NEW BRUNSWICK – On the heels of a live technical briefing on COVID-19 in the province by New Brunswick’s top infectious disease expert and chief epidemiologist, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell, Premier Blaine Higgs and Minister of Health Dorothy Shephard provided a live update on COVID-19 in the province and new restrictions coming into effect at 11:59 p.m. tonight, Friday, Sept. 24.
Beginning tonight, the state of emergency and mandatory order will be put back into effect.
Under the mandatory order, failing to adhere to regulations will result in fines between $480 and $20,400.
“It is clear that our current situation is very serious,” said Russell.
“By acting now, we can stabilize the spread of the virus and reduce the strain on our health care system.”
Russell announced 78 new cases today, a daily high since the start of the pandemic, and the province has seen three additional deaths from COVID-19. An person between 70 and 79 in Zone 1, a person between 80 and 89 in Zone 1, and an person over 90 in Zone 4.
She also announced those who are immuno-compromised are now eligible for a third dose of the vaccine.
Russell also said assessment (testing) centres are currently overloaded due to the significant demand for testing. There are currently longer wait times and results are taking anywhere from 24 hours for urgent tests to 48 plus for others.
The province has gone from 10 new cases daily this summer to an average of 67 new cases daily.
“It’s concerning, it’s upsetting, it’s frightening,” said Shephard of the Delta variant which is the main source of COVID-19 issues in the province. (Watch our website for the details from the technical update which also took place Friday with the province’s top epidemiologists and infectious disease experts).
Shephard said hospitals are currently close to overload, and as cases and hence hospitalizations continue to rise, so each health authority and hospital must pull resources from one part of the hospital to assist in another. She said the average COVID-19 patient remains in hospital for 15 days, and requires one-on-one care, and the average COVID-19 ICU patient is hospitalized for an average of 21 days, is much sicker, and also requires 24 hour one-on-one care.
Higgs said the current rate of growth presents a “serious and imminent risk”.
“The situation is serious, and we need people to take it seriously,” said Higgs.
He said having 25 or more hospitalizations will be the new trigger for the mandatory order to be put in place, but it will not be removed (but will be reviewed every two weeks) until hospitalizations drop to 10 or less and stabilize there.
All three also pushed for all eligible New Brunswickers to be fully vaccinated. Of the 37 people admitted to hospital between July 1 and Sept. 21, 78 per cent (29) are unvaccinated. Five were fully vaccinated, and three were partially vaccinated.
The new restrictions under the renewed mandatory order include, from the GNB website:
- People must limit their contacts to their household plus 20 consistent contacts.
- Indoor private gatherings will be limited to 20 consistent contacts.
- There will be no limits on outdoor gatherings, as long as physical distancing is maintained.
- Businesses and events where people gather or exercise, including museums, cinemas, theatres, bingo halls, casinos, amusement centres, arenas, game rooms, pools halls, live entertainment venues, weddings, funerals, gyms, yoga studios and similar venues must ensure all employees are fully vaccinated or are continuously masked and tested regularly. Patrons and participants entering such events remain required to be fully vaccinated.
- Physical distancing is required at businesses, services or events where proof of vaccination is not required, such as grocery and retail stores, private businesses and libraries.
- Faith venues have the option to either ensure all participants show proof of full vaccination, or implement the following measures:
- operate at 50 per cent capacity;
- maintain physical distancing;
- ensure continuous mask use;
- record names of all attendees or have assigned seating;
- eliminate singing from services; and
- prevent anyone displaying COVID-19 symptoms and those who have been instructed to self-isolate from entering.
Businesses can access rapid testing kits through their local chamber of commerce. More information about the program is available online.
There are upcoming vaccination clinics in St. Stephen on Thursday, Sept. 30 at the Garcelon Civic Center from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for those 12 years and older (Pfizer-BioNTech/Moderna), with walk-ins welcome from noon to 6 p.m., and at the Pennfield Lions Club on Monday, Oct. 4 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. for those 12 years and older (Pfizer-BioNTech/Moderna) with walk-ins welcome from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For the full list of today’s cases, and other information, click here.