N.B. health officials worried about variant-fuelled COVID-19 outbreak in Edmundston

·2 min read

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick reported a dozen new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday as the chief medical officer of health raised concerns about an outbreak in the Edmundston region involving a more contagious variant.

Ten of the latest cases are in the Edmundston area in the northwest of the province, and most are considered travel-related or close contacts of previously reported cases.

"We're quite concerned because it is the variant," Dr. Jennifer Russell said in an interview Wednesday.

"At this point in time we are really concerned that we have to pull out all the stops to get things under control in Zone 4," she added, referring to the health zone that includes Edmundston.

Russell said health officials met with area mayors and members of the legislature Wednesday to discuss the outbreak. "We are seeing rapid transmission," she said. "We are seeing a lot of close contacts, and because of the variant being so much more transmissible, we need the contacts of close contacts to be isolating."

With confirmed variant cases in the Edmundston area, a mass testing clinic will be held there Thursday and Friday to determine if there has been further spread in the region.

Russell stressed the mass testing clinics are for people with no symptoms of COVID-19 and who have not been ordered to self-isolate.

A positive case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at the Carrefour de la Jeunesse school in Edmundston, and both the school and an associated child-care facility are closed until April 6.

Russell is asking people in the area to limit their contacts and the number of places they visit. While there is no mandatory order in place, she common sense dictates that people should not be travelling in and out of Zone 4.

She said officials hope the outbreak can be contained without ordering a lockdown or moving the zone to a different level of the province's pandemic recovery plan.

"We're going to see how the next few days unroll ... but it's certainly not out of the question," Russell said.

Officials also reported two new cases in the Moncton area. There are now 63 active cases in New Brunswick, and three patients are hospitalized.

Since the onset of the pandemic there have been 1,517 positive cases of COVID-19 in the province and 30 COVID-19-related deaths.

As of Wednesday, people 75 and older, rotational workers, regular cross-border commuters and truck drivers are eligible to book an appointment at a pharmacy for a COVID-19 vaccine. More than 64,000 doses of the vaccine had been administered in the province as of Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 24, 2021.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press