On Tuesday, two new cases of the novel coronavirus were announced in New Brunswick, bringing the total number of cases to 105.
At a press briefing, Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, said the two new cases are of individuals in their teens and 70s. One resides in the Fredericton region, while the latter is in the Miramichi region.
Of the 105 cases, 59 are travel-related, 33 are close contacts of confirmed cases, six cases are from community transmission and seven cases remain under investigation.
Ten patients were hospitalized, but three have since been discharged. Seven patients remain in hospital, with four in an intensive care unit. To date, 39 people have recovered.
“COVID-19 can strike anyone, of any age, in any community in our province,” said Russell.
“That is why it remains vital that every New Brunswicker stay at home as much as possible. When people go out, they should keep their interactions brief and maintain six feet of physical distance between themselves and others.”
Russell announced two significant changes, which are to expand the scope of testing and to suggest that people wear a non-medical face covering.
“We continue to be focused on testing the right people at the right time,” said Russell.
“Travel outside New Brunswick will no longer be the key determinant in referring people for testing. However, an assessment is still required through 811 or an individual’s primary health-care provider.”
Russell also noted that testing will continue to focus upon the protection of health-care workers, patients in hospitals and nursing homes, as well as first responders.
Priority will also be given to testing those who may be more vulnerable to the disease, including people over 60 and people with hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes or cancer.
When it comes to non-medical face coverings, Russell said it’s not a must, but can be useful if physical distancing is difficult to do in some situations — while shopping, for example.
Russell also said people shouldn’t be wearing medical masks as these are meant for health-care workers.
Higgs announced at Tuesday’s press briefing that small, medium and large employers in New Brunswick whose businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 can now apply to the provincial government for loans for working capital.
“We understand that this pandemic is impacting New Brunswick business,” said Higgs. “We acted swiftly to address the needs of the business community and support these employers during this challenging time.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, the province said the new loans are to support New Brunswick-based companies. A total of $50 million has been allocated for two distinct loan programs for working capital.
Higgs also reminded New Brunswickers that the deadline for applications for income benefit is approaching.
The government announced on March 24 that workers or self-employed people in New Brunswick who have lost their job due to the COVID-19 situation are now eligible to receive a one-time income benefit of $900.
According to the province, the applications for the one-time income benefit will end at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 9.
The one-time $900 benefit was created to help to bridge the time between when people lose their employment or close their business and when they receive their federal benefit.
“This benefit has provided some much-needed relief,” said Higgs. “Helping workers and self-employed people with their immediate needs will keep us on a trajectory that will bring prosperity back to New Brunswick.”
Higgs said more than 60,000 applicants have registered for the benefit.
He also said that to date the provincial government has provided more than $20 million in benefit payments.
In the meantime, the premier said that as Easter Sunday is fast approaching, people and churches must not hold traditional services.
Higgs also said that no public gatherings will be allowed.
“We won’t be able to enjoy dinner with extended family,” he said, stressing that people must protect their loved ones and the community during this crisis.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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