No new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick
HALIFAX -- There are no new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick for the second time in four days.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday during a news conference in Fredericton that there were 250 people tested in the province during the previous 24 hours.
She said that while the province's total remains relatively low at 116, the risk is still real.
"We are moving in the right direction, but we have not reached our destination," she said. "We must maintain our resolve. We cannot let up even for a minute."
New Brunswick has reported five cases in the last five days, but on Monday announced that it was expanding the testing protocol.
Dr. Russell said there was an immediate spike in calls to 811, the provincial tele-care service staffed by registered nurses.
"In the last 24 hours, we've had almost triple the number of COVID-19 related calls," she said. "We have more staff coming in."
Dr. Russell was asked why there was such a discrepancy in the number of tests when compared to Nova Scotia, which tested more than 1,400 on Monday compared to New Brunswick's 250.
"We just haven't had the demand," Dr. Russell said. "We have the reources in place. Our testing sites are still able to ramp up capacity."
She said the province could test as many as 1,000 per day if needed.
Dr. Russell also encouraged New Brunswickers to keep washing their hands often and thoroughly and to stay home as much as possible. If they do go out, she reminded them of the importance of physical distancing -- to stay at least two metres or six feet away from other people.
"When you do these things you are denying the virus an opportunity to spread throughout our province and you are helping to save lives," Dr. Russell said. "I know that many of you want to be more actively involved in this fight, and I've heard of people who want to donate protective equipment that they possess somehow stocks of masks gowns and medical equipment they purchased when caring for a loved one at home."
How to donate protective equipment to health-care workers
Because of this, the province has set up a way for the public or businesses to donate personal protective equipment for frontline health-care workers who need it to help them in their daily fight against COVID-19.
Dr. Russell said that anyone who wants to donate masks, gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment should contact Service New Brunswick, which manages government procurement.
“While we have enough supplies in the health sector to meet the current demand, New Brunswickers have been calling the public health office asking how they can help those working in our hospitals, nursing homes and special care homes to stay safe,” said Russell. “These gestures of generosity are touching.”
People who want to donate will be asked to complete and submit a form to provide specific information on the manufacturer, specifications, and certifications (CSA etc.) of the material they want to donate, "so it can be determined if the material is free of contamination," the government said in a news release.
"It's important that we make sure that protective equipment we use to keep our frontline workers safe is safe for them to use," said Dr. Russell. "We have to be certain that this material has not been contaminated in any way. There will be strict process to that donated protective gear."
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he understands if people are starting to feel a bit antsy, but the next two weeks are important.
"We're going to see a lot more tests over the coming days," Higgs said. "We'll see what that brings. And then when we, if our situation remains unchanged, or essentially unchanged in relation to the number of new cases, then it allows us to to them say 'OK, what can we do?' So, let's just say that if everything was to remain as is today, over the next two weeks, there would be cause for us to look at our situation and say how can we make some changes to make restrictions reduced."
Dr. Russell explained that the nature of the COVID-19 incubation period means it's too early to get overly optimistic.
"You're always looking at a snapshot of two weeks behind," said Dr. Russell. "So, what we're seeing today is as a result of things that happened almost two weeks ago with respect to the incubation period so in an outbreak setting, you're going to need to look at two incubation periods to fully realize and understand and make decisions about what the data means and how to analyze it."
Higgs also said that the province has provided more than $30 million to 33,000 New Brunswickers who are out of work because of the pandemic. The one-time benefit was set up to help bridge the gap between being laid off and when federal assistance became available.
Higgs encouraged people to reach out to neighbours or seniors living alone, while Dr. Russell reminded people of the importance of taking care of yourself.
"Routine illnesses can put further strain on an already stressed health-care system," she said. "Look after yourself by eating healthy food, getting regular exercise and plenty of rest. We need you to be well as we go through this pandemic, and for the recovery that will follow."