'Virus is spreading like wildfire,' New Brunswick's top doctor warns as COVID-19 cases rise
HALIFAX -- The number of COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick has doubled in the last week and the province is clamping down to prevent even greater spread, said the province's chief medical officer of health.
"This virus is spreading like wildfire," Dr. Jennifer Russell said at a news conference in Fredericton on Thursday afternoon. "Evidence and our data is telling us we have good reason to be concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in New Brunswick."
In addition to moving Zone 1 to orange and implementing new testing protocols for workers returning from outside the province, Russell encouraged New Brunswickers to follow the lead being set in other provinces – albeit a bit late for them.
"Please reduce your number of close contacts right now," Russell said.
Other provinces are calling it the "safe six" which refers to a group of no more than the same six people outside your household bubble.
While the province is setting a limit of 20 for informal indoor gatherings, Russell said 20 is only the number that will be enforced. She said public health officials are encouraging people to favour the side of caution and stay with a "safe six" instead.
ZONE 1 RETURNING TO ORANGE PHASE
New Brunswick's Moncton region (Zone 1) will return to the orange phase of COVID-19 recovery after four new cases were confirmed in the province on Thursday.
The return to the orange phase is based on the Russell's recommendation.
Residents in the Moncton region will now need to stay within two-household bubbles.
Russell also confirmed Thursday that public health is tracking a new outbreak of COVID-19 at a long-term care facility in the Moncton region.
One new case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at the Residence Oasis in Dieppe.
NEW TESTING PROTOCOL FOR RETURNING WORKERS
Workers returning to New Brunswick from outside the Atlantic bubble will now have to remain in self-isolation until they get a second negative test administered five to seven days after they return home.
Russell said that the previous rules, which had been relaxed during the summer, will have to be re-implemented.
"This month alone under the previous guidelines, more than 60 per cent of the workers following modified self-isolation rules who tested negative on day one later tested positive between days five to seven," Russell said. "Between those tests, they were able to move freely through the community, which has put us all at greater risk of coming into contact with COVID-19."
VITALITE HEALTH NETWORK SUSPENDS VISITS
The switch to the orange level in the Moncton region has prompted the Vitalite Health Network to suspend visits to two hospitals.
Starting Friday, the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre and Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital will not allow visitors, except under the following circumstances:
- Visits will be restricted to one designated visitor per patient at the obstetric, pediatric and intensive care units and to two designated visitors (one at a time) for palliative care (end-of-life) patients;
- As for patients who will receive medical assistance in dying, the presence of two designated visitors will be allowed (one at a time), except in exceptional cases where one of the visitors would require assistance to go to the patient’s bedside.
HEALTH CARE WORKERS GO INTO PREVENTIVE ISOLATION
Vitalite Health Network also says that four of its health-care workers in the Moncton region are in preventive isolation because of a "high-risk exposure to the virus."
"The Network also reiterates the importance of Public Health measures to ensure everyone’s safety: respect distancing measures (two metres), wash your hands often and wear a mask," Vitalite said in a news release.
FOUR NEW CASES
New Brunswick Public Health reported four new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Thursday, bumping the number of active cases up to 43.
Three of the new cases are in the Moncton region and one is in the Saint John region.
The three cases in Zone 1 (Moncton region) include:
- one person under the age of 19; and,
- two people in their 20s;
The Saint John case (Zone 2) involves a person in their 30s.
All four people are self-isolating and public health officials are investigating all the cases.
This brings the number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick to 392. Of those, 343 have recovered and there are 43 active cases with none requiring hospitalization. There have been six deaths.
As of Thursday, 113,014 tests had been conducted.
On Wednesday, nine new cases were reported in the province, including five in the Moncton region.
SAINT JOHN BARS CLOSE DUE TO POTENTIAL EXPOSURE
While no official potential exposure warnings have been sent out by New Brunswick Public Health on Thursday, a pair of Saint John-area bars have closed until further notice due to possible exposure.
In a post to Facebook, Rocky's Sports Bar says they were notified Thursday morning of a possible exposure at the location on Nov. 13 and Nov 14.
A second Saint John bar, Eighty Three Bar Arcade located on Prince St., also decided to close Thurdsay evening.
In a Facebook post, staff say they have not been contacted by Public Health, but are waiting to hear for more information about contact tracing in the area before reopening.
EXPOSURE NOTIFICATION FOR AIR CANADA FLIGHTS
Public health also identified a positive case on Wednesday, involving a traveller who may have been infectious on Nov. 15 while on the following flights:
- Air Canada Flight 8954 – from Winnipeg to Toronto arrived at 8:16 p.m.
- Air Canada Flight 8918 – from Toronto to Moncton arrived at 11:43 p.m.
"Individuals who travelled on these flights should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the flight," public health said in a news release. "Should any COVID-19 symptoms develop, they are directed to self-isolate and take the self-assessment online or to call 811 to get tested."
On Tuesday, public health announced a possible exposure at a Fit4Less gym in Moncton, but gym goers were back there on Wednesday.
"They washed every machine and everyone is wearing a mask," said Vincent Bordeleau. "I think it's really secure to train here."
The number of cases are broken down by New Brunswick’s seven health zones:
- Zone 1 – Moncton region: 118 confirmed cases (24 active case)
- Zone 2 – Saint John region: 40 confirmed cases (7 active case)
- Zone 3 – Fredericton region: 80 confirmed cases (9 active cases)
- Zone 4 – Edmundston region: 8 confirmed cases
- Zone 5 – Campbellton region: 137 confirmed cases (0 active cases)
- Zone 6 – Bathurst region: 5 confirmed cases (2 active case)
- Zone 7 – Miramichi region: 4 confirmed cases (1 active case)
VEHICLE TRAFFIC INFORMATION
New Brunswick's online dashboard includes information about vehicle traffic attempting to enter the province.
On Wednesday, 1,712 personal and 1,480 commercial vehicles attempted to cross the border into the province.
Of the vehicles attempting to cross the border, 23 were refused entry, for a refusal rate of 0.7 per cent.