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N.B. top doctor monitoring P.E.I. removal of mask mandate

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick COVID-19 vaccine progress positive but top doc remains cautious ' New Brunswick COVID-19 vaccine progress positive but top doc remains cautious 
WATCH: New Brunswick’s top doctor is please that more than half of eligible New Brunswickers are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But there are concerns just weeks before final restrictions are due to be lifted. Tim Roszell explains. – Jul 12, 2021

New Brunswick’s top doctor is pleased more than half of eligible residents are considered fully-vaccinated against COVID-19.

But Dr. Jennifer Russell said there are concerns just weeks before the province’s remaining pandemic-related restrictions are due to be lifted.

Some of those concerns come from another Atlantic province.

Prince Edward Island announced Friday it would immediately lift its mandatory mask mandate for indoor public places, although masks are recommended for people who are not vaccinated fully and people who work in the service industry.

READ MORE: P.E.I. first Atlantic province to drop mandatory masking in public spaces

“We certainly are watching other jurisdictions in Canada, including P.E.I, but also elsewhere in the world where some countries are ahead of us in terms of what they’ve seen with case numbers with the Delta variant, and now, another new variant, the Lambda variant,” Russell said. “So we’ll continue to do our surveillance as we have done throughout the pandemic.

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“The hospitalization rates will be what we’ll be keeping the closest eye one because, again, that’s where the capacity issue are always tricky and we’ve been trying to protect our health care system from since the beginning of the pandemic, which we have successfully done.”

New Brunswick reached what Russell called “a milestone” on the weekend when the number of eligible residents to receive two vaccinations surpassed 50 per cent. Once it reaches 75 per cent, all remaining COVID-19 restrictions are expected to be removed.

Russell said the province remains on track to reach that goal by August 2.

“I was in St. Andrews last week and it was just incredible, the energy,” Russell said. “I mean, people were lined up. They were not complaining. They were relaxed and it seemed to be a feeling of hopefulness in the crowd and certainly among the staff as well.”

Recently-launched mobile clinics have also been well received, she said, noting 20 per cent of all the shots administered through those clinics last week were first doses.

READ MORE:  N.B making ‘tremendous progress’ with COVID-19 vaccinations: Russell

Susanne Gulliver, the senior epidemiologist with Dr. Wayne Gulliver and New Lab Clinical Research, Inc., believes its too soon for the removal of mask mandates with Delta and Lambda circulating and young children not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

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“We want no more variants,” Gulliver said. “We want to stop this in its tracks and be done with it. But if we don’t and we stop with the social distancing and we stop with the social distancing and masking and other public health measures too soon, before the 2-to-11 (year-olds) are vaccinated then we’re going to see more variants and we might end up in a scary situation where the vaccines aren’t as effective.”

Gulliver said she’s seeing complacency among people who are fully-vaccinated even though they can still contract and transmit the virus.

Russell said it’s important for anyone experiencing any kind of symptoms to be tested, regardless of their level of vaccination.

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