Online first: Charlotte County sees Red – Saint John, Fredericton, and Moncton regions to move to Red alert level and midnight tonight

Charlotte County – In a late breaking live press briefing, it was announced that at midnight tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 19, Zones 1, 2, and 3, the Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton regions respectively, will be moving to the Red alert level. Zone 2 includes Charlotte County.

The province has also seen another COVID-19 related death, bringing the total to 13.

The move comes on the heels of a rapid rise in case numbers of COVID-19 in those regions.

“The threat it poses to our healthcare system and the well-being of our citizens cannot be ignored,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health.

“Therefore Public Health has today recommended to cabinet that Zones 1, 2, and 3 move to the Red alert level.

“This recommendation is not made lightly.

“I know there will be consequences both intended and unintended.

“These restrictions will undoubtedly cause concern and hardship for many New Brunswickers, but these actions are absolutely necessary if we are to avoid the avalanche of cases being experienced just beyond our borders.”

Russell said there are currently 1,953 individuals in self-isolation, and the province has now surpassed 1,000 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and that 400 of those cases were reported in the last 30 days.

“Zones 1, 2, and 3, the number of cases has doubled in these zones and then doubled again over the past two weeks,” said Russell.

“In each of these zones we have seen at least three distinct chains of infection that have spread beyond their original source.

“In only one of the clusters being investigated can definitely be linked to an infection that occurred outside of New Brunswick.

“We call those unlinked chains of transmission.” She said that means it is close to be called community transmission, and many of the cases stem from large gatherings such as card parties, and holiday gatherings and celebrations.

She added although the province was moved to the Orange phase, cases continue to be found in work places and schools, where individuals are either not wearing masks, or going to those places with symptoms without being tested.

Russell said to those who ask if the situation here is so bad as to push these regions to Red, the answer is yes. She said things will get worse “without decisive action”.

Adding, “Please take this situation seriously.”

“I continue to be disappointed to report that with 31 new cases today, we now have 316 active cases in New Brunswick,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. “This is indeed a very serious situation, and we must take a hard position today to address it.

“We don’t want to be too late in reacting, and look back and say ‘only if’.

“We’re simply not making enough progress with the current measures that are in place,” he added.

Higgs said he knows there are more cases to come, and the province cannot take the risk of overwhelming the healthcare system.

“We need all hands on deck right now,” said Higgs.

“This is in an abundance of caution not to be too late in reacting, and we will continue to strengthen our resolve if we don’t get the necessary responses over the coming days.”

Higgs said if the caseloads continue to rise, additional measures will be put in place to gain control of the spread. “This would mean going back into a full lockdown like we did in March (2020),” said Higgs.

Higgs said age demographics are “one of the concerns” as younger New Brunswickers are not taking the virus as seriously as they should. “There is this kind of belief, I guess, it doesn’t effect – we can still party on – it doesn’t effect me, so I’m okay. And that lies the challenge.”

Higgs mentioned a case where an younger person came home to New Brunswick to self-isolate with their parents, and the result was the death of one of the parents due to COVID-19.

“We’ve had cases where individuals have come to isolate with their parents, and their parents – you, know, one of their parents – did not live because they got COVID. So, we’ve had cases like this.

“It’s very concerning.”

Schools will remain open, but places such as hairdressers and restaurants will have to remain closed. Restaurants will be able to offer take out and delivery.

Higgs also reminded business owners that an up to $5,000 non-repayable grant is available through Opportunities New Brunswick, onb.ca

Higgs said vaccines may be available, but New Brunswick has yet to have secured supplies, and that the province has been informed it will receive a reduced supply of vaccines, with no Pfizer vaccines arriving at all.

For the information on today’s 31 new cases, and details on protocols and restrictions in the red level, head here.

editor@stcroixcourier.ca