cases are positive will take place at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada's only Level-4 virology facility.

Russell said she's confident those presumptive cases will be confirmed.

There are now five presumptive cases and one confirmed case of COVID-19 in New Brunswick. According to the Department of Health's website, 40 negative cases have also been confirmed.

New Brunswick's regional health authorities are also adding designated testing stations across the province.

Access to these centres will be available by appointment only, following appropriate triage through 811, although people have reported long waits on that line, and the province says the service has become overloaded.

Here is a roundup of other developments.

Education Department quiet on school closures

All public schools will be closed Monday for two weeks because of the outbreak. Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters Friday night that public health officials will be monitoring the situation and that the closure could be extended beyond two weeks.

The closure will not affect daycares because they're considered an essential service.

WATCH: Premier Blaine Higgs and Chief Medical Officer of Health Jennifer Russell announce 4 new presumptive cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick during Sunday's news conference.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, and premier Blaine Higgs will provide an update on COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, on Sunday. 28:34

Education Minister Dominic Cardy and education officials would not answer any questions about the closure on Sunday.

Questions about childcare and breakfast and lunch programs normally provided by the schools went unanswered.

811 overloaded with calls

At Sunday's news conference, Higgs said the province's Tele-Care 811 line is getting a high volume of calls, and people with symptoms are having trouble getting through. 

The health-care line typically receives about 250 calls a day. Lately, it's receiving between 800 and 1,000 calls.

"If there's one thing that someone takes away from this, it would be if you do not have symptoms do not tie up our health system because that is going to be the single biggest risk," Higgs said.

He said many of those calls are from people who are anxious and expressing concern. 

"If you're calling 811 and you can't get through, it's because we're tremendously overloading the system."

Hospitals ban or restrict visitors

Vitalité Health Network has adopted a complete ban on visits to patients at all of its hospitals.

Horizon Health has set a maximum of two family members or designated care partners per patient at its hospitals. Anyone who has travelled outside Canada cannot visit a Horizon patient for 14 days.

Horizon said it will be constantly evaluating the visitor policy.

Nursing homes keep away visitors

Some nursing homes across the province have decided to close their doors to all visitors because of COVID-19.

Loch Lomond Villa in Saint John made the decision Sunday to prohibit visitors as a preventive measure to keep residents "safe and healthy."

"Family members designated as "next-of-kin" may call 506-643-7175 and using our directory contact the House where their loved one lives in order to check on their loved one," said Cindy Donovan, chief executive officer at Loch Lomond Villa. 

These measures will be put in place until further notice.

On Saturday, Shannex also announced its facilities would be closed to visitors. 

Some farmers markets stay open 

Farmers markets took different approaches to the outbreak over the weekend 

In a Facebook post, the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market announced it would remain open on Saturday and continue to operate "just like other grocery and food outlets."

The Northside Market in Fredericton was also open, but the numbers at both markets were down.  

The markets in Dieppe and Moncton were closed. 

Stockpiling groceries is still an issue across the province.

Higgs said stockpiling isn't necessary and only feeds into "fear and anxiety."

Department of Health to answer your questions

Dr. Russell is expected to answer your questions related to COVID-19 on all CBC Information Morning shows in the provice on Monday between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.

Dr. Russell will be answering your questions on all three of CBC's Information Morning radio shows on Monday between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. (Photo: CBC News)

New Brunswick's Department of Health cancelled a Q&A last Friday with CBC New Brunswick that was supposed to answer  the public's questions related to COVID-19.

Cases jump across Canada 

The number of coronavirus cases in Canada is closing in on 300.

In Ottawa, Global Affairs Canada called upon Canadians currently abroad to return home while they still have the chance as countries around the world tighten travel restrictions.

Word from Ottawa came as Canadians travelling in Europe scrambled to book flights ahead of looming border closures in many European Union countries.

The advice marks an escalation for the government, which previously urged Canadians to cancel or postpone non-essential trips.

A ticket agent helps travelers arriving on a flight from Frankfurt, Germany before travel restrictions are enacted hours later on flights from Europe entering the U.S. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Canadian public health officials continue to describe the risk to the public as relatively low as they urge hygiene measures such as frequent handwashing and social distancing.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk associated with COVID-19 is low for the general population, but notes  that could change quickly.

People who are over 65, have a compromised immune system or underlying health conditions face a higher risk of "more severe outcomes" if they contract the virus — which the WHO says is mild for most who get it.

What to do if you have any symptoms?

Symptoms of coronavirus can include fever or cough. In this case, residents should:

  • Stay at home.
  • Immediately call Tele-Care 811.

  • Describe symptoms and travel history.

  • Follow instructions carefully.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

With files from The Canadian Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.