As New Brunswick prepares to move into the green phase of COVID-19 recovery and lift all restrictions Friday at 11:59 p.m., Public Health reported seven new cases of COVID and Canada's top doctor warned the country could be seeing the start of a variant-driven fourth wave.
The seriousness of the pandemic's resurgence will depend largely on vaccination coverage, said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.
"This forecast reaffirms the need to take a cautious approach to relaxing public health measures, to remain vigilant and responsive to signs of resurgence, and to continue to increase first and second dose vaccination coverage," she said.
Provincial officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The province's original goal was to have 75 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 and older fully vaccinated before lifting restrictions, including mandatory masks, gathering limits and provincial border checks for travellers within Canada.
But last Friday, Premier Blaine Higgs announced the province would go green as of Saturday morning, regardless of whether it met its initial target.
Vaccination rates have fallen since then, a trend that continued Thursday with 5,592 people rolling up their sleeves.
Of those, 4,565 received their second dose, bumping the fully vaccinated rate up to 66.7 per cent of the eligible population, from 66.1 per cent.
The remaining 1,027 people got their first shot. That means 82 per cent of the eligible population has now received at least one dose, up from 81.9 per cent.
Pop-up walk-in clinics offering Moderna as first and second doses are being held across the province to help make getting vaccinated more convenient and accessible.
One is underway Friday in Beechwood at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 22 Hallett Rd., Beechwood, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m
Another clinic accepting walk-ins Friday is taking place in Saint John at Exhibition Park, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. It's also offering Moderna to people 18 years or older.
On Saturday, the following clinics will accept walk-ins:
Miramichi — Miramichi Public Health, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (12 years or older – Pfizer-BioNTech)
Saint John — Exhibition Park, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (12 years or older – Pfizer-BioNTech)
On Monday, New Brunswick Day, there is a clinic accepting walk-ins:
Saint John — Exhibition Park, 10 a.m. to 2p.m. (12 years or older – Pfizer-BioNTech)
A pop-up walk-in clinic offering Pfizer will also be held in Fredericton Monday at the Crowne Plaza, 659 Queen St., from noon to 5 p.m., for anyone those who not yet received their first or second dose.
"At this time, patients, staff and visitors to all hospitals and health-care facilities, including COVID-19 assessment centres and vaccination clinics, must continue to wear masks to reduce the risk of transmission within the health-care system," Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in a statement.
"Any patient with a valid medical exemption to wearing a mask, is asked to call in advance to the department or service to ensure arrangements can be made to accommodate them," she said.
Anyone aged 12 or older can be vaccinated and people are eligible to get their second dose 28 days after their first.
People are asked to bring their Medicare card, a signed consent form, and their record of vaccination if they're receiving their second dose.
19 active cases
The seven new confirmed cases of COVID-19 include:
Moncton region, Zone 1, five cases:
A person under 19
Three people 20 to 29
A person 30 to 39
Three of the cases are under investigation, one is travel-related and the other case is a contact of a previously confirmed case, Public Health said.
Fredericton region, Zone 3, two cases:
A person under 19
A person 30 to 39
One case is travel-related and the other is under investigation.
The province's active case count now stands at 19.
No one is hospitalized with the respiratory disease.
The next update on case numbers and vaccination rates isn't expected until Tuesday, unless there is a significant development over the holiday weekend.
Public Health announced earlier this week that updates via the COVID-19 dashboard will continue to be available Monday to Friday, excluding holidays. News releases will no longer be regularly posted on weekdays, "except as required due to developments," it said.
There have been 2,365 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province since the pandemic began, with 2,299 recoveries so far and 46 COVID-related deaths.
A total of 380,447 COVID tests have been conducted, including 748 on Thursday.
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 811 or their doctor and follow instructions.