HALIFAX -- All of New Brunswick will be back in the yellow phase of restrictions as of midnight Thursday.

New Brunswick Public Health made the recommendation to the Minister of Health because the growth in new cases has slowed significantly, compliance with public health directives has increased, and the testing backlog has been addressed.

"I thank everyone who has done their part by following the rules by staying within their single-household bubble and wearing a mask in all public places," said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. "New Brunswick is leading the way by keeping our case numbers low and keeping outbreaks contained when they do happen. While we have had to move zones to the Orange level several times since our province came out of lockdown, we have been able to quickly get the situation under control every single time."

In the yellow level, people do not have to stick to a one-household bubble and they can have informal indoor gatherings of up to 20 people.

Public Health recommends that if you do get together in a group of 20, that you not socialize with others outside of that group. They should be limited to the same same circle of close family and friends to help slow the spread of the virus and make contact tracing easier.

"Everyone should aim to keep their social contacts, the people you spend time with without wearing a mask or maintaining physical distance, to no more than 20 individuals," said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. "I strongly suggest that everyone make a list of their close contacts and aim to keep it to the same 20 for the rest of 2020. If we all do this, we stand a better chance of limiting the impact of future outbreaks."

Russell said that while it was great to see restrictions being relaxed in Zone 2 (the Saint John region), she reminded everyone to be careful.

"Yellow means caution," Russell said during a news conference in Fredericton on Thursday afternoon.

Outbreak at Edmundston Regional Hospital

Russell says there is an outbreak at the Edmundston Regional Hospital that involves several confirmed cases of COVID-19.

In a news release, the province said the outbreak includes three health-care workers and three COVID-19 admitted patients. The three workers were among the new cases reported Thursday while the patients had already been reported.

"Outbreaks are a stark reminder that this virus is still present in New Brunswick and we need to be extremely cautious," said Russell, who added that Public Health and the Vitalite Health Network are investigating.

"All hospital visits except for palliative care, maternity and pediatrics, have been suspended until further notice," the new release says. "Patients with appointments may attend the facility and must follow Public Health measures. Only urgent cases are being handled at the Emergency department."

Miramichi hospital to get first shipment of vaccine

The city of Miramichi has been chosen as the first site to receive the first 1,950 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccination.

It was chosen because of its central location in the province; it's about two to three hours from almost anywhere in the province.

"The biggest constraint we have right now is we will receive them at the Miramichi hospital and because of the nature of the ultra-frozen vaccine, the advice from the manufacturer is not to forward transport it, so that's why we'll hold the initial clinic in Miramichi," said Greg MacCallum, New Brunswick's EMO director.

An ultra-low temperature freezer was just installed at the miramichi regional hospital, says MacCallum and he also revealed who will be first in line.

  • Long-term care residents and staff
  • Healthcare workers who respond to COVID-19 outbreaks
  • Extra-mural staff and paramedics
  • Other healthcare workers
  • First Nations nurses, and;
  • Seniors over 85

They wouldn't give specifics on who exactly will get those first doses, saying they're still working out the numbers.

MacCallum says several hundred nursing home residents and their staff will be included.

They'll have to go to the Miramichi hospital itself, because of the challenges that come with the vaccine that has to be remain extremely cold.

New cases reported

Earlier Thursday, New Brunswick Public Health announced that there were four new positive cases. Three of those cases are in Zone 4 (the Edmundston region) and the other is in Zone 2 (the Saint John region).

  • one person in their 30s in Zone 2 (Saint John region);
  • one person in their 20s in Zone 4 (Edmundston region);
  • one person in their 30s in Zone 4 (Edmundston region); and
  • one person in their 40s in Zone 4 (Edmundston region).

All cases are self-isolating and under investigation.

There have been 546 cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick since the pandemic began. Of those, 464 have recovered, there have been seven deaths, and there are 75 active cases.

Russell said four of those people are in hospital, with three of them in intensive care. As of Thursday, New Brunswick public health staff have conducted 136,559 tests.

Cases by health zone

The number of cases are broken down by New Brunswick's seven health zones:

  • Zone 1 – Moncton region: 145 confirmed cases (8 active cases)
  • Zone 2 – Saint John region: 126 confirmed cases (37 active cases)
  • Zone 3 – Fredericton region: 105 confirmed cases (17 active cases)
  • Zone 4 – Edmundston region: 19 confirmed cases (10 active cases)
  • Zone 5 – Campbellton region: 137 confirmed cases
  • Zone 6 – Bathurst region: 10 confirmed cases (3 active cases)
  • Zone 7 – Miramichi region: 4 confirmed cases

Vehicle traffic information

New Brunswick's online dashboard includes information about vehicle traffic attempting to enter the New Brunswick border.

On Thursday, 2,001 personal and 1,528 commercial vehicles attempted to cross the border into the province.

Of the vehicles attempting to cross the border, 18 were refused entry, for a refusal rate of 0.5 per cent.