NEW BRUNSWICK – “Just when it seemed like things were getting better and we were entering the last period of this pandemic, the game has changed again. And the game changer really is the variant.”
Those were the stern opening words today, Thursday, March 25 of Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell for the live press briefing from Fredericton.
Russell and dance partner Dorothy Shephard, minister of health, announced that today at 6 p.m., a portion of Zone 4, Edmundston and directly surrounding areas, will move back to the Red phase of recovery as of 6 p.m. tonight due to the dramatic rise in cases in that area over recent days.
Russell said the region showed three news cases Monday, four on Tuesday, 10 on Wednesday and 24 new cases today.
These cases are all related to the U.K. variant, and represent three currently unlinked chains of transmission, including community spread.
Russell said the prevalent variant in New Brunswick is the U.K. variant, and described its arrival as “really daunting”, saying this variant is more transmissible, more infectious, allowing the variant to spread quickly and make it difficult to keep cases contained.
Russell said Public Health was able to stem the spread of the variant in Zone 7, the Miramichi region, so it was theoretically possible to do the same in Edmundston, providing residents double down on following public health guidelines. Russell said slowing the spread requires the “intervention and targeted effort” of residents of the region.
Putting this targeted area in and surrounding Edmundston into the Red phase is called a “circuit breaker” aimed at arresting the spread of the virus, and is expected to last for a minimum of four days.
During the day today and tomorrow, asymptomatic testing is happening in the area.
Russell said as of March 1, 56 per cent of all cases in New Brunswick are the U.K. variant.
She said vaccination of New Brunswickers was the key to making an impact on the spread of the virus and told residents not to push back against receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite stories doing the round in the media.
She said despite the very rare incidents of blood clots and bleeding, the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. She said the more people are vaccinated, the faster the province will reach a safe level of immunity.
Shephard said as of Wednesday, March 24, residents 75 and older, rotational workers, regular border crossing commuters, and truck drivers, are now eligible for the vaccine and can contact local pharmacies to book an appointment. Also, those 40 and over who have three or more chronic conditions can go to the GNB website, gnb.ca/coronavirus, and go to the “vaccines” tab and book a spot for upcoming Horizon Health and Vitalite vaccine clinics coming up in April.
Residents can also call 1-833-437-1424 to book a spot in a clinic.
Shephard also asked residents to be patient when calling pharmacies for a vaccination appointment, saying all residents will have a chance for vaccination.
Thursday, March 25
Thirty new cases
The five cases in Zone 2 (Saint John region) are as follows:
- an individual 20-29;
- two people 30-39; and
- two people 40-49.
All of these cases are travel related.
The 24 cases in Zone 4 (Edmundston region) are as follows:
- nine people 19 and under;
- three people 20-29;
- six people 30-39;
- two people 40-49;
- three people 60-69; and
- an individual 70-79.
Of the 24 cases, 14 cases are travel related, nine are contacts of a previous case and one is under investigation.
The one case in Zone 6 (Bathurst region) is as follows:
- an individual 50-59. This case is under investigation.
All 30 cases are self-isolating.
The number of confirmed cases in the province is 1,546. Since Wednesday, three people have recovered for a total of 1,426 recoveries. There have been 30 deaths, and there are currently 89 active cases. Three patients are hospitalized. Yesterday, 1,120 tests were conducted for a total of 248,551.
There are 635 people currently self-isolating.
For details on COVID-19 in New Brunswick, go to www.gnb.ca/coronavirus