N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Variant first found in S. Africa confirmed in 2 cases

·12 min read
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, said New Brunswickers need to remain vigilant until everyone receives their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the end of June. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, said New Brunswickers need to remain vigilant until everyone receives their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the end of June. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)

Two confirmed cases of the variant first detected in South Africa have been identified in New Brunswick.

In a news release Monday, Public Health said the two cases were reported in the Saint John region, Zone 2. They are the first confirmed cases of that variant identified in New Brunswick, which until now has only seen cases of the variant first reported in the U.K.

One of the cases is related to travel outside of Canada and the other is a contact of that travel case, the department said in the release.

The variant is more transmissible and causes more serious outcomes than the original coronavirus.

In an interview Monday, Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said the risks to the New Brunswick population have never been higher than they are now.

"We have never had this many hospitalizations and ICU admissions at one time," she said.

There are currently 145 active cases in the province.
There are currently 145 active cases in the province.(CBC News)

10 new cases reported

Ten new cases have been reported, affecting two zones, in New Brunswick on Monday.

The cases break down in this way:

Moncton region, Zone 1, four cases:

  • An individual 20 to 29

  • An individual 30 to 39

  • Two people 40 to 49

One of these cases is linked to travel and the other three are under investigation.

Edmundston region, Zone 4, six cases:

  • Two people 19 and under.

  • An individual 20 to 29.

  • An individual 30 to 39.

  • An individual 50 to 59.

  • An individual 60 to 69.

Two of these cases are contacts of a previously confirmed cases and the other four are under investigation.

The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 1,732. Since Sunday, 13 people have recovered for a total of 1,553 recoveries.

There have been 33 deaths

The number of active cases is 145. Eighteen patients are hospitalized, including 13 in an intensive care unit.
A total of 268,096 tests have been conducted, including 737 since Sunday's report.

The number of people who've received at least one dose of a vaccine is 136,494 — more than 20 per cent of those eligible. These doses include 625 administered since Sunday, according to the province's dashboard published Monday afternoon.

A total of 136,494 New Brunswickers have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine so far.
A total of 136,494 New Brunswickers have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine so far.(CBC News)

All new cases presumed to be variant cases

Every new case of COVID-19 popping up now in the province is presumed to be a variant of the coronavirus, says New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health.

Dr. Jennifer Russell said the variants are 30 to 70 per cent more contagious than the virus that dominated the first year of the pandemic and pose more of a threat to young people, causing severe symptoms.

"Now we're seeing those serious outcomes in terms of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s needing hospitalization and ventilation."

As of Monday afternoon, the variant first reported in the United Kingdom and the variant first detected in South Africa have both been found in New Brunswick, but Russell said she wouldn't be surprised if new cases were of the variant first reported Brazil.

I won't feel completely reassured until everybody has that second dose on board by September. - Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick chief medical officer of health

Russell is asking people to keep their guard up at least until the end of June.

By then, everyone in New Brunswick should have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

She said the next two and a half months are critical for protecting against outbreaks.

"We're just not there yet," she said. "I need everybody to dig deep and go hard for the next two and a half months at least."

Russell said she will be cautious about lifting any kind of public health measures in the foreseeable future.

"I won't feel completely reassured until everybody has that second dose on board by September."

Edmundston deputy mayor begs residents to stay home

Edmundston's deputy mayor is pleading with residents to stay home as the number of COVID-19 variant cases continues to climb in the region.

Deputy Mayor Eric Marquis said it's frustrating to hear people are still going out, despite possible infection, exposing others to the virus.

"It's hitting hard," Marquis said. "We all know somebody who is hit with COVID in our region right now."

The Edmundston and Haut-Madawaska areas were placed under the province's tightest public health measures over the weekend. All non-essential businesses have been ordered to close and schools have moved to to virtual learning.

This is the second time this year that the region has been placed under lockdown.

Marquis said Public Health made the right decision.

"People are realizing we don't have any choice."

Edmundston Deputy Mayor Eric Marquis says residents are still heading out, despite possible exposure to COVID-19 variants.
Edmundston Deputy Mayor Eric Marquis says residents are still heading out, despite possible exposure to COVID-19 variants. (Gary Moore/CBC News)

Facing an influx of COVID-19 patients, the Edmundston Regional Hospital continues to be overwhelmed. New admissions are now being directed to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton.

Marquis said the situation has been grim and difficult on families.

"Our hospital staff are stretched to their limit," he said.

Five patients with COVID-19 are on ventilators at the Edmundston Regional Hospital.
Five patients with COVID-19 are on ventilators at the Edmundston Regional Hospital.(Radio-Canada)

Most of the patients are infected with the variant first reported in the U.K., with some as young as 25. Last week, a 38-year-old Saint-Basile man became the youngest person in the province to die from COVID-19.

Vaccination clinics are now open in the Grand Falls and Saint-Quentin areas. Marquis expects another vaccine clinic to open in Edmundston on Friday.

He said the pandemic has been making it difficult for businesses in the area to stay afloat, so the city is working with government to come up with a program to help them.

"We see it as the answer to the crisis we're having right now."

Next month's municipal election has also been postponed because of the lockdown. Elections New Brunswick will look at the length of the lockdown before deciding when to hold the election.

Marquis urged residents to stay positive, saying the pandemic will eventually come to an end.

"We're going to bounce back and have better days."

How students are reacting to full-time classes being put on hold

A Grade 11 student at Tantramar Regional High School in Sackville says he's relieved full-time classes did not resume on Monday.

Over the weekend, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced a delay in return to full-time, in-person school on Monday as a precaution.

"With COVID, it's the safest option," said student Bliss Behar.

He said there can be up to 30 students inside a classroom at one time, making physical distancing difficult.

He said the smaller class sizes make it easier to learn. At home, he's been learning to self-regulate and is making sure his assignments are completed on time.

"That prepares us for university," Behar said.

But the Sackville teen said he understands not everyone feels the same way.

Although Mekedess Maillet understands the decision to postpone full-time classes, the Grade 11 was still disappointed.

"It kind of feels like I'm losing some of my learning." said Maillet, who attends Bonar Law Memorial High School in Rexton.

She wants classes to resume full-time so she's prepared for university. Maillet said some classes are harder than others, and having a break in between in-person days makes information sometimes more difficult to retain.

"I already feel like maybe I don't know enough for university level. ... am I not as ahead as I would be?"

Maillet said she and her friends miss attending classes in person, so it's hard to stay motivated without an end date in sight.

"It's been a very roller-coaster of a year for school."

Luc Bélanger, 38, of Saint-Basile in Zone 4 died of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Luc Bélanger, 38, of Saint-Basile in Zone 4 died of COVID-19 on Tuesday.(Bellavance Funeral Home/Radio-Canada)

Stephanie Patterson, spokesperson for the Anglophone East School District, said the district communicated changes after the province made its announcement Saturday afternoon.

"After going through this year, we're always prepared for something to pop out of the woodwork," said Patterson.

She said teachers have been preparing for the full-time classes starting Monday. Now, they'll have to change back to online learning.

"It's challenging for everybody to have to always switch on a dime," she said.

Zoe Watson, superintendent of Anglophone South, also said a lot of work went into preparing for full-time classes this week.

She said principals were changing operational plans, furniture was being put back into classrooms and teachers had adjusted seating plans. Transportation was also being adjusted to ensure physical distancing on school buses.

"I appreciate it gets very confusing for families. … We always knew this was going to be a school year like no other."

Premiers monitor Atlantic bubble possibility

The bubble with all four Atlantic provinces is expected to open in one week's time, but the premiers and health officials are watching things day by day, says Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health.

As of Sunday, there were 40 active cases of the virus reported in Nova Scotia. Ten active cases in Newfoundland, as of Saturday and six active cases were reported on Prince Edward Island as of Friday.

"We're going to watch and wait and see how things unfold," she said.

Possible flight exposures

New Brunswick Public Health has has identified a positive case in a traveller who might've been infectious on two flights on March 10.

  • Air Canada Flight 8906 – from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 7:10 p.m.

  • Air Canada Flight 414 – from Toronto to Montreal, departed at 2:10 p.m.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said many people are continuing to travel for various reasons.

"We won't be able to keep cases of COVID-19 and the variants out of the province," she said. "They will keep arriving."

She said it's possible people are making stops in major cities like Toronto to receive a test.

If they receive a negative test, Russell, said those people come back to New Brunswick with a false sense of security and think they're self-isolating adequately.

The presence of a more contagious variant has also changed the outook.

"It's a very contagious variant."

Although Russell said New Brunswick has adopted some of the tightest restrictions for getting into a province, Russell is encouraging everyone to stay put.

"When we move, COVID moves," she said. "So the less travel the better."

More possible exposures

Edmundston area:

  • April 9 between 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. – Shoppers Drug Mart (160 Hébert Blvd., Edmundston)

  • April 8 between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., April 7 between 6:30 a.m and 7:00 a.m., and April 6 between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. – Tim Hortons (262 Isidore-Boucher Blvd., St-Jacques)

  • April 7 between after 6:00 p.m., April 6 after 6:00 p.m. – Epicerie Chez ti-Marc (256 Isidore-Boucher Blvd., St-Jacques)

  • April 7 between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., and April 6 between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. – Dollarama (787 Victoria St., Edmundston)

  • April 7 between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., and April 6 between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. – NB Liquor, (575 Victoria St., Edmundston)

  • April 7 between 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. – Jean Coutu (177 Victoria St., Edmundston)

  • April 7 between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – Subway (180 Hébert Blvd., Edmundston)

  • April 7 between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. – Atlantic Superstore (577 Victoria St., Edmundston)

  • April 6 between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. – Scotiabank (75 Canada Rd., Edmundston)

  • March 26 to April 8 – Napa Auto Parts - (260 Canada St., Edmundston)

  • March 20 to April 9, Atlantic Superstore (577 Victoria St., Edmundston)

  • April 5 at 11 a.m. – Shoppers Drug Mart (160 Hébert Blvd., Edmundston)

  • April 1 – Royal Bank (48 Saint-François St., Edmundston)

  • March 31 between 12 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – Scotiabank (75 Canada Rd., Edmundston)

  • March 30 between 12 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – Scotiabank (75 Canada Rd., Edmundston)

  • March 29 between 8:45 a.m. and 4 p.m. – Scotiabank (75 Canada Rd., Edmundston)

Moncton region:

  • April 8 between 4:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – COSTCO Wholesale customer service (140 Granite Drive, Moncton)

  • April 6 between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. – YMCA Vaughan Harvey, (30 War Veterans Ave., Moncton)

  • April 4 between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. – Moncton Wesleyan Church (945 St. George Blvd., Moncton)

  • April 3 between 8:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. – Kelseys Original Roadhouse (141 Trinity Dr., Moncton)

  • April 1 between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., April 3 between 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., April 6 between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., April 8 between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. – CF Champlain (477 Paul St., Dieppe)

Fredericton region:

  • March 31 – Murray's Irving Big Stop (198 Beardsley Rd., Beardsley)

Saint John region:

  • April 9 between 2:10 p.m. and 2:40 p.m., GAP Factory East Point, (15 Fashion Dr., Saint John)

  • April 9 between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. – McAllister Place, 519 Westmorland Rd., Saint John

  • April 8 between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., – McAllister Place, 519 Westmorland Rd., Saint John

  • April 8 between 1:15 p.m. and 2 p.m. – Service New Brunswick, 15 King Square North, Saint John

  • April 1 between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – YMCA of Greater Saint John (191 Churchill Blvd., Saint John)

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.

  • Sore throat.

  • Runny nose.

  • Headache.

  • New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.

  • 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.

  • Follow instructions.