New Brunswick – The first live press briefing on COVID-19 since before Christmas today, Tuesday, Jan. 5 saw Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, and NB Premier Blaine Higgs announcing, among other things, that the entire province of New Brunswick will be returning to the Orange phase of recovery as of midnight tonight.
The announcement comes on the heels of something of an explosion of cases in the province since January 1. Including the 27 cases announced today, New Brunswick has seen a whopping (by NB standards) of 63 since New Year’s Day, which was the reason for the province wide shift back to the Orange phase.
“There is a serious risk that the outbreaks now underway could spread even more widely,” warned Russell, “overwhelming the healthcare system with hundreds of new cases every day, as is happening in Maine and Quebec.”
Today’s announcement of 27 cases makes it the highest single day total since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
Russell said she is concerned about the new variant of COVID-19 that was originally seen in the UK, and has now been found in some 30 countries worldwide, including Canada.
“I urge everyone to avoid non-essential travel within the province as well as to places outside New Brunswick,” she said.
“This is not a good situation. It has the potential to get significantly worse in the days ahead,” Russell warned.
Russell said today’s action of returning all of New Brunswick to Orange has been done in an effort to slow the current rapid spread – a spread that sees active cases in every region of the province.
Russell also warned residents to stay home from work and not to attend gatherings if they exhibit any of the symptoms of COVID-19, as the common thread in the current case growth is people ignoring that advice.
Higgs called the current outbreak “alarming”, and said he doesn’t want to see happen here what is happening in other parts of the country, call those who ignore Public Health recommendations as people who “selfishly ignore the rules”.
He said if we continue on our current path of cases doubling 24 hours, we will soon see hundreds of cases daily.
He said within this current outbreak is one person who has potentially exposed some 150 others by going to work with COVID symptoms. He also said while the province is geared up to administer a minimum of 45,000 vaccines per week, New Brunswick is slow to receive them, an issue he’ll be bringing up with the feds.
Higgs also announced a new non-repayable grant which will be made available to small businesses through Opportunities New Brunswick of up to $5,000 for those business who have been subject to the Orange or Red phase of recovery for a minimum of one week between Oct. 10, 2020 and March 31, 2021. He said the minutia of the grant will be rolled out over the coming days.
In the media scrum following the press briefing, Higgs was asked if Natural Resources Minister, Mike Holland, who travelled to Nova Scotia to see his significant other over the holidays, would be reprimanded for the non-essential travel outside the province – despite self-isolating for 14 days on his return.
Higgs said that while he doesn’t condone Holland’s choice to make the trip, he will not be pursuing any action against the Minister.
The most pertinent rules of the Orange level of recovery that differ from Yellow, pulled from the GNB website, are as follows:
In the Orange level, subject to the Public Health and WorkSafeNB COVID-19 general guidance, a series of rules and restrictions apply and are available online. Included among the requirements are the following:
- Single household bubble: A one household bubble includes the people you live with. The bubble can be extended to caregivers, an immediate family member who needs the support from someone in the household (a parent who relies on their adult child for example) and one other person who needs support. It is only this same single household permitted to go to restaurants and other venues together.
- Only essential travel is recommended within the province, however, people can continue to travel for work, school, essential errands and medical appointments.
- Masks are mandatory in indoor public places. Masks are required in outdoor public spaces when physical distancing of two metres cannot be maintained.
The 27 new cases, again pulled from the GNB website, are as follows:
The nine cases in Zone 1 (Moncton region) are as follows:
- an individual 19 and under;
- six people 20-29;
- an individual 30-39; and
- an individual 50-59.
The three cases in Zone 2 (Saint John region) are as follows:
- an individual 19 and under;
- an individual 40-49; and
- an individual 90 and over.
The 11 cases in Zone 3 (Fredericton region) are as follows:
- two people 19 and under;
- an individual 20-29;
- two people 30-39;
- two people 40-49;
- three people 50-59; and
- an individual 60-69.
The two cases in Zone 4 (Edmundston region) are as follows:
- an individual 20-29; and
- an individual 50-59.
The two cases in Zone 5 (Campbellton region) are as follows:
- two people 50-59.
All cases are self-isolating and under investigation.
There are currently 80 active cases in the province, with one individual in intensive care. As of today, 155,253 tests have been conducted, which is 19.87 per cent of the population. Thursday, Dec. 31 also saw the ninth COVID-19 related death in New Brunswick.