New Brunswick is seeing a spike in COVID-19 activity, with a “significant number” of cases among schoolchildren, according to the province’s top doctor.
Dr. Jennifer Russell joined Premier Blaine Higgs and Dominic Cardy, education minister, at a news briefing on Monday.
The province recorded 122 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, with positive cases identified at 11 schools and three child care centres in the Moncton, Fredericton and Campbellton regions. Russell said cases being recorded now were contracted prior to the start of school a week ago, and there has been no evidence of transmission between students.
Russell said while the Alpha variant has been “prominent” in the Moncton area, the rest of the province is seeing the Delta variant.
There are now 229 active cases “in every corner of the province,” said Russell.
She added the majority of those infected have not been vaccinated. In some instances, it’s children who are under 12 and aren’t eligible yet for a shot. In other cases, it’s people who chose not to.
“You’re also putting at risk the health of our children and their ability to stay in school … as well as other vulnerable New Brunswickers,” she said.
Cardy echoed that call to get vaccinated.
“At some point we have to call this pandemic what it is: a pandemic of the unvaccinated, spread by the unvaccinated to innocent others — others who have done their part,” he said.
In response to the rising cases, Cardy announced that effective Tuesday, students of all ages in all schools must wear masks in school and on school buses.
Masks may be removed for eating, drinking or physical education classes.
The masking rule is in effect for two weeks and will be reassessed at that point.
Meanwhile, Higgs said he is meeting with cabinet and Public Health later Monday to discuss further measures, which could include proof of vaccination for non-essential services. He said he would likely have more information on Wednesday.
A letter addressed to parents at schools in Campbellton and Dalhousie sent out on Sunday outlined additional public health directives for the next two weeks because of “increased COVID-19 activity in your community that is impacting local schools.”
Students are being asked to wear masks all day at school — both in common areas and in classrooms. Teachers who are fully vaccinated may remove them inside the classroom for teaching purposes.
There are now 11 people hospitalized in New Brunswick, with nine of them in ICU.
“That’s more than we have seen in many months,” said Russell at Monday’s briefing.
She said the province’s move to the Green Phase of its reopening was the result of hard work, but that they are now up against another hurdle.
“We really cherish the freedoms it has brought us and now we face this new challenge,” she said.
Other Maritime provinces reporting spikes
Nova Scotia reported 73 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday over the weekend, bringing that province’s total to 125.
The province said that there are signs of community spread in the Central Zone, which includes Halifax Regional Municipality, among those aged 20 to 40 “who are unvaccinated and participating in social activities.”
Meanwhile on Sunday, P.E.I. announced it is temporarily cancelling in-person classes at Charlottetown area schools, following that province’s first-ever outbreak of COVID-19 in a school setting.
P.E.I.’s chief health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, said 10 of the last 11 COVID-19 cases have been among children — the majority of whom are too young to be eligible for vaccination.
“We know that COVID-19 including the Delta variant seeks out groups of people who are not vaccinated and that is what we are experiencing,” she said.
Morrison said she fully expected to have more cases in the coming days in P.E.I.