New Brunswick will move two zones back into orange as of midnight Tuesday; one more death reported
HALIFAX -- New Brunswick Public Health is moving two health zones in the province back to the orange phase.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said Zone 2 (Saint John region) and Zone 3 (Fredericton region) will have more relaxed restrictions as of midnight on Tuesday.
Russell said she recommended this move after seeing some "hopeful signs."
"We see the result of our efforts," Russell told a news conference in Fredericton on Monday.
Russell said public health took precautions and got ahead of the curve, hoping that they could quickly transition back to orange, and that's what they are doing. The two zones were only in the red phase for one week, she said.
Russell also said that another person has died from complications caused by COVID-19. A person in their 70s, who was a resident of Lily Court of Parkland Saint John's Tucker Hall, is the province's 14th COVID-related death.
"Today we must announce another loss to this virus," said Shephard. "This is something that never gets easier, nor should it. On behalf of all New Brunswickers, I want to express sincere condolences to this person’s family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time."
Health officials in New Brunswick confirmed Monday that two residents of a long-term care facility in Saint John died last week after testing positive for COVID-19.
Only one of those deaths, however, is being attributed to the novel coronavirus, Russell told reporters Monday.
Seniors services company Shannex said Sunday that a resident of Parkland Saint John retirement complex died last Thursday and another died Friday. The company apologized for the delay in reporting the deaths, adding that identifying COVID-related deaths among residents can be complicated.
Five of the 14 deaths in New Brunswick attributed to the virus have occurred at Parkland Saint John.
Russell said Zones 5, 6, and 7 (Campbellton, Bathurst and Miramichi) will remain at the orange level, but their status is "under review" Russell said.
"We hope to recommend to cabinet that Zones 5, 6 and 7, return to a yellow alert level in the coming days," Russell said. "It would be helpful if people who had symptoms got tested."
Zone 1 (Moncton region) remains at the red level of restrictions and Zone 4 (Edmundston region) is under lockdown.
"I understand that we are all tired and that the measures we are taking to reduce the spread of this virus may seem inconvenient," said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. "But know that by complying with Public Health directives and observing these measures you are making a difference. You have the power to protect lives."
Russell reported 27 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.
Of the new cases, there are:
- four new cases in Zone 1;
- one new case in Zone 2;
- three new cases in Zone 3;
- 19 new cases in Zone 4.
There are now 348 active cases in the province. There are six people in hospital, including three in intensive care.
"We remain concerned about the new variants of the COVID-19 virus, which have now been confirmed in Atlantic Canada," said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. "While we have not had confirmed cases of the United Kingdom or South African variants in New Brunswick, we need to be vigilant to prevent the rapid spread of this new COVID-19 version of the virus."
New Brunswick has reported a total of 1,151 infections since the start of the pandemic.
RAPID TESTING CONCERNS RAISED
A New Brunswick member of Parliament says the province should follow Nova Scotia in using rapid tests more frequently.
Wayne Long, the Liberal M.P. for Saint John-Rothesay, said the federal government sent New Brunswick's Department of Health about 200,000 rapid test kits, with only one per cent of them being used thus far.
"They're there, they're in inventory," said Long on Monday. "We've got to get them out and have a strategy to start rapid testing.
Since November, officials in Nova Scotia have organized rapid-testing clinics throughout the province.
"Nova Scotia really is, what I would say, kind of the gold standard right now for the positive impact rapid testing can have," Long said.
New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, defended New Brunswick's use of rapid tests, saying they weren't as reliable as laboratory tests.
Russell said rapid tests were used in certain situations, such as the early stages of a long-term care facility outbreak.
"We do have a plan to use them in very specific areas and for very specific reasons under specific circumstances," said Russell on Monday. "It wouldn't be under the guise of mass testing of asymptomatic people at this time."
Russell said any positive rapid test result is sent to the laboratory for official confirmation, adding that rapid tests are best used in situations where people are showing COVID-19 symptoms.
The New Brunswick Medical Society said it was confident in the Department of Health's strategy for distributing rapid tests at this time, adding it would support any new procedures to further screen the population.
UPDATE ON VACCINATION PROGRAM
Shephard said more than 14,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province and 2,839 people have received their second dose.
"Vaccination clinics are planned for 20 long-term care facilities this week, using the Moderna vaccine to provide the first dose to more than 750 people," Shephard said, adding that "more than 1,600 health-care workers are scheduled to get their second dose of the vaccine this week."
EXPOSURE NOTIFICATION IN ZONE 4
Public Health has identified a potential public exposure to the virus at the following location in Zone 4:
- Atlantic Superstore (577 Victoria St., Edmundston);
- on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 between 6 a.m. and 5:15 p.m.
With files from The Canadian Press.