N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 10 new cases, outbreaks in Fredericton linked
New Brunswick has 10 new cases of COVID-19, and Public Health has confirmed a connection between the outbreaks in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, the chief medical officer of health announced Thursday. Two of the new cases are in the Fredericton region, where Public Health confirmed Monday the province’s first case of the variant first recorded in India. There are now 10 positive cases linked to the outbreak declared Monday at the University of New Brunswick’s Magee House residence, which involves the variant, Dr. Jennifer Russell said during the live COVID briefing. She confirmed a connection between the UNB outbreak and the positive case confirmed Monday at George Street Middle School in which 900 students, staff and their families are isolating. “This outbreak really does illustrate what it is that we’re up against,” Russell said. “These variants are much, much, much more contagious than any of the strains that we saw before.” The coronavirus can also spread very quickly through casual contact and be in a person’s system for several days without symptoms, she said. “So that’s why sometimes if we test too early, we won’t find it.” Magee House is a UNB residence with 101 apartment-style units for mature students, some of whom may have children.(Ed Hunter/CBC) Health officials have ramped up testing in Zone 3 at the two testing locations in Fredericton and with a pop-up clinic at the Nackawic Shopping Mall parking lot. About 635 tests were conducted on Thursday alone, Russell said. The pop-up clinic is offering testing to anyone who was at the Canada Post in Nackawic, at 135 Otis Dr., during a possible public exposure to COVID-19 between April 19 and 22, even if they don’t have symptoms. The outdoor, drive-thru clinic continues by appointment Friday from noon until 5 p.m. AT and Saturday, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. People who book a test online should select “Hartland” as their preferred site and when they’re contacted to make an appointment, they should indicate they wish to be tested at the temporary site in Nackawic. People can also request a test by phoning Tele-Care 811. Residents, family members and staff of UNB’s Magee House were retested on Wednesday. The apartment-style residence has 101 units for mature students, some of whom may have school-age children. I understand that this is creating a lot of hardships for many families in the Fredericton area, but these measures are necessary to slow the spread. – Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health So far, it appears there hasn’t been any apartment-to-apartment transmission since the residence was locked down, said Russell, but the next round of results will be “very, very telling.” The results will also help officials “nail down” whether there has been any aerosolized, or airborne, spread through the ventilation system, she said. Earlier this week, Russell told reporters Public Health had recommended UNB make some “minor changes” to the ventilation system of Magee House, which opened in 1970, “to make sure that there is no problems in terms of contamination of the airflow.” All tests at UNB’s Elizabeth Parr-Johnston residence have come back negative so far. This building, which has two or three single bedrooms per suite, each with a shared washroom, kitchen and living area, can house up to 169 people, according to the university’s website. Residents of both buildings remain in isolation, Russell said. The lockdown at the University of New Brunswick campus has been extended until 11:59 p.m. Sunday. St. Thomas University and New Brunswick Community College campuses are also under lockdown until next week because of their proximity to UNB and the potential for exposure. Public Health has identified 75 people in the George Street Middle School community as being close contacts of the positive case. So far, they have all tested negative.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC) At George Street Middle School, Public Health has conducted rapid tests on the 75 people identified as close contacts of the positive case, said Russell. While all of them have tested negative so far, they have been directed to self-isolate for 14 days from their contact point and will be retested Saturday, which will be the 10th day of isolation, she said. The school will remain closed for the rest of this week and mandatory retesting of some students and staff will take place on the weekend. Public Health is treating the case identified at the school Monday as the variant first reported in India, according to an email sent to parents and staff Wednesday. If all testing is negative, all other students and staff will be permitted to return to school on Monday, and their family members will no longer be required to self-isolate. “I understand that this is creating a lot of hardships for many families in the Fredericton area, but these measures are necessary to slow the spread of the outbreak,” Russell said. Education Minister Dominic Cardy said students who haven’t been contacted directly by Public Health directly should continue attending school.(Government of New Brunswick ) Education Minister Dominic Cardy said district staff are working on contingency plans “for every scenario” at George Street Middle School. “But at this point, families should prepare for a return to learning, whether distance or in-person, as early as the coming Monday,” he said. Meanwhile, “a small group” of people from Fredericton High School may have been exposed to COVID-19 “from a source outside of that school,” Cardy reiterated Thursday at the briefing. Those individuals are self-isolating and being tested, Cardy said. “At this point, FHS remains open with no cause for concern.” “No news continues to be the best sort of news. If you don’t hear from Public Health, if you don’t hear from the school, you can continue as normal.” Some extra vaccines will be diverted to the Fredericton region to help get the outbreak under control, said Russell. She could not immediately say how many. 118 active cases There are now 118 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. Four people are in hospital, including two in intensive care. The 10 new cases of COVID-19 announced Thursday put the provincial total of active cases at 118.(CBC) The breakdown of the new cases are as follows: Moncton region, Zone 1: two cases: A person 19 or under. A person 50-59. One case is a contact of a previously confirmed case and the other is under investigation. Saint John region, Zone 2: two cases: A person 19 or under. A person 60-69. Both cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases. Fredericton region, Zone 3: two cases: A person 19 or under. A person 40-49. Both cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases. Edmundston region, Zone 4: three cases: Two people 30-39. A person 50-59. All three cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases. Bathurst region, Zone 6: one case This case is travel-related. New Brunswick has had 1,900 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 1,745 recoveries and 36 COVID-related deaths. A total of 288,141 tests have been conducted, including 1,443 on Wednesday. Proms possible Cardy is hopeful New Brunswick will be able to have limited grad ceremonies and proms this year. “But we can only have that if all of us do our part to wrap our arms around that graduating class of 2021,” he said during Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing. Cardy urged everyone to continue to follow Public Health measures, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask and handwashing, to protect themselves and others. He noted the situation can change quickly, pointing to the outbreak in neighbouring Nova Scotia over the past week, and asked everyone to remain vigilant. Vaccine update New Brunswick has run out of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines and isn’t expecting to receive a new shipment until late May, said the chief medical officer of health. While the province waits for its stock to be replenished, it will review recently revised guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) about using the vaccine on people over the age of 30, said Russell. Right now, the province’s protocol is to use AstraZeneca only on people 55 and older, which is based on NACI’s previous recommendations. New Brunswick is expected to receive thousands of Johnson & Johnson vaccines by Friday. Asked whether this one-dose vaccine will be allocated to a specific group for whom a second-dose delay poses greater risk, Russell said a vaccine task force is still considering which populations would be better served by this vaccine. Nearly 35 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.(Shutterstock / New Africa) Russell said she’s “greatly encouraged” to see how many New Brunswickers are getting vaccinated. More than 231,00, or nearly 35 per cent of all New Brunswick adults, have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. “Getting vaccinated will help slow the spread of the virus and has been demonstrated to lessen the incidence of severe illness, hospitalization and death for those who do contract the virus,” she said. Although New Brunswick is taking longer than other provinces to get to younger age groups, Russell noted its population is older. The province is still on target to have first doses to everybody who’s eligible by the end of June, and second doses by the beginning of September, she told reporters during Thursday’s COVID briefing. “We’re on that trajectory for sure,” she said. “We definitely are getting a huge supply, a steady supply in the next month to three months.” Lowest testing per capita New Brunswick has the lowest per capita testing rate for COVID-19 across Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. But the chief medical officer of health contends comparing provinces based on per capita metrics doesn’t give a “good sense of of what’s happening because the testing has to also be based on what’s happening in the epidemiological vein et cetera — are you testing the right people at the right time for the right reason with the right test?” New Brunswick focuses on positivity rates “first and foremost,” said Russell. “Are we catching all the cases that we need to catch?” The provincial lab at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton sticks to diagnostic testing, which is PCR based. That is the gold standard for people who are symptomatic, she said. The lab has the capacity to test about 3,000 samples per day, Russell said. City closes Fredericton skate park The City of Fredericton has closed its downtown skate park for five days because people haven’t been following COVID-19 restrictions. The all-wheel sports plaza opened in December and has been drawing large crowds to the St. Anne’s Point Drive area. David Seabrook, director of recreation, tourism and community engagement for the city, said many park users are not physically distancing or wearing masks when they’re not skating. “We need people to adhere to the province’s COVID-19 regulations so we decided to close it for a five-day period, effectively to send a message and reset the clock and get everyone to recognize these regulations are not options,” he said. Fredericton’s new skate park closed Wednesday and will reopen Monday because too many people using the facility weren’t physically distancing or wearing face masks.(Gary Moore/CBC) The park closed on Wednesday and will reopen again Monday. The city’s parks and trees department has installed a temporary fence around the park. Seabrook said the city has reminded park users about physical distancing and the use of masks over social media. Staff were also going on site to distribute masks and remind people of the COVID-19 protocols. Seabrook said city officials also spoke directly with people in the skateboard community. “While that all had some limited impact, we were still seeing quite a bit of … particularly young people gathering in groups without masks and without social distancing,” he said. “We felt it was time to bring the situation under control.” As the weather gets warmer, Seabrook expects crowds to get even larger. He said an experienced skateboard supervisor will be on site to enforce COVID-19 regulations and showing people how to use the park. That person will be there on evenings and weekends to restrict access if more than 50 people are showing up at the skate park. Seabrook said he’s hopeful the recent closure will send a message to skate park users early on in the season. Outbreak over at special care home in Edmundston Public Health has declared the COVID-19 outbreak officially over at Foyer St-Jacques, a special care home in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, Russell said Thursday. The outbreak was declared on April 1, following a confirmed case of COVID-19 at the home. Residents and staff were retested several times to confirm the end of the outbreak. New exposure notifications Public Health has identified the sites, dates and times of new possible public exposures. People who were at these sites are eligible to be tested for COVID-19, even if they are not experiencing symptoms. Fredericton: HomeSense, 18 Trinity Dr., on April 22, between 1 and 6 p.m. and April 23, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Grand Falls: Hill Top Motel & Restaurant, 131 Madawaska Rd. between April 22 and April 26. Atlantic Superstore, 240 Madawaska Rd. on April 24, between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. and on April 26 between 10:30 and 11 a.m. Toner Home Hardware, 445 Broadway Blvd. on April 25, between 3:30 and 4 p.m. and on April 26, between 10 and 10:30 a.m. Merritt Press, 208 Main St. on April 26, between 9:45 and 10 a.m. Blue’s Printing Shop, 182 Portage St. on April 26, between 2:30 and 2:45 p.m. St-Onge Industrial Supplies, Belanger St. on April 26, between noon and 12:15 p.m. Canadian Tire, 383 Madawaska Rd. on April 26, between 11 and 11:30 a.m. Foodland Grand Falls, 535 Everard H. Daigle on April 26, between 10:30 and 11 a.m. Walmart, 494 Madawaska Rd. on April 26, between 3 and 7:15 p.m. and on April 27, between 8:30 and 11 a.m. Grand Falls General Hospital on April 27, between 12:30 and 1 p.m. Irving Big Stop, 121 Route 255, on April 28, between 5 and 5:15 a.m. Edmundston: Grey Rock Hotel, 110 Chief Joanna Blvd. between April 14 and April 15. Other possible public exposures Public Health has identified the sites, dates and times of possible public exposure in four regions. People who were at these sites are eligible to be tested for COVID-19, even if they are not experiencing symptoms. Fredericton region: April 24 between 10 a.m. and noon – YMCA (570 York St., Fredericton) April 23 between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. – Save Easy Independent Grocer (135 Otis Dr., Nackawic) April 23 – Canada Post (135 Otis Dr., Nackawic) April 22 and April 23 – Jolly Farmer (56 Crabbe Rd., Northampton) April 23 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – Walmart Supercentre (1399 Regent St, Fredericton) April 23 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – Princess Auto (21 Trinity Ave., Fredericton) April 23 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – Home Depot (Corbett Centre, Fredericton) April 23 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – Swiss Chalet (961 Prospect Ave., Fredericton) April 22 between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. – Canadian Tire (1110 Smythe Ave., Fredericton) April 22 between 10 a.m. and noon. – Digital World (524 Smythe Ave., Fredericton) April 22 between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. – Tim Horton’s (1713 Woodstock Rd., Fredericton) April 22 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. – Costco (25 Wayne Squibb Blvd., Fredericton) April 19 to April 22 – Canada Post (135 Otis Dr., Nackawic) April 21 between noon and 4 p.m. – Shoppers Drug Mart (1040 Prospect St., Fredericton) Moncton region: April 12 between 5:45 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. – emergency department – Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre (330 Université Ave., Moncton) April 12 between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. – X-ray department – Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre (330 Université Ave., Moncton) April 14 between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. – Urban Planet, Walmart and H&M – CF Champlain (477 Paul St., Dieppe) Saint John region: Holy Spirit Parish (Saint Matthews worship site), 45 Dollard Dr., Saint John, on Sunday, April 18, between 11 a.m. and noon. The church has closed for two weeks as a preventive measure, and St. Rose of Lima Church (part of Holy Spirit Parish) will also be closed for the next two weeks, until May 8-9. Service New Brunswick, 15 King Square North, on April 15 between 3 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Rocky’s Sports Bar, 7 Market Square, on April 15 between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Edmundston region: E.& P. Sénéchal Center, Vitalité Health Network vaccination clinic, 60 Ouellette St., Grand Falls, on Monday, April 19, between 1:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. .m.; and on April 12, between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Public Health also identified travellers who may have been infected while on the following flights: April 20 – Air Canada Flight 318 – from Calgary to Montreal, departed at 11:45 a.m. April 20 – Air Canada Flight 8906 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 7:01 p.m. April 15 – Air Canada Flight 8919 – from Toronto to Moncton, departed at 8:56 p.m. April 15 – Air Canada Flight 8906 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 7:08 p.m. April 15 – Air Canada Flight 318 – from Calgary to Montreal departed at 11:53 a.m. April 14 – Air Canada Flight 8970 – from Ottawa to Montreal, departed at 6:28 a.m. April 14 – Air Canada Flight 8898 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 8:14 a.m. What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: Fever above 38 C. New cough or worsening chronic cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. Difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should: Stay at home. Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. Describe symptoms and travel history. Follow instructions.