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N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Person in their 20s has died, lockdown lifted in Edmundston
A New Brunswicker in their 20s has died from COVID-19, the youngest person in the province to die from the disease since the pandemic began, the chief medical officer of health announced Tuesday. The person lived in the Moncton region, Zone 1, said Dr. Jennifer Russell. This marks the 36th COVID-related death in New Brunswick. Russell declined to say whether the person had any underlying medical conditions, citing privacy. But she did say she believes the person had the variant first reported in the U.K. and the case was travel-related. The latest death shows the aggressive variants “kill without discrimination,” she said. They “will strike the young as well as the old.” New Brunswick now has the U.K variant in the Moncton region and Edmundston region, Zone 4. The variant first recorded in South Africa has been confirmed in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and the Grand Falls area of Zone 4. And a case of the variant first recorded in India has been confirmed in the Fredericton region, Zone 3. “We are reminded again of the urgency of protecting ourselves, our families, our communities from the effects of the new COVID-19 variants of concern and interest,” Russell said during the COVID-19 update. She noted neighbouring Nova Scotia reported a record high of 96 new cases of COVID Tuesday. “Basically there is a fire all around us and we are feeling that heat. And I know people are exhausted and discouraged, but we really have to keep fighting these flames.” 137 active cases The province recorded 24 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. The bulk of them, 21, are in the Edmundston region, Zone 4. All of these are related to an outbreak of the variant first detected in South Africa at Pavillon Beau-Lieu, a special care home in Grand Falls, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell. They include 14 residents and seven staff members, she said. The breakdown is as follows: Two people 20-29 A person 30-39 Four people 50-59 Two people 60-69 Four people 70-79 Four people 80-89 Four people 90 and over Russell could not say how many people at the home have now tested positive, but did say she believes “quite a large number have been vaccinated.” “We’re seeing very mild symptoms. And I think some of the people have only been vaccinated with one dose. So that is very good news.” The 24 new cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday pushed the provincial total of active cases to 137,(CBC) The Moncton region, Zone 1, has two new cases: A person 20-29 A person 40-49 One case involves a temporary foreign worker and is related to travel, while the other is under investigation. The Fredericton region, Zone 3, also has one new case: A person 19 or under This case is under investigation. There are now 137 active cases in the province. Six people are in hospital, including two in intensive care. New Brunswick has had 1,882 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 1,708 recoveries so far. A total of 285,473 tests have been conducted, including 1,220 on Monday. Edmundston, Upper Madawaska move to orange Part of the Edmundston region, Zone 4, currently under lockdown, will move to the less restrictive orange COVID alert level at midnight, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Tuesday. Edmundston and the Upper Madawaska area have been under lockdown, the province’s tightest health restrictions, since April 10, but the situation has improved, said Higgs. “The virus is still present, and this change of alert level does not mean that we can lower our guards,” he said. “But this change will allow … a few liberties and allow many businesses in the region to take up their activities.” The province will continue to be vigilant at the borders with Quebec and Maine to help protect the region, Higgs said, but he asked residents to continue to do their part and follow Public Health measures. Grand Falls, Saint-Léonard, Drummond, New Denmark and Four Falls will remain at the orange level for at least another week and be reassessed at that time. The Saint-Quentin and Kedgwick regions remain at the yellow level, along with the rest of the province. Last week, the chief medical officer of health had recommended cabinet reassess the lockdown status on Monday. “We have seen no new incidents of community transmission within the lockdown area and hospital admissions in the area have declined significantly,” Dr. Jennifer Russell said Tuesday. In addition, the seven day rolling average of new cases in the lockdown area has fallen from more than 10 earlier this month to two as of Monday, she said. Fredericton region could face restrictions Zone 3, which includes Fredericton and the St. John River Valley, could face tighter COVID restrictions, possibly as soon as later this week, the chief medical officer of health said Tuesday. Public Health is closely monitoring the situation after the region saw New Brunswick’s first confirmed case of the COVID-19 variant first identified in India, said Jennifer Russell. “In the coming days, we will determine if new Public Health restrictions are required to slow the spread of the virus in Zone 3, and we will not hesitate to act to protect the health of New Brunswickers.” Officials are “very, very concerned” about the aggressive variant, which has two mutations, is highly contagious and causes more severe symptoms, said Russell. “So we will be acting and taking all the precautions and all the steps similar to what we had done in Zone 4 around trying to contain this as quickly as possible.” Possible exposure at Fredericton High School A “small group of individuals” at Fredericton High School may have been exposed to COVID-19, David McTimoney, superintendent of the Anglophone West School District, advised families Tuesday night. The school district is working with Public Health officials to identify the individuals, and Public Health will contact those individuals directly, according to the notice. Students who aren’t contacted by Public Health can continue to attend school in-person on the assigned day. The entire school community is asked to self-monitor for symptoms and if any develop, to self-isolate and book a test online or by calling Tele-Care 811. “We understand you may feel anxious over the coming days,” McTimoney said. “It is natural to want to know if your child may have been exposed to the virus. Public Health officials will inform those who are at risk of the next steps, but to protect the privacy of students and school personnel, other details (including names) will not be released.” Mandatory testing at middle school Public Health has confirmed a positive case of COVID-19 at George Street Middle School, forcing the Fredericton school to close for three days. In an email to parents, New Brunswick Public Health said all staff, students and their households have been asked to isolate until midnight Thursday to allow for contact tracing and testing. New Brunswick Public Health has confirmed a case of COVID-19 at George Street Middle School in Fredericton.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC) The school is working with Public Health officials to identify any students and school personnel who may have been in contact with the case. “Testing will be mandatory for all students and school personnel in order for the isolation to be lifted. For those who choose to not be tested, the isolation period will be extended,” said Kimberly Barker, regional medical officer of health. Priestman Street School in Fredericton is also closed Tuesday for operational reasons. “There has not been another case shared with us but the ripple effect of those in self-isolation has caused many staff absences for us,” said David McTimoney, superintendent of the Anglophone West School District, in an email. “With Priestman, we have eight vacant teacher positions that we haven’t been able to backfill. So, we say it is closed for operational reasons.” Eighteen Fredericton area school buses did not operate Tuesday because of the two school closures. Outbreak at UNB Public Health has declared an outbreak at the University of New Brunswick’s Fredericton campus after six cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, as of Monday, at Magee House, an apartment-style residence with 101 units for mature students, some of whom have children. Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, said more testing is key to figuring out the extent of any outbreak. She is urging people to get tested if they have any symptoms that could be caused by other illnesses or allergies. “With the variants of concern [and] variants of interest, the transition can happen really quickly. And the impacts to our health–care system can happen very quickly,” she said. Pop-up testing in Nackawic In response to a recent cluster of COVID-19 positive cases in Zone 3, the Fredericton and Upper River Valley area, the Horizon Health Network is establishing a temporary testing site in Nackawic this week. “This is part of Public Health efforts to ensure as many individuals in the area as possible are tested for COVID-19,” spokesperson Kris McDavid said in a statement. The outdoor, drive-thru clinic will be located in the parking lot of Nackawic Shopping Mall, 135 Otis Dr., and will operate by appointment only Wednesday through Friday, from noon until 5 p.m. Those with appointments should bring their Medicare card, wear a mask, enter from Landegger Drive and remain in their vehicles. People can book an appointment online or call Tele-Care 811. They should select “Hartland” as their preferred site until “Nackawic” becomes an option, Horizon said. When they are contacted for an appointment, they should indicate they wish to be tested at the temporary site in Nackawic. Vaccines for people 60+ People aged 60 or older can now book an appointment to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine through Vitalité or Horizon health networks or by contacting a participating pharmacy, said Premier Blaine Higgs. A caregiver or family member can make the appointment on their behalf. As of Tuesday, 34 per cent of New Brunswickers had received at least one dose of the vaccine — the highest percentage in the Maritimes, he said. Province loses 2nd isolation hotel, more than 50 people isolating The list of seven isolation hotels announced this week has shrunk to five as of Tuesday. On Monday the Woodstock Best Value Inn asked to be taken off the list. And on Tuesday, the Rodd Miramichi River did the same. General manager Jim Gertridge said the hotel asked to be taken off the list not because of the province or the Red Cross, but because of the regular guests. “They don’t understand why the hotels have stepped up to help,” he said. “We’ve had many cancellations in the last two days because people think we are a full hotel, we’re not even close to full … Everyone believes that everybody’s staying with [us] has COVID. No, no one has COVID, they’ve not been tested.” The Hyatt Place in Moncton is one of five hotels across the province that has a designated area for self-isolating travellers.(Kate Letterick/CBC) Premier Blaine Higgs said Tuesday 59 rooms in isolation hotels are occupied since the travel restrictions came into effect Saturday at 11:59 p.m. The remaining hotels on the isolation list are: Saint John: Hilton Saint John Moncton: Hyatt place Fredericton: Delta Bathurst: Best Western Campbellton: Quality Inn A hotel hasn’t been found in Edmundston because it was in lockdown, but now that the lockdown is ending one will be announced there “very soon,” Higgs said. Higgs said the province will be able to find enough facilities to house everyone who needs to isolate, and will monitor the capacity weekly. “We’ll adjust as required, because we’ve done it now for 16 months,” he said. In a statement, the Hilton Saint John says it’s “committed to being a part of the solution, particularly as it relates to safely facilitating travel and tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic.” “Our hotel adheres to all regulations and protocols set forth by national, provincial and local officials,” the statement said. Premier Blaine Higgs noted if a leisure traveler is caught not isolating at a designated hotel for at least the first seven days, as required, they can be fined a minimum of $4,063. (Government of New Brunswick) Higgs said he has heard some people say they would rather pay fines than isolate in a hotel at $200 a night. He’s “concerned.” “I know many of you feel that you can go home and isolate properly. Unfortunately, we’ve had numerous cases where that has not been the case. And right now we just cannot take the chance.” He reiterated that the minimum fine for violating the province’s mandatory order has increased to $580.50 from $292.50. The minimum fine applies to each offence under the Emergency Measures Act, and if the offence continues past one day, the fine per offence is $580.50 per day, up to a maximum of $24,484.50, which includes a surcharge and fees. “Traveling right now is not worth the health or financial risk,” Higgs said. “Make the right choice for you and for the people around you. And if possible, stay close to your home.” Hotel isolation a cause for concern The number of COVID-19 cases would decrease in Atlantic Canada if people stopped flying, says an Ontario epidemiologist. Colin Furness said he would support a decision to halt non-essential domestic flights. “When we talk about truly non-essential travel, you’re adding a lot of risk,” he said. “You’re not actually adding any social benefit.” The federal government imposed a ban on passenger flights from India and Pakistan to Canada for 30 days starting April 22. Airlines drastically cut domestic flights to New Brunswick last year. Furness said he’s also concerned about self-isolation hotels in the province because exposure to COVID-19 can still happen in the hallways of those hotels. “You have air flowing from the rooms into the hallway,” he said. “Sort of like in an apartment building when you can smell other people’s cooking.” Colin Furness, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says people need to avoid wearing smaller masks that don’t fit tightly and don’t give full coverage of their nose and mouth to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.(CBC) Furness also said if there were less travel, fewer people would be forced to quarantine in hotels, which in turn would decrease the risk of contracting the virus. “It circles back to not ‘How do we manage lots of people travelling?’ but ‘How can we get fewer people travelling?,'” he said. “That’s ultimately what would make things safer.” Furness said he’s also concerned about masks getting smaller. “I think it’s because they’re better looking when they’re shaped,” he said. But people need to wear masks big enough to ensure there isn’t “gaping around the sides,” he said. Previous possible public exposures Public Health has identified the sites, dates and times of possible public exposure in four regions. People who were at these sites are eligible to be tested for COVID-19, even if they are not experiencing symptoms. Fredericton region: April 24 between 10 a.m. and noon – YMCA (570 York St., Fredericton) April 23 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – Walmart Supercentre (1399 Regent St, Fredericton) April 23 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – Princess Auto (21 Trinity Ave., Fredericton) April 23 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – Home Depot (Corbett Centre, Fredericton) April 23 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – Swiss Chalet (961 Prospect Ave., Fredericton) April 22 between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. – Canadian Tire (1110 Smythe Ave., Fredericton) April 22 between 10 a.m. and noon. – Digital World (524 Smythe Ave., Fredericton) April 22 between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. – Tim Horton’s (1713 Woodstock Rd., Fredericton) April 22 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. – Costco (25 Wayne Squibb Blvd., Fredericton) April 19 to April 22 – Canada Post (135 Otis Dr., Nackawic) April 21 between noon and 4 p.m. – Shoppers Drug Mart (1040 Prospect St., Fredericton) Moncton region: April 12 between 5:45 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. – emergency department – Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre (330 Université Ave., Moncton) April 12 between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. – X-ray department – Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre (330 Université Ave., Moncton) April 14 between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. – Urban Planet, Walmart and H&M – CF Champlain (477 Paul St., Dieppe) Saint John region: Holy Spirit Parish (Saint Matthews worship site), 45 Dollard Dr., Saint John, on Sunday, April 18, between 11 a.m. and noon. The church has closed for two weeks as a preventive measure, and St. Rose of Lima Church (part of Holy Spirit Parish) will also be closed for the next two weeks, until May 8-9. Service New Brunswick, 15 King Square North, on April 15 between 3 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Rocky’s Sports Bar, 7 Market Square, on April 15 between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Edmundston region: E.& P. Sénéchal Center, Vitalité Health Network vaccination clinic, 60 Ouellette St., Grand Falls, on Monday, April 19, between 1:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. .m.; and on April 12, between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Public Health also identified travellers who may have been infected while on the following flights: April 20 – Air Canada Flight 318 – from Calgary to Montreal, departed at 11:45 a.m. April 20 – Air Canada Flight 8906 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 7:01 p.m. April 15 – Air Canada Flight 8919 – from Toronto to Moncton, departed at 8:56 p.m. April 15 – Air Canada Flight 8906 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 7:08 p.m. April 15 – Air Canada Flight 318 – from Calgary to Montreal departed at 11:53 a.m. April 14 – Air Canada Flight 8970 – from Ottawa to Montreal, departed at 6:28 a.m. April 14 – Air Canada Flight 8898 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 8:14 a.m. What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: Fever above 38 C. New cough or worsening chronic cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. Difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should: Stay at home. Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. Describe symptoms and travel history. Follow instructions.