New Brunswick says the health zones currently in the orange phase of its COVID-19 response plan will remain there for several more weeks although they will modify the restrictions to allow for larger bubbles.
At a briefing on Friday, Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, said officials will modify the rules in the orange phase to allow for a single household bubble with an additional 10 other contacts.
However, the 10 individuals must remain consistent and should not shift from one week to the next.
“This change allows for greater freedom in the orange level but consistent contacts will make contact tracing easier if someone becomes infected,” Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said at the briefing.
The decision will go into effect at midnight.
Shephard stressed that although the decision was hard, the province has decided to not move any region, even those that have relatively few cases, back into the yellow phase.
“Orange will be the status quo for at least the next little while,” said Shephard.
The Moncton area remains in the red level while the Edmundston zone remains in lockdown.
Shephard said the goal now is to get those areas back down to the orange level.
The announcement came as New Brunswick reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. But with 15 new recoveries, along with the death on Thursday, the province still has 313 active cases.
Of the 16 new cases reported on Friday:
- Four are located in the Moncton region: an individual 19 years old or younger, an individual between the ages of 20 and 29 and two people between the ages of 40 and 49.
- Two are located in the Fredericton zone: an individual between the ages of 20 and 29 and an individual between the ages of 50 and 59.
- Nine cases in the Edmundston area: an individual between the ages of 30 and 39, two people between the ages of 40 and 49, two people between the ages of 70 and 79, an individual between the ages of 80 and 89 and an individual 90 years old or older.
All the cases are self-isolating and are under investigation.
Russell exhorted New Brunswickers to follow the rules and download the federal government’s COVID Alert app.
She also warned about the potential arrival of COVID-19 variants in New Brunswick. Although none have arrived in the province so far, there have been at least two variants detected in Nova Scotia and multiple variants have swept through other provinces in Canada.
“We need your support and we need your co-operation in the face of the threat of these new strains,” said Russell.
Officials confirmed there have now been 17 deaths in New Brunswick as a result of COVID-19.
The latest occurred on Thursday and is an individual in their 80s who died at Manoir Belle Vue in Edmundston.
Another death at Parkland Saint John is being investigated as a possible COVID-19-related death.
Russell said now is not the time to move outside of a strict group or to plan trips for the upcoming spring break.
“Do not make plans that would take you out of your zone,” said Russell.
The province did not provide any more information about the decision not to classify the death of Joan Davis — a resident at Tucker Hall at Parkland Saint John — as COVID-19-related, despite Davis having tested positive for COVID-19 before her death on Jan. 21.
That decision was quietly reversed by the provincial health department, according to Davis’s family.
But that only came after the province faced tough questions on the subject at its briefing on Monday.
At that time, Russell said the decision whether to log the death as COVID-19-related was a “team effort” made by the attending physicians and public health.
On Friday, Russell provided the same answer.
A follow-up request with New Brunswick health indicated the 17 deaths now include Davis’s death and that before the death was reclassified it was recorded as a recovered case.
As of Friday, New Brunswick has now reported more cases in the first month of 2021 than it did all of last year.
Between Jan. 1, 2021, and Jan. 29, 2021, New Brunswick reported 619 cases of COVID-19 in the month of January. In all of 2020, the province reported 599 cases of the virus.
The skyrocketing cases are the result of multiple outbreaks in communities across the province.
Officials say there are four people in the hospital, two of which are in intensive care.
As of Friday, New Brunswick has confirmed 1,218 cases of COVID-19, of which 887 are considered to be recovered.
The province completed 2,079 tests on Thursday, moving the total number of tests completed since the pandemic began to 196,035.View link »