Residents of Nova Scotia's Cumberland County will be welcomed into the province once 75 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced Friday.
Cabinet and the all-party cabinet committee on COVID-19 decided to include Cumberland County in Phase 1 of the province's path to green due to its low case counts, she said.
New Brunswick originally planned to open its borders to only Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Avignon and Témiscouata, Que., during Phase 1 of the plan, released last month.
Under the loosened restrictions, visitors from the included regions will not have to isolate or be tested, but travel registration will still be required.
As of Friday, 73.6 per cent of those aged 12 and older have been vaccinated with their first dose. Another 9,664 people still need to receive their first dose to reach the 75 per cent threshold for Phase 1.
The rest of Nova Scotia won't be included until the province reaches Phase 2, when 20 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 65 and older have received their second dose. That's currently slated for July 1.
Premier Blaine Higgs said he's hopeful freer travel within the Atlantic region may begin sooner.
"Nova Scotia is certainly improving steadily, P.E.I.'s position is a little different but still they want to open up too in the same vein as we were before, and I've been speaking to both premiers about what we're thinking timing might look like and where we'd be, and our health officials are talking because it would be nice to be aligned on the criteria and that would always give us great certainty around meeting a threshold and a date following that."
During a press conference Friday, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin said he's actively talking with other premiers about reopening. He told CBC News he was scheduled to speak to Higgs later in the day.
A detailed list of the walk-in clinics, including the locations, dates and times is available online.
Online vaccination booking tool will be fixed
The province's online vaccination booking tool is "getting fixed" to once again let people know if they are choosing a Moderna vaccine or a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Department of Health said Friday.
Right now, the website indicates only that the appointment they're booking offers an mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine, which Moderna and Pfizer both are.
Asked whether that's taking away the ability to give informed consent to a vaccine if people don't find out what they're getting until they get to the clinic, department spokesperson Shawn Berry said the website would be updated "to be clear which brand of mRNA."
But for people booking their second shot, they can "feel confident" getting either vaccine, he said.
"They work the same way and have similar levels of safety and effectiveness, Berry said in an emailed statement. "The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has indicated that these two vaccines are interchangeable."
"Think of this like flu season each year, when individuals get their flu vaccine they may get a vaccine from a different manufacturer, however they protect against the same strains."
Asked what would happen if someone didn't want the vaccine being offered at the appointment they booked for, Berry simply reiterated that "the person can feel confident receiving either mRNA vaccine."
The booking tool was changed last Monday, when booking for second doses was announced, said Berry. The fix was taking place Friday, he said.
Walk-in vaccination clinics
Public Health is offering walk-in vaccine clinics at some pharmacies Friday and Saturday to make it as easy as possible for people to get their first dose of a vaccine.
The walk-in clinics, which do not require an appointment, are as follows:
Fredericton: Shoppers Drug Mart at 440 King St. on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Moncton: Shoppers Drug Mart at 350 St. George St. on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saint John: Shoppers Drug Mart at 57 Lansdowne Ave. on Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Jake Reid, executive director of the The New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association, said all that is needed to get a spot is to walk in with a medicare card.
"We're seeing demand for first doses taper off, which is a natural thing that's happening in all the provinces," Reid said.
The group of people who were rolling up their sleeves as soon as the vaccine became available are already vaccinated, he said, so now the goal is to reach a new group of New Brunswickers who are less motivated or who weren't able to get the vaccine earlier.
"You want to make it as easy as possible for those who may face some barriers to get out and get their first shot," said Reid.
The province had set a target of June 7 to start reopening, as long as 75 per cent of the eligible population was vaccinated with their first dose.
That target was missed, with only 70.3 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 and over having received their first dose on that day. As of Friday, the vaccination rate stood at 73.6 per cent.
Reid said visitors to the clinics will not get to choose which vaccine they get, but that it will be either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Those under 18 will get the Pfizer vaccine.
Public Health is hosting another batch of walk-in clinics this weekend. They include:
Bouctouche, J. K. Irving Centre. Walk-ins from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Fredericton, Brookside Mall. Walk-ins from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m
Saint John, Exhibition Park. Walk-ins from, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Grand Manan Community Centre. Walk-ins from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
St. Stephen, Garcelon Civic Centre, Walk-ins from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
97 active cases
New Brunswick has one new case of COVID-19, Public Health announced Friday.
The person in their 50s is in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, and is a contact of a previously confirmed case.
There are now 97 active cases of the respiratory disease.
Three people are hospitalized in New Brunswick, including one in an intensive care unit. Another person is hospitalized out of province in an intensive care unit.
Since the pandemic started, New Brunswick has had 2,284 confirmed cases, 2,142 recoveries and 44 COVID-related deaths.
A total of 348,837 tests have been completed, including 1,336 on Thursday.
Mandatory testing of long-term care staff
New Brunswick implemented mandatory testing for unvaccinated workers in some long-term care facilities this week, according to Social Development spokesperson Jeremy Trevors.
That's a week later than Minister Bruce Fitch announced May 27 in response to "unacceptable" low vaccination rates.
As of Friday, the department had received the results from 13 of the province's 563 facilities, said Trevors.
This included approximately 87 tests, he said. None were positive.
Asked if any employees refused testing, Trevors indicated two.
He did not respond to questions about what happened to those individuals.
Unvaccinated workers are required to take a rapid COVID-19 test every other day if they work in a facility where less than half the staff have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Thirty-six facilities still have less than 50 per cent of employees vaccinated, provincial figures show.
A total of 77.1 per cent of long-term care staff have now been reported as receiving at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Information on vaccination rates in long-term care facilities is available online.
Busing to vaccination clinics for students
Busing to walk-in vaccination clinics will be offered to students aged 12 to 15 next week, Education Minister Dominic Cardy announced Friday.
"Everyone 12 and older has a role to play in helping our schools get back to normal in September," he said in a statement.
"We are making it easier for eligible students to get vaccinated so that we can get back to having school plays, concerts and more engagement with the community."
Since the busing and schedules will be based upon the availability of clinics in each community, school staff will communicate directly with families, Public Health said in a news release.
Participating students must bring their signed consent form and medicare card to school on the day busing is provided.
Public Health encourages families with existing appointments to keep them if possible.
Nursing home outbreak tests negative
Another round of COVID-19 testing has come back negative at a nursing home in the Moncton region, Zone 1, where there's an outbreak, the home announced Friday.
"We are happy to report that the tests done yesterday all came back negative," Villa Maria Inc. posted on Facebook.
"Public Health expects the outbreak to end as early as next week," it said.
The outbreak at the 60-bed home in Saint-Louis de Kent was declared on June 4 after one positive case was confirmed.
A total of 86 per cent of residents and 72 per cent of employees had already been vaccinated, according to a previous Facebook post.
Testing was expected to take place twice weekly, the Department of Health had said.
Atlantic COVID roundup
Nova Scotia reported eight new cases of COVID-19 Friday and the province's 89th COVID-related death. There are 143 active cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed three new cases and has 54 active cases.
Prince Edward Island has reported no new cases since June 3, and still has four active cases.
Latest public exposures
Public Health has identified potential public exposures to the coronavirus in the Fredericton region, Zone 3:
Big Axe Brewery and food truck, 537 Otis Dr., Nackawic, June 4, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Boston Pizza, 1230 Prospect St., Fredericton, June 2, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Burger King, 570 Two Nations Crossing, Fredericton, June 2 between noon and 2 p.m.
Public Health is offering COVID-19 testing to anyone who has been in a public exposure area, even if they are not experiencing any symptoms. Residents may request a test online or call Tele-Care 811.
People experiencing one or more symptoms are also encouraged to get tested.
Previous public exposures
Public Health has identified numerous potential public exposures to the coronavirus in many communities across the province, so many that it has stopped listing them individually in its daily news release.
A detailed list of the potential exposures, including the locations and dates, is available on the government's COVID-19 website. It is updated regularly.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online.
Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included:
Fever above 38 C.
New cough or worsening chronic cough.
New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.
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.