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N.B. reports 2 more deaths related to COVID-19 as death toll surpasses 100; extends circuit-breaker for 7 days

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HALIFAX -

Two more New Brunswickers have died as a result of COVID-19, raising the death toll in the province to 101 since the pandemic began.

"Two more families are grieving once again," N.B. Premier Blaine Higgs said during a news conference in Fredericton on Thursday afternoon.

A person in their 80s who lives in Zone 1 (the Moncton region) and a person in their 70s who lives in Zone 5 (the Campbellton region) have died.

Higgs said his government has faced a lot of questions since easing COVID-19 restrictions in the province at the end of July.

"Did we underestimate the Delta variant? Did we ease restrictions too soon? Were we overly confident that more New Brunswickers would get vaccinated? I know that many of you are frustrated and in some cases angry that we are still living with COVID," Higgs said. "I understand this because I, too, feel the same way."

When restrictions were lifted on July 31, New Brunswick had reported 46 deaths related to the virus. During the last two-and-a-half months, that number has more than doubled.

"I take responsibility for everything, everywhere that relates to the citizens of the province," said Higgs. "I obviously deeply regret the situation we're in right now."

CIRCUIT BREAKER EXTENDED

Higgs said while the number of new and active cases have moved in the right direction since the province implemented "circuit breaker" measures on Oct. 8, the numbers are still too high.

"That is why on the advice of public health and the cabinet COVID-19 committee, we've decided to extend circuit breaker measure for at least seven days," Higgs said. "The Delta variant is different than anything we've experienced so far, that is why we need to treat it differently."

The areas affected are Zone 1 (Moncton region) as far north as and including Sainte-Anne-de-Kent and including Havelock in Zone 2; the northern portion of Zone 3 from and including Deerville and Florenceville-Bristol, but excluding Hayesville and Parker Ridge; and all of Zone 4 (Edmundston region).

"We have seen encouraging data since the circuit breaker measures went into effect, but it is still too early to know if cases in the affected areas will continue to steadily decline in the days ahead,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health said. “If we were to remove these measures now, without knowing for certain that we are experiencing a sustained downward trend in cases and hospitalizations, we could prolong the situation even further.”

Russell said in a news release that the measures will be lifted when public health can confirm "a sustained trend of decreasing numbers of cases and a decline in the seven-day average of new hospital admissions."

14-DAY CIRCUIT BREAKER IN ZONE 5 STARTS FRIDAY

New Brunswick Public Health also announced that Zone 5 (the Campbellton region) will enter a 14-day circuit breaker starting Friday at 6 p.m. to bring the high number of COVID-19 transmissions in the region under control.

"I know this news is difficult for those living in Zone 5 and for those in the current circuit breaker areas, as you have worked hard," Higgs said in a news release. "The numbers are slowly getting better, but the Delta variant is different from anything we have experienced before, and we need to treat it differently."

You can find more information online about the circuit breaker rules and the areas it covers, including maps.

67 NEW CASES CONFIRMED, ALONG WITH 63 RECOVERIES

Public Health reported 67 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday along with 63 recoveries, raising the number of active cases in New Brunswick to 763.

Of the new cases, 38 – or 57 per cent – are unvaccinated, four – or six per cent – are partially vaccinated, and 25 – or 37 per cent – are fully vaccinated, public health said in a news release.

HIGGS ALLUDES TO MISTAKES, BUT DEFENDS PUBLIC HEALTH

On Thursday afternoon, Higgs alluded to mistakes made along the way. When asked about them in an interview with CTV Atlantic later in the day, Higgs elaborated.

"We thought that 75 per cent vaccination rate would give us herd immunity and we'd be good," Higgs told CTV Atlantic in an interview. "I mean there were points where we thought 70 per cent was going to do that just fine back in early July, and now we're saying no, that's not the case at all. It's 90 per cent, so you know, we need to learn through this entire pandemic of what needs to be done differently."

Higgs also pointed out the onslaught of criticism he and the public health team in New Brunswick has not gone unnoticed.

"One of the things that I underestimated, is that how quickly people really turn on you," Higgs said. "You know, because, because everyone has worked so hard, not just me, I mean I'm just one of a team of many people that have worked tirelessly and through this and done very well, whether it's at borders, whether it's testing, whatever. So, so, yeah, we have a hard spot here right now but I'll stick with the team, we'll get through this."

MAJORITY OF PATIENTS IN ICU WITH COVID-19 ARE UNVACCINATED

Public health says there are 55 people hospitalized because of the novel coronavirus. Of those, 27 are unvaccinated, five are partially vaccinated and 23 are fully vaccinated. There are 16 people in an intensive care unit, with 14 unvaccinated and two partially vaccinated.

"Many of the 23 people who are fully vaccinated who are currently in the hospital did not have COVID-19 when they were admitted," public health said in a news release. "They contracted the virus while hospitalized for other reasons due to the ongoing outbreaks at the Moncton Hospital and the Campbellton Regional Hospital."

Russell said these fully vaccinated patients are "generally experiencing mild symptoms."

NEW RULES FOR POSITIVE RAPID-TEST RESULTS

The province's emergency order has been updated to require anyone who gets a positive result from a rapid-test kit at home to immediately schedule an appointment for a lab-based PCR test at a public health assessment centre.

You can book an appointment online or by calling 811.

"Anyone who fails to do so will be subject to fines," public health said in a news release. "Peace officers will investigate information received through employer testing programs and from residents to ensure individuals are complying."

RAPID-TEST KITS AVAILABLE FOR PICKUP

Public health has made free rapid COVID-19 screening tests available for those who have not tested positive for COVID-19.

The tests are designed for people two and older and most have five tests to be used over a 10-day period. People 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult to acquire a kit.

On Wednesday, the province distributed 7,333 rapid-test kits.

A full list of locations is available online for both Vitalité and Horizon health networks. More information on the rapid-test kits program is available online.

VACCINATION UPDATE

Public Health reported Thursday that 83.1 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 91.9 per cent have received their first dose of a vaccine.

If you have not yet had your first or second dose, you can go to a walk-in clinic or book an appointment through a participating pharmacy or at a Vitalité or Horizon health network clinic.

All eligible New Brunswickers can book a second-dose appointment for a date that is at least 28 days after the first dose.

A list of upcoming mobile and walk-in clinics is available online.

Health-care workers – including those working in long-term care facilities – and residents of First Nations communities can get an mRNA COVID-19 booster starting Oct. 25.

To get the booster dose, six months must have passed since the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

CONFIRMED CASES IN SCHOOLS AND CHILD-CARE FACILITIES

Information on cases in schools is now available on the Healthy and Safe Schools website and the COVID-19 dashboard.

A new case has been confirmed at Garderie Power Play in Dieppe in Zone 1 (Moncton region). Affected families have been notified. If you or a family member have been in close contact with a case, you will be notified by Public Health or the facility for contact tracing. If you are not notified directly, you have not been identified as a close contact.

Since Sept. 7, 57 early learning and child-care facilities have had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

REGIONAL BREAKDOWN OF NEW CASES

Here is a regional breakdown of the 67 new cases reported Thursday.

  • 34 new cases in Zone 1 (Moncton region);
  • 11 new cases in Zone 2 (Saint John region);
  • seven new cases in Zone 3 (Fredericton region);
  • 11 new cases in Zone 4 (Edmundston region);
  • one new case in Zone 5 (Campbellton region) is a person 90 or older;
  • two new cases in Zone 6 (Bathurst region);
  • one new case in Zone 7 (Miramichi region) is a person 90 or older.

Additional information is available on the COVID-19 dashboard.

POTENTIAL PUBLIC EXPOSURES

Anyone with symptoms of the virus, as well as anyone who has been at the site of a possible public exposure, is urged to request a test online to get an appointment.

A map of potential public exposures can also be found on the COVID-19 dashboard.

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