FREDERICTON — Public health officials in New Brunswick reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 Friday as new restrictions were imposed on two regions and neighbouring provinces in the Atlantic bubble watched the situation closely.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, announced 12 new cases in Campbellton in the north of the province and one new case in the Moncton area.
"The pandemic is not done with us, and this week has shown us that in no uncertain terms," Russell said at a news conference in Fredericton. "It also has reminded us of the importance of keeping our circle small and also following all the public health measures."
There are now 37 active cases in the province, and there have been 238 cases since the pandemic began.
Premier Blaine Higgs said the Campbellton and Moncton regions would be moved into the orange warning level as of Saturday.
"This recommendation was made because of additional potential public exposures to the virus identified through the investigation of existing cases, possible community transmission and reports of low compliance in some higher-risk settings," he said.
Higgs said people in those zones will be allowed to form a bubble with just one other family.
"Unlike the previous version of the orange level, this bubble can extend to include caregivers and immediate family members," he said. "Outdoor gatherings must be limited to 10 or fewer with physical distancing. Indoor religious services, weddings or funerals are permitted with 10 or fewer people."
Higgs said the new rules mean that hairdressers, spas, gyms, casinos and bingo halls will have to close. He said people are discouraged from travelling in or out of the two regions.
In Nova Scotia, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang urged his province's residents to follow public health measures when visiting neighbouring provinces.
"We are monitoring the situation in New Brunswick and are in close contact with our counterparts in that province," he said in a statement. "There are no changes to our border policy at this time." Currently, residents of the four Atlantic provinces can travel freely within the region, but anyone from outside the bubble must isolate for two weeks after entering.
New Brunswick's Vitalite Health Network posted a message on its website to say that because of an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, visits to the Campbellton Regional Hospital are cancelled as a precautionary measure to protect patients, visitors and staff.
It said 18 employees are in isolation either because they have COVID-19 or have been identified as close contacts through contact tracing.
The principal of Sugarloaf High School in Campbellton, N.B., announced Thursday night that a case had been confirmed in the school and said the school board is working with public health officials to identify students or staff who may have had contact with the person.
"We understand you may feel anxious over the coming days," the principal, Michael O'Toole, wrote in a Facebook post.
"Children and young people look to the adults in their lives to guide them on how to react to worrying and stressful events. Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about any anxieties and remind them to treat one another with kindness and respect, in person and on social media."
O'Toole said his school, which is just across the border from Quebec, is temporarily closed to allow for cleaning and contact tracing.
He also said students who live in Listuguj First Nation and Pointe-a-la-Croix on the Quebec side of the border will receive laptops and other technology to allow them to participate in remote learning.
On Wednesday, the province reported 17 new COVID-19 connected to a special-care home in Moncton -- the largest one-day increase of cases in the province since the pandemic began.
Russell said it's believed the source of the Moncton cases is someone who travelled outside of the Atlantic bubble, while the investigation into the Campbellton cases continues.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 9, 2020.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press