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New Brunswick health officials point to ‘superspreaders’ as the source of new cases in Saint John

Click to play video 'Saint John transitions back to orange phase in COVID-19 recovery' Saint John transitions back to orange phase in COVID-19 recovery
WATCH: N.B. Public Health announced Friday that Saint John will transition back to the orange phase of COVID-19 recovery as the province sees a rise in cases. – Nov 20, 2020

New Brunswick’s top doctor pointed to superspreaders as the reason behind the climbing coronavirus case numbers in Saint John.

“The contact tracing has revealed that some of this spread is happening in areas, number one, where there is a superspreader event and there are some superspreaders involved in some of the cases,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick chief medical officer of health, at a press conference on Friday.

Read more: How New Brunswick’s four-step plan to recover from COVID-19 works

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She didn’t provide more details on the event that she has deemed a superspreader event but said that cases have doubled in Saint John over the past two days.

Seven new coronavirus cases were reported in Saint John on Friday and the province moved the Saint John area to the orange phase of its coronavirus recovery plan.

New Brunswick doesn’t define superspreader but health officials say it is when one or more persons causes many others to get sick.

Read more: What is a ‘superspreader event’ and are gyms still safe?

“A superspreader event will tend to happen when people are sharing airspace indoors for prolonged periods of time with poor ventilation … that describes restaurants, bars and gyms to a large degree,” infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness told The Morning Show in October.

New Brunswick has urged residents across the province but especially in the Saint John and Moncton areas — both of which are in the orange phase of recovery — that they need to reduce the number of close contacts.

Russell said on Friday that the province was asking people to limit contacts to their own family bubbles.

At this time there are approximately 300 people in the Saint John area self-isolating, many of whom are health-care workers. She wouldn’t provide a firm number on how many were health-care workers.

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Click to play video 'Coronavirus: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Tucker Hall residential facility in New Brunswick' Coronavirus: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Tucker Hall residential facility in New Brunswick
Coronavirus: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Tucker Hall residential facility in New Brunswick – Nov 20, 2020

Russell also declared an outbreak at Shannex Tucker Hall, a 90-bed nursing facility, after a single case was detected Thursday.

In a post on their website, Shannex confirmed that it was an employee who tested positive. However, they did not say whether the employee is a health-care worker.

“We have no other active cases of COVID-19 at this time,” the notice reads.

The 400 residents and staff at Tucker Hall and other nearby Shannex facilities were expected to be tested Friday while contact tracing is underway.

Russell said she expects more cases to appear in Saint John.

“With the contact tracing that we’ve done and the type of contacts that we have found and those people who are self-isolating as a result, we expect many of them to become positive,” Russell said.

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–With files from Global News’ Nicole Brumley