N.B. COVID-19 roundup: 9 new cases of virus in Campbellton region

Public Health has announced nine new cases of COVID-19 in the Campbellton region, eight of which are linked to a long-term care facility in Atholville. 

This brings the total number of active cases in the province to 24.

“This is the largest number of cases reported in a single day in New Brunswick in more than two months,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health at Monday’s news briefing. 

The long-term care home has experienced an outbreak of the virus after one of its workers had contact with the Campbellton doctor who travelled to Quebec for personal reasons and did not self-isolate.

There are nine new active cases of COVID-19 in the Campbellton region, also known as Zone 5. (CBC News)

Russell said residents of the long-term care facility are monitored everyday for symptoms of COVID-19. Staff are continuing to be tested regardless of symptoms. 

The one case that was reported elsewhere in Zone 5 is being investigated and Russell said contact tracing is underway.

The new cases are:

  • two individuals between 60 and 69
  • four individuals between 70 and 79
  • an individual between 80 and 89; and
  • two individuals above the age of 90.

The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 146 and 121 have recovered, including one related to the current outbreak in Zone 5. There has been one death.

The highest number of new COVID-19 cases in the past two months was announced by chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell on Monday 2:36

As of today, the province said 34,400 tests have been conducted. And more than 300 people are self-isolating and monitoring their symptoms as a result of contact tracing,  Public Health is also checking in with these individuals each day. 

“Given COVID-19’s 14-day incubation period, we realize that new cases can and will appear,” Russell said.

Eight new cases of COVID-19 in the Campbellton region have been linked to the Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

“It may be a week or more before we can say with certainty that the virus is not present in other regions of New Brunswick from this outbreak. It is so important that all New Brunswickers remain vigilant against the spread of COVID-19.”

Ottawa eases border restrictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will “allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to come to Canada” provided they can isolate for 14 days.

The Canada Border Services Agency said the exemption will kick in at midnight.

Premier Blaine Higgs has been skeptical about the federal government’s plans to reopen the border with the U.S.

He said Monday, he’s looking for refined details and what the application process might look like for families trying to come into New Brunswick, so he can notify provincial border authorities. 

He said it also has to be well-defined that travellers have a place they can self-isolate for 14 days.

“It’s not unexpected, it is trying to unite families the same as we’ve done throughout the rest of Canada and provide once again, a social environment under the new COVID rules.”

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino says exemption for immediate family members to cross Canada-U.S. border includes 14-day quarantine. 1:34

Officials with New Brunswick’s Department of Public Safety are continuing to monitor provincial borders.

On Sunday, Higgs said 69 vehicles were denied entry into New Brunswick. There have also been 35 non-compliance calls into the province’s information line

The calls related to concerns of residents failing to self-isolate, people not respecting physical distancing and businesses not following guidelines.

Higgs said officials have been checking on residents with either a visit or a phone call.

“People need to understand we can and will check up,” he said.

Emergency department set to reopen at Campbellton Regional Hospital 

The Campbellton Regional Hospital will open its emergency department at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Vitalité Health Network announced.

The hospital’s emergency department has been closed since the end of May, and all non-urgent or elective health-care services were cancelled due to the high risk of transmission of COVID-19.

The Campbellton Regional Hospital will reopen its emergency department Tuesday. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

“The facility’s Emergency Department will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week starting tomorrow,” announced Gilles Lanteigne, president and CEO of the Network.

“We have enough nurses and doctors to move to a full reopening of this service.”

Ambulatory care services and non-urgent elective surgeries will be able to resume gradually over the next few days. 

Patients strongly support virtual care — even after virus subsides

A new poll conducted by the New Brunswick Medical Society suggests 77 per cent of respondents are in favour of virtual care even after COVID-19 is over.

Many health-care services in the province were temporarily shut down after the COVID-19 outbreak started in March. This forced the provincial government and the New Brunswick Medical Society to expand virtual health-care access for patients.

“It was meant as a temporary measure to support the health of New Brunswickers during the pandemic, but it’s clear that patients see value in maintaining virtual care in the province,” said a news release Monday from the New Brunswick Medical Society.

Over the past three months, many patients have been receiving routine services like prescription renewals and follow-up health advice over the phone or by video. (Shutterstock)

In the poll, which was conducted by Narrative Research of Halifax, four in 10 respondents in New Brunswickers had a virtual care appointment during the pandemic, and the majority of these were satisfied with the experience.

However, a large majority of respondents also said they would not pay for virtual care if it was not covered by Medicare.

“Virtual care is a tremendous tool for improving access to primary health care,” said Dr. Chris Goodyear, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society and a general surgeon in Fredericton.

“While not a substitute for an in-person visit, virtual care adds flexibility for physicians and patients when an in-person visit is not required. It also cuts down on the economic and environmental costs of travel and is helpful for patients who are unable to travel.”

Dr. Chris Goodyear, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, says virtual care has been helping improve New Brunswick’s health-care system, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. (New Brunswick Medical Society/Twitter)

Since March, many patients with family doctors have been receiving care and advice over the phone or through a secure video-chat software.

These measures also apply to specialists, and for mental health services, it has been authorized for psychiatrists.

Narrative Research conducted a random telephone survey with 400 New Brunswick adults between May 7 and May 20. Results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Dooly’s closes after travelling customer didn’t self-isolate

Over the weekend, Dooly’s in Fredericton announced it was closing after a customer came into the pub and wasn’t self-isolating after visiting Quebec.

In order to keep residents safe, Premier Blaine Higgs said it’s crucial travellers self-isolate for 14 days once they return home to New Brunswick. (Government of New Brunswick/Submitted)

“She is currently being tested and awaiting results,” the business said in a Facebook post Saturday. “Out of an over-abundance of caution, we have decided to close this location until we have confirmed test results.”

Premier Blaine Higgs said Monday Public Safety is investigating the case of a woman attending a Fredericton bar after driving back from Quebec. 1:19

The Queen Street pub said it’s disinfecting and sanitizing every surface in the building for the safety of customers.

At Monday’s news briefing, Premier Blaine Higgs said the 14 day self-isolation rule has been put in place to protect New Brunswickers from contracting the virus. 

A Dooly’s pub in Fredericton was forced to close over the weekend after a customer came in who was supposed to be self-isolating after a trip from Quebec. (Facebook)

“This kind of behaviour is not acceptable and puts us all at risk,” he said. 

The Department of Public Safety is currently investigating the incident. 

Masks aren’t mandatory in public buildings 

The New Brunswick government has backtracked on a decision announced last week to make wearing masks mandatory for people enter any buildings open to the public.

The new rule was set to come into effect on Tuesday, but the province scrapped the precaution just one day after it was announced. 

“It was not intended to put a mask on everybody who walked in the door. It was intended that everyone would have a mask with them so they were able to put it on when needed,” said Premier Blaine Higgs.

“The concerns were once you get inside, if you don’t have a mask with you, you can’t do much about it.”

The province continues to say people must wear masks if they are in a public space where physical distancing cannot be maintained. 

“When you leave home, carry a mask with you so you can always put it on if needed,” Higgs said.

Campobello Island Ferry to start up on June 15

The Campobello Island Ferry will start up again on June 15. The seasonal ferry is a direct connection the island has to New Brunswick’s mainland.

For most of the year the ferry isn’t operational, so residents have to travel through Maine, more than an hour’s drive from the border at St. Stephen. 

But since the Canada-U.S. border closed in March, travel has been challenging for island residents.

“It’s a lot of things people take for granted not living on Campobello,” said Justin Tinker, chair of Accessible Campobello, who also grew up on the island.

Island residents can travel to the mainland for essential services and avoid the 14-day quarantine.

But the Canada Border Services Agency says a 14-day quarantine is required for anyone entering the country.

“This applies even if no stops were made along the way, as transiting through the United States still constitutes international travel,” the agency said in an emailed statement to Radio-Canada.

“Exemptions to quarantine requirements for residents of Campobello Island are for specific reasons, such as transiting through the U.S. to obtain essential goods and services. Leisure travel through the United States is not one of the exemptions to the requirement to quarantine.”

Tinker said trips off the island to get gas or other essentials in Maine can’t be combined with trips to the mainland for medical appointments.

“While the rest of the province opens up, we cannot take part,” said Taylor Paul-Davidson in a letter to Premier Blaine Higgs.

“We cannot visit our families, go fishing, camping, go to our second properties, enjoy provincial parks or trails all because to get off of Campobello Island we have to travel through the United States.”

Tinker said the establishment of a permanent ferry to the mainland is key during the COVID-19 pandemic, and once the virus has subsided. 

“It’s an incredible disadvantage and competitive disadvantage that the island faces.”

Codiac Transpo alters schedule to protect passengers

Starting Monday, Codiac Transpo has made operational changes to promote safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The afternoon service will start 30 minutes later at 3 p.m. to extend service hours until 7:30 p.m. In a news release, Codiac Transpo said this will accommodate “numerous employers” that have resumed operations until 7 p.m.

All passengers are strongly encouraged to wear masks as per the recommendations of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

An additional bus will be added to 51 Green Line. This will help manage physical distancing requirements, reduced seating capacity, and the increase in demand.

Route 52 Blue will be merged to 51 Green going forward, with continued service to the Mountain Rd. and Main St. areas. This will eliminate the need for passengers to transfer buses on these popular routes. An additional bus will be added to enhance service.

The shuttle service to Magnetic Hill has been cancelled for the summer.  Customers can still travel to the Zoo by public transit on #62 Hildegarde to the bus stop on Mountain Road at the Magnetic Hill entrance driveway.

Bus operators and transit employees will be provided non-medical masks by their employer.   The employer recommends bus operators wear masks when physical distancing is not possible

Meanwhile, Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton are collaborating on an operational plan to increase the number of passengers permitted on each bus. Codiac Transpo said additional details will be released in the coming weeks.

What to do if you have symptoms

People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment on the government website at gnb.ca. 

Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: a fever above 38 C, a new cough or worsening chronic cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, new onset of fatigue, new onset of muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell, and difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.

People with two of those symptoms are asked to:

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