COVID-19 outbreak over at Woodstock First Nation

·5 min read

Woodstock First Nation is currently COVID-free, says the community's health director.

"We currently have no active cases in our community," said Amanda McIntosh. "Our last case was discharged from isolation on Nov. 12."

McIntosh admitted being frustrated to see the Tuesday, Nov. 16, provincial update report 16 cases at Woodstock First Nation, one of seven New Brunswick First Nation communities Public Health cited as dealing with COVID outbreaks. She said those numbers were a couple of weeks out of date.

The Department of Health acknowledged its error.

"That was a miscue on our part," said department communications director Bruce Macfarlane. "Our mistake."

He said he didn't have the most up-to-date numbers at Woodstock First Nation in front of him but suggested the River Valley Sun get the information from the community.

McIntosh confirmed the community's COVID-19 infections returned to zero with the help of Public Health staff, but Tuesday's mistake created additional difficulties for the community.

"I am infuriated that they have posted that we have an outbreak. Because of that, we almost lost our food delivery to our community members in need," she said. "The food bank was concerned about the outbreak reported by GNB. We had to convince them that we were not in an outbreak so that we could get it delivered. Thank goodness they believed us."

Despite her frustration with the misleading information, McIntosh expressed her appreciation to Public Health officials who helped end the outbreak quickly.

"We have been working closely with Public Health," she said.

She said band and health officials met with Public Health officials three times per week, but that slowed down since Woodstock First Nation no longer has active cases.

"They did help us immensely during our outbreak, and we appreciated their help," McIntosh said.

During the province's virtual COVID-19 press conference held Thursday afternoon, Nov. 18, New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said Public Health officials committed to changing the method of reporting outbreaks at First Nation communities.

Russell said the overall vaccination numbers in First Nation communities are high.

When asked, Russell didn't provide an epidemiological reason why the virus spread quickly across seven First Nation communities in a matter of four days.

She said all cases in the province, especially where there are high case numbers, are primarily spread by households.

"If you have a high level of cases in a particular zone," she said, "we're seeing in all zone the transmission is really within households."

During much of Thursday's press conference, Russell and Premier Blaine Higgs focused on steps to reduce household spread, describing it as the key to bringing the virus spread under control.

To that end, they announced the province would lift all remaining circuit breakers, including in Zone 1, where the virus spread remains a concern. Instead, they explained, Public Health would direct attention towards ensuring all household members, vaccinated or not, self-isolate as soon as someone in the household tests positive for the virus.

Higgs described the lifting of the circuit breakers and implementing tighter household controls province-wide as a "balanced approach" meant to target the main spread area.

"Beginning tomorrow, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m., when someone in a house tests positive for COVID-19, everyone in that household must self-isolate regardless of vaccination status," said Higgs.

He said fully vaccinated people in the household can leave isolation on day five if they provide a negative PCR COVID test. The policy also requires a negative PCR test on day 10.

Higgs also noted that Friday, Nov. 19, is the deadline for government workers to show they are vaccinated.

"At the end of the day tomorrow, any employee who is not fully vaccinated or has not received one dose and has a confirmed appointment for a second dose will be sent home without pay," he said.

Higgs said the policy applies to all areas, including government employees, school districts, health-care systems and Crown corporations.

"There will be very, very few exceptions to this," Higgs said.

The premier said the number of unvaccinated employees is "relatively low," breaking down the numbers as follows:

In government departments: 2.9 per cent, equaling 307 employees.

In school districts: 4.1 per cent, equaling 792 employees.

In health care, 3.4 per cent, equaling 734.

In Crown corporations: 2.5 per cent, equaling 162.

Russell said Thursday's COVID update reported 72 new infections in the province, along with 71 recoveries. Active cases in New Brunswick now stand at 566.

She said 28 people are undergoing COVID-treatment in the hospital, including 14 in ICU.

Russell and Higgs continued to stress the virus's heavier impact on unvaccinated people, especially regarding the rates of hospitalizations and in the ICU. Thursday's update directed readers seeking numbers to the Public Health dashboard online. NB COVID-19 N.-B. (arcgis.com)

A breakdown of new COVID infections on Thursday update is as follows:

The 32 new cases in Zone 1 (Moncton region) are as follows:

Twenty-three cases are under investigation, and nine cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

The 13 new cases in Zone 2 (Saint John region) are as follows:

Seven cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases, and six cases are under investigation.

The 21 cases in Zone 3 (Fredericton region) are as follows:

Sixteen cases are under investigation, and five are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

The six new cases in Zone 7 (Miramichi region) are as follows:

Four cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases, and two cases are under investigation.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting