New Brunswick has three new cases of COVID-19, all in the Campbellton health region, but Moncton's case count is decreasing and that region is expected to return to the yellow phase of recovery Thursday, the province has announced.
The new cases include an individual 19 or under, an individual in their 40s and an individual in their 60s, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, said during a COVID-19 update in Fredericton on Monday.
They bring the total number of active cases in the province to 103.
Sixty of those are in the Campbellton region, and about half of them arose after the imposition of the stricter orange phase of recovery, which means the region, known as Zone 5, will have to continue in that phase, Russell told reporters.
Transmission is occurring in "multiple" workplace and social settings, she said.
Too many people are not wearing their masks and not physically distancing, she said, urging area residents to "redouble" their efforts.
"I'm really asking everybody, with a sense of urgency, you must follow the Public Health directions so that we can turn this trend around."
People should stay six feet apart, wear a mask, and keep the number of people they interact with very low, said Russell.
"The actions you take will determine how long this outbreak lasts," and when restrictive measures can be lifted.
The last outbreak in the Campbellton region last spring took six weeks to get under control.
Premier Blaine Higgs said the government may start to impose fines for non-compliance and the region faces a "distinct possibility" of further restrictions to help limit the spread of the virus.
The goal is to keep the province in the yellow phase until a vaccine can be developed, he said.
"In the yellow phase, we can live as normally as possible. Businesses are open and we can see a much greater number of friends and members of our family.
"This is good for our province economically and it's good for the mental health of individual New Brunswickers."
Russell said two cases have not yet been linked to the existing outbreak are under investigation as possible cases of community transmission, which is a trigger for bumping a region back into the most restrictive red phase of recovery.
"We do have some more contact tracing to do, we do have some more investigating to do before we would make that recommendation," she said.
But she is having regular discussions with the regional medical officers of health, the deputy chief medical officer of health, as well the epidemiology team, which now includes a field epidemiologist from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and they are all "very, very concerned" the existing measures have not contained the outbreak or gotten it under control.
Watch | Premier Blaine Higgs wants Campbellton region to listen to Public Health
Meanwhile, the Moncton region, Zone 1, is "moving in the right direction," said Russell, with the number of active cases now at 40.
Since being bumped back into the orange phase almost two weeks ago, there has been a consistent downward trend in the number of cases and a significant decline in the risk of further infection, she said.
Contact tracing has shown that all of the infections in the region are related to one another, and all of the new cases that have developed in recent days have been people who were self-isolating at home, which meant they couldn't transmit the coronavirus to anyone else.
So "barring any sudden change," Russell said she's recommended to cabinet that the Moncton region return to the yellow phase of recovery on Thursday after 14 days in the orange phase.
Close contact personal services such as barbers, hair stylists or spas, could resume as soon as Friday and other businesses, such as gyms, cinemas and casinos would also be allowed to reopen.
Watch | Premier Blaine Higgs, Dr. Jennifer Russell may move Moncton region to yellow
The other active cases in the province include two people in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and one person in the Fredericton region, Zone 3.
Four people are in hospital, including one in intensive care.
New Brunswick has had 313 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date and 207 people have recovered.
A total of 92,899 tests have been conducted since the pandemic began, 839 of them on Sunday.
Seniors advocate calls for military to assist Moncton home
The update comes after New Brunswick on Sunday reported its third death from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in March.
A resident in their 60s at Moncton's Manoir Notre-Dame special care home, where there is an outbreak, died "as a result of underlying complications, including COVID-19," according to Public Health.
Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, is calling on the government to bring in the military or Red Cross to assist at the Manoir Notre-Dame.
She said she has heard from families who are concerned about conditions at the home during the outbreak, including staffing shortages, and inconsistent times for meals, personal hygiene and housekeeping.
She's also calling for an independent inspection as soon as possible.
"I believe it's time for concrete action," she said in a statement.
But Premier Blaine Higgs contends the home has dealt with the outbreak effectively and the situation "seems to be well under control."
"Sure, there's always opportunities for lessons learned and how do we get better."
He does not, however, see a need for any such measures, he said.
Mask use jumps
Premier Blaine Higgs said the province has seen "very high" rates of compliance since mask use became mandatory in most public spaces on Oct. 9.
Department of Justice and Public Safety staff have conducted surveys in every region of the province and found 96 per cent of New Brunswick were wearing a mask, he said.
By comparison, enforcement officers surveyed 600 public spaces across the province prior to the mandatory order and found the average number of people wearing a mask was 36 per cent.
In major urban centres, the number was as low as 16 per cent, he had said.
Changes coming in testing of essential workers
New Brunswick will be announcing changes surrounding the testing of essential workers who travel, Premier Blaine Higgs announced on Monday.
"This pandemic and the steps we take to keep the residents of this province healthy and safe are constantly evolving," he said, promising more details "in the coming days.
"Everything is aimed at keeping New Brunswickers safe and keeping the virus manageable," he told reporters.
The risks outside New Brunswick's borders are very high, said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, citing Quebec and Ontario as examples.
"So it means that we all have to work harder to make sure that if it does get into the province, that we are not part of the chain of transmission, that we are not part of what is perpetuating COVID-19 in our province," she said.
Russell urged anyone who travels regularly for work and is not currently required to self-isolate to self-monitor for symptoms and voluntarily get tested while in New Brunswick.
Although some workplaces have good operational plans around work isolation, "it's a gap," she said.
"We know that's a risk and we want to really minimize that risk."
Balmoral school closed for day after case confirmed
La Mosaïque du Nord, a kindergarten to Grade 8 school with about 300 students in Balmoral, in the Francophone northeast school district, is closed Monday because of a case of COVID-19.
The school notified parents and guardians by email Sunday night that a positive case of COVID-19 had been confirmed there.
It is the sixth school in the Campbellton region to confirm a case.
Balmoral is 10 kilometres south of Dalhousie, where all four schools have recorded positive cases of COVID-19. The fifth school was in Campbellton.
La Mosaïque du Nord principal Anik Berthelotte told parents in the letter that Public Health would be in contact to identify any students and school staff who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Some schools that had positive cases or possible exposure in Restigouche County reopened Thursday.
Meanwhile, Listuguj First Nation said in a release late Friday that all government buildings in the community would remain closed Monday after the community confirmed its first case late Thursday night.
"The closure will allow time for Quebec Public Health officials to complete their contact tracing and for the [Listuguj Mi'gmaq Government] to determine next steps," the release said.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test on the government website at gnb.ca.
Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: a fever above 38 C, a new cough or worsening chronic cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, new onset of fatigue, new onset of muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell, and difficulty breathing.
In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.
People with one of those symptoms should:
Stay at home.
Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.
Describe symptoms and travel history.