New Brunswick reporting highest number of active COVID cases since start of pandemic

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FREDERICTON — There are now 130 active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick — the highest number in the province since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials in New Brunswick reported 24 new cases Thursday, bringing the total to 717 since the beginning of the health crisis.

"The current situation is the worst we have seen so far during this pandemic," chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell told a news conference in Fredericton Thursday. The previous peak in active cases was 120 in late November.

Russell said there are multiple outbreaks across the province, including in several long-term care facilities.

Those facilities include Fundy Manor II, a 28-bed special care home in Hillsborough, N.B., and Parkland Riverview's Canterbury Hall, a 60-bed special care home in Riverview.

"Public health has begun an investigation at both facilities. Working with the facility staff, contact tracing has commenced," Russell said.

There were also more cases reported Thursday at Parkland Saint John where 11 residents and seven employees have now tested positive for COVID-19.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard also announced a positive case has been confirmed at Bessborough School in Moncton and the school community has been notified. Students stayed home Thursday.

Shephard said the province is taking positive steps on the vaccine front.

"As of this morning, 5,019 people in New Brunswick have received the first dose of the vaccine. By the end of this week we will have administered more than 7,500 doses," Shephard said.

"The 1,871 people who received their first dose of vaccine at a clinic in Miramichi in December will be the first to receive their second dose this coming weekend and be fully inoculated," she said.

Two more shipments of vaccine totalling 6,600 doses are expected next week.

Currently one person is in hospital with the disease, in intensive care. There are 101 health-care workers off the job across the province for COVID-related reasons.

Russell said while there has been a lot of chatter on social media about imposing greater restrictions and moving the province to the highest "red" alert level, no decision has been made by government to do that.

"We have overcome all of the challenges we have faced thus far, and I am confident that we can continue to do so," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2021.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press