New Brunswick is reporting 19 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as the chief medical officer of health says new variants are causing concern and the premier admonishes those flouting public safety protocols.
During a news conference, Dr, Jennifer Russell said while progress seems to be made in Zone 4 (Edmundston region), two outbreaks have been declared at special care homes in the province, and she is concerned about the presence of variants of concern.
“These are very, very different than the strains before the variants arrived,” she said.
She also repeatedly stressed she is worried that the variant first discovered in India has now been reported in Canada.
Russell called on New Brunswickers to stand their ground for a little while longer because the province is about 10 weeks away from providing the first dose of vaccine to anyone who wants one.
“We just need to get through the next 10 weeks,” she said.
Meanwhile, Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters he was disappointed and alarmed to hear reports of people not following public safety rules.
‘These actions are dangerous and puts others at risk,” he said.
He reminded residents that the rules for self-isolation means avoiding contact with family members and anyone else. Those who are required to self-isolate due to travel or at the direction of Public Health should not be in the same room as anyone else, and should not share bathrooms or dishes.
Higgs added he’s concerned that not enough long-term care staff have opted to get vaccinated, despite the fact all have been offered the vaccine. It’s estimated only 59 per cent of long-term care staff have been vaccinated, while 94 per cent of residents have received at least one shot.
He said the province is contacting each facility, and in some cases speaking to each individual worker, to encourage them to get vaccinated.
“We need them to protect themselves because they are providing a service to a vulnerable population and also the risk of infecting others in the community, which is what we’re watching so closely right now with the variant,” he said.
Higgs thanked medical workers for their efforts and said about 20 New Brunswickers have replied to Ontario’s request for medical help and offered to go there, as Ontario struggles to deal with their COVID-19 situation.
The province is also continuing their push to have truck drivers, who regularly cross the border, to get vaccinated. Drivers can now call 1-833-724-0088, which is a dedicated phone line for them, to book appointments.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Nova Scotia is seeing a surge in cases, and is reporting 38 new cases.
The border between the two provinces has been tightened beginning today, as Nova Scotia restricts non-essential travel from outside PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Higgs told reporters he’s optimistic about their vaccination efforts and that the Atlantic Bubble is still “very much a reality” but that the premiers would be looking at the “latter part of May” at this point.
Lockdown, orange and yellow levels
A section of Zone 4, including Edmundston and the upper Madawaska region, remains in lockdown as per the province’s mandatory order.
The communities of Saint-Léonard, Grand Falls, Drummond, New Denmark and Four Falls are now in the Orange level.
All other zones and communities in the province, including the Saint-Quentin and Kedgwick regions in Zone 4, remain in the Yellow level.
There are currently 146 active cases in the province, and 34 deaths. Fifteen people are hospitalized, including five in intensive care units.