New Brunswick reported no new cases of COVID-19 for a fourth straight day Friday and announced more mobile walk-in vaccination clinics will be held next week as the push continues to the green phase of recovery and removal of all restrictions.
The clinics, which will offer the Moderna vaccine as first or second doses, will be open to everyone, including out-of-province visitors, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told Information Morning Saint John.
"We're not targeting those who are vacationing," she said. "But if someone were to come forward, we're certainly going to make sure that everyone who can be vaccinated is vaccinated."
Vaccination is "a national effort, and so no one is going to be turned down."
The province's goal under the path to green is to have at least 75 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 or older fully vaccinated by Aug. 2, New Brunswick Day.
Once that threshold is reached, the province will end the state of emergency mandatory order and lift all Public Health restrictions — provided COVID hospitalizations remain low and all health regions remain at the yellow COVID alert level.
As of Friday, 47.5 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are double-dosed and 79.1 per cent have received at least one dose.
Shephard thinks the single-dose vaccination rate will reach 80 per cent within days.
"I'm feeling really good and extremely optimistic," she said.
"The vaccination numbers are great … and even the first dose continues to climb."
New Brunswick recently opened its borders to the rest of Canada, but case numbers are the lowest they have been since last fall.
Shephard said she has noticed licence plates from Quebec, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, and attributes the steady low case counts to the province's successful vaccine roll out.
Vaccines are doing their job of limiting transmission and hospitalizations from the respiratory disease, she said.
The Department of Health is pleased with the contributions of the mobile walk-in clinics to the vaccination efforts, said director of communications Bruce Macfarlane.
On average, the clinics held between Tuesday and Thursday at venues such as bowling alleys and arenas each vaccinated more than 225 people, he said. "We have administered some first doses and second doses at these clinics."
Throughout the campaign, the regional health authorities and participating pharmacies have offered appointments that offer a variety of opportunities on different days of the week and spanning hours that go beyond the traditional workday, said Macfarlane.
But the pop-up clinics are "one more way to help people access vaccination by going into local neighbourhoods and communities," he said.
"They are intended to bridge gaps in accessibility and convenience," with no appointment or scheduling required ahead of time.
Macfarlane recommends people do arrive early, however. They should also wear a short-sleeved shirt and a mask.
A mobile walk-in Moderna clinic is underway Friday in Blacks Harbour at the Fundy Arena, 6 Arena St., until 4 p.m.
On Saturday, there will be a clinic in Dieppe at the Bowlarama, 476 Gauvin Rd., from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Next week, clinics are taking place at the following locations:
Fredericton — Kinsmen Club, 141 School St., on Monday, between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Fredericton — Marysville Walk-in Clinic, 231 Canada St., on Tuesday, between noon and 6 p.m.
Hillsborough — Kiwanis Community Centre, 47 Legion St., on Tuesday, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Perth-Andover — River Valley Civic Centre, 11 School St., on Thursday, between noon and 6 p.m.
Dorchester — Dorchester Veterans Community Hall, 4955 Main St., on Thursday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Plaster Rock — Tobique Lions Community Centre, 61 Everett Ln., on Friday, between 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Salisbury — Salisbury Baptist Church, 3128 Main St., on Friday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
People are eligible for a second dose once at least 28 days have passed since their first dose.
They are asked to bring a copy of the record of immunization they received after getting their first dose, a signed consent form and their Medicare card.
People who booked an appointment but were able to get vaccinated sooner elsewhere are asked to cancel the appointment they no longer need.
7 active cases
New Brunswick has seven active cases of COVID-19, Public Health announced Friday.
The last time New Brunswick reported an active case count below 10 was on Oct. 6, 2020, said Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane. Five active cases were noted on that day.
Two people remain in hospital with the respiratory disease, neither in intensive care.
New Brunswick has had 2,336 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease since the pandemic began, with 2,282 recoveries so far and 46 COVID-related deaths.
A total of 367,651 tests have been conducted, including 724 on Thursday.
There are no new public exposure notices. Previous public exposure notices can be found on the government of New Brunswick's website.
P.E.I. reduces border testing, drops mandatory masks
Prince Edward Island will no longer test New Brunswickers and other Atlantic Canadian residents when they arrive, provided they have a PEI Pass.
None of the 25,000 tests conducted over the past two weeks came back positive, officials said Friday.
Testing will still be required for travellers from outside Atlantic Canada.
The P.E.I. government has also eliminated its requirement that people wear a mask in most indoor places.
University of Toronto epidemiologist Colin Furness thinks that's a mistake.
"They'll get away with it for two months. And then they'll be sorry they made that decision," he told CBC New Brunswick News. "By September, that's going to seem like a foolish decision."
P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the easing of mask requirements reflects a change in the pandemic situation, with dropping case numbers and rising immunization rates across the country.
Although residents and visitors are no longer required to wear a mask in most indoor places, they are still "encouraged" to do so.
They should consider their own health and vaccination status, as well as the vaccination status of others around them and their exposure to the public when deciding whether to wear a mask, she said.
"Masks do remain an important layer of protection when we are around people we do not know or who may not be fully protected."
Businesses and organizations may choose to follow their own policies and guidelines that are more strict than the provincial guidance, the government noted.
Masking remains mandatory in health-care settings, such as hospitals and clinics, and long-term care homes.
In New Brunswick, masks remain mandatory in indoor public spaces under the yellow COVID alert level.
Once the province reaches the green phase of recovery, with at least 75 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated, all restrictions will be lifted, including masks. The target date is Aug. 2.
Atlantic COVID roundup
Nova Scotia reported one new case of COVID-19 on Friday, and has 39 active cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador has two new cases aboard a cargo ship anchored in Conception Bay, and has 16 active cases.
Prince Edward Island has no new cases and only one active case.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment test online.
Public Health says symptoms of the illness have included a fever above 38 C, a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, a new onset of fatigue, 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 Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor, and follow instructions.