New Brunswick reported one new case of COVID-19 Tuesday and is polling people 50 and under to find out what would convince them to get vaccinated.
Premier Blaine Higgs said this age demographic has the lowest vaccination rates.
"We're just looking for that lower age group to get them up, so we don't have a whole demographic here that's at risk," he said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.
The province won't be offering cash incentives, Higgs said.
But he did raise the possibly of partnering with businesses to provide sundaes at drive-thru vaccination clinics and sending refrigerated vaccine trucks to beaches and schools to make the shots more accessible.
"I just think we can be innovative," he said, as the province continues to push to reach its goal of 75 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers vaccinated with a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Tuesday, 491,228 New Brunswickers have received their first dose. That's 70.8 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 and older.
Another 28,812 people need to get their shot in order to reach the 75 per cent threshold for Phase 1 of the path to green, which includes removing the steady-15 requirement and reopening to parts of Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
The province was originally slated to reach the goal Monday, but Higgs said Tuesday that will likely happen by the end of the week.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, said the province is thankful to everyone who has received their first dose and for those who continue to encourage others to get vaccinated.
"Even if you have been vaccinated, you can still help. If you know someone who doesn't drive, offer them a lift and if they are unable to book an appointment online themselves, offer to help," she said in a statement.
"We have made tremendous progress, let's continue the drive to 75."
The highest vaccination rates for first doses are among people aged 50 and older, ranging from nearly 75 per cent to more than 93 per cent, figures released by the province on Monday show.
For people aged 40 to 49, the rate is 67 per cent. For people aged 30 to 39, it's 57 per cent, and for people aged 20 to 29, it's 51 per cent.
The lowest rate is for people aged 12 to 19, at 44 per cent.
"So we're going to be asking this demographic [of people aged 12 to 50], 'OK, what's it take to get you over the line and why aren't you vaccinated and what else could we do?'' said Higgs.
He acknowledged some people will say they simply do not wish to be vaccinated.
But he believes the low rates are more about convenience than vaccine hesitancy. So the government wants to know if there are better ways to make the vaccine accessible, such as different clinic locations and times, he said, noting some clinics have been running as late as 10 p.m. AT.
It also wants to identify opportunities to meet people where they are, or to get large groups vaccinated, said Higgs.
"We're looking at mechanisms to do that — whether a refrigerated truck sitting in a lineup at Tim Hortons can be helpful or, you know, being at beaches if the weather is going to stay like this," he said.
Other parts of the country have had drive-thru clinics, he said, "and what better drive-thru location than a Tim Hortons lineup or McDonald's or Dairy Queen?
"And if the vendor was offering a sundae when you got to the end of the line after you got your vaccine, but you had to show proof of a vaccine, that would be interesting," said Higgs. "When you count the number of cars travelling through there, I'm sure it's quite significant."
The province might also consider offering clinics at schools for students, said Higgs. "I think they'll do it. I just think there's not the same concern about their own health."
New storage recommendations for the Pfizer-Bio-NTech vaccine have opened up such mobile opportunities, he said.
Health Canada now recommends storing the vaccine at regular refrigerated temperatures of 2 to 8 C for up to one month. The vaccine was first authorized with a recommended storage temperature of between –80 C to –60 C and thawed undiluted vials could be stored in the refrigerator for only up to five days.
Higgs called this very helpful.
"An average refrigerated truck would work," he said. "And there's refrigerated trucks around."
Possible vaccine eligibility expansion
The COVID-19 cabinet committee could make a recommendation about vaccinating children under 12 this week, Higgs said.
It has a meeting Wednesday night.
"At this point we're still at 12 and above."
Higgs also said opening up the borders to the rest of Atlantic Canada is expected to happen early summer, around June 28.
The target for Phase 2 is to have at least 20 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 65 or over vaccinated with their second dose by July 1.
The province aims to lift all restrictions during Phase 3 on Aug. 2, New Brunswick Day, if 75 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received both doses and hospitalizations remain manageable.
There is enough vaccine to meet the targets, said Higgs.
All zones remain under the current yellow COVID alert levels.
Anyone eligible for a vaccine who has not already received their first dose can book an appointment online through a Horizon or Vitalité Health Network clinic or by contacting a participating pharmacy.
Second doses can now be booked for anyone who was vaccinated prior to April 1.
99 active cases
The province has 99 active cases of COVID-19. It's the first time since March 26 the active case count has fallen below 100.
The one new case reported Tuesday is in the Bathurst region, Zone 6.
The person in their 70s is a contact of a previously confirmed case, Public Health said in a news release.
Three people are hospitalized in New Brunswick, including one in an intensive care unit. One person is hospitalized out of province in an intensive care unit.
Since the pandemic started, New Brunswick has had 2,267 confirmed cases, 2,123 recoveries and 44 COVID-related deaths.
A total of 345,313 tests have been completed throughout the pandemic, including 1,384 on Monday.
Positive case at Leo Hayes High School
A positive case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Leo Hayes High School, David McTimoney, the superintendent of Anglophone West School District, advised parents and guardians Tuesday night.
"We are working with Public Health officials to identify any students and school personnel who may have been in contact with the case," the notice states.
"At this time, in-person learning will continue [Wednesday] as per the regular schedule."
Anyone identified as a close contact of the positive case will be contacted directly by Public Health and will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days, said McTimoney.
Anyone potentially exposed to the case due to a common environment exposure, such as using the same classroom, will be asked to self-isolate until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, he said. They will also be asked to self-monitor to allow for contact tracing and risk assessment to be done.
No other information about the positive case will be released for privacy reasons, McTimoney said.
Atlantic COVID roundup
Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and confirmed its seventh COVID-related death, a man over the age of 70. There are now 62 active cases.
Nova Scotia reported 17 new cases for a total of 171 active cases.
Prince Edward Island has no new cases to report so far, and had five active cases as of late Monday.
New public exposures
Public Health has identified new potential public exposures to the coronavirus in the Fredericton region, Zone 3:
Shoppers Drug Mart, 1198 Onondaga St, Oromocto, June 1, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Atlantic Superstore, 1150 Onondaga St, Oromocto, June 1 between 1 p.m. and 4 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 identified on Monday potential public exposures to the coronavirus in the Fredericton region, Zone 3:
Oromocto Vision Centre, 1285 Onondaga St., Oromocto, June 2 between 10 a.m. and noon.
Lincoln Irving, 1769 Lincoln Rd., Fredericton, June 1 between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Dr. Kenneth Roberts office, 230-77 Westmorland Rd., Fredericton, June 1 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Giant Tiger, 1300 Onondaga St., Oromocto, June 1 between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Trius Taxi, 15 MacKenzie Rd., Fredericton, May 31 between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Milltown Roasters, 461 King St., Fredericton, May 31 between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Victory Meat Market, 334 King St., Fredericton, May 31 between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Fredericton Transit Bus #216, May 31 between 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Kent Garden Centre, 809 Bishop Dr., Fredericton, May 30 between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Walmart & Walmart Garden Centre, 1399 Regent St., Regent Mall, Fredericton, May 30 between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Public Health has identified numerous other potential public exposures to the coronavirus in many communities across the province, so many that it 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.