A person in their 20s has died of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, becoming the youngest victim of the pandemic in the province.
The person, who was the 36th in New Brunswick to die of the disease, lived in the Moncton area.
During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said this latest death is a stark reminder that COVID-19 “can and will strike the young as well as the old.”
“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,” she said.
Russell believes the person was infected with the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the U.K., and said the case was travel-related. She wouldn’t give any more details about the person’s death, including if they had underlying health conditions.
Russell noted there are a number of variant cases in New Brunswick and said every new case should be treated like it is a variant. The variant first detected in South Africa has been found in Zones 2 and 4, and the variant first detected in the U.K. has been found in Zones 1 and 4.
The province also recently confirmed its first case of the variant first detected in India. Dr. Russell has previously said she was very worried about variants, specifically this variant, known as B.1.617.
There are also 24 new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick. Twenty-one of those are in Zone 4, the Edmundston and Grand Falls region, and those are related to an outbreak at the Pavillon Beau-Lieu, a special care home in Grand Falls. The new cases involve 14 residents and seven staff members.
However, Russell said she was encouraged to see no new incidents of community transmission in the lockdown area, and hospital admissions in the area have declined “significantly.”
Because of this, the Edmundston and Upper Madawaska region will leave the lockdown phase and enter the orange alert level, effective midnight tonight.
Premier Blaine Higgs said the region was hit hard over the last few months and he thanked the public for their efforts to manage the most recent outbreak.
The virus is still present, though, so this change doesn’t mean people should lower their guards, he said.
“I am hopeful that Zone 4 will continue to move in the right direction in the days and weeks ahead and that we’ll be able to further loosen restrictions there very soon,” he said “We must continue, however, to follow all public health rules.”
2 cases under investigation
Two of Tuesday’s new cases are in Zone 1 and one new case is in Zone 3. One of the Zone 1 cases is a temporary foreign worker, while the other two new cases are under investigation.
Russell said Public Health is also carefully monitoring Zone 3, where the variant first detected in India was found.
Also in Zone 3, the Fredericton region, Public Health recently reported a case of COVID-19 at George Street Middle School. Russell said the school community has been notified and all staff, students and families were told to self-isolate until midnight on April 29 while Public Health conducts testing and contact tracing.
“I know there is a lot of anxiety among families that are isolating. I’m a parent, my children actually interact with kids who go to George Street Middle School, or their siblings … I do understand this is a very, very stressful time,” said Russell.
“So please do support one another and please get the support that you need.”
Public Health also recently declared an outbreak at Magee House, an apartment-style residence at UNB in Fredericton.
As of Monday, six cases are related to the outbreak. Students, staff and families have been tested, and testing is ongoing at Elizabeth Parr-Johnston residence due to an exposure to a case.
Vaccines open to people age 60+
Starting today, people age 60 and older are now eligible to schedule an appointment to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
People in this age group, a caregiver or a family member calling on their behalf can book an appointment through participating pharmacies or through the Vitalité or Horizon health networks. More information can be found on the provincial website.
Thirty-four per cent of New Brunswickers have now received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which Dr. Russell said is “extremely encouraging.”
“By getting more people vaccinated, we are reducing the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, which is what we’ve been trying to achieve this entire duration of the pandemic to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed,” she said.
“We are protecting and preserving our health care system by doing all of the things that we are doing right now.”
– With files from Rebecca Lau and Silas Brown