Only 70.3 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and lifting of restrictions will be delayed for at least a few more days, the chief medical officer of health announced Monday.
The province had hoped to have 75 per cent of people aged 12 and older vaccinated with at least one dose by midnight for New Brunswick to enter the first phase of its three-phase path to green.
As of Monday afternoon, 487,408 people have had their first shot, said Dr. Jennifer Russell.
"It sounds like a lot, and it is," she said.
"Our vaccination rate is higher than all of our Atlantic neighbours and exceeds Manitoba and Alberta as well. But as good as this is, it's not quite good enough. And so we have to keep going."
The province needs at least three quarters of eligible New Brunswickers vaccinated with at least one dose to limit the impact of future outbreaks of COVID-19 and to prevent severe illness, hospitalizations and death, she told the COVID briefing
Anything less than that would leave the province with "an unacceptable risk," and could lead to another wave of infections that could overwhelm the health-care system.
"We will not settle for good enough. Close may count in horseshoes, but not in pandemics."
Another 32,342 people still need to roll up their sleeves to push the province to its target. Until then, the current yellow COVID alert level restrictions remain in place.
Among the changes under Phase 1 of the path to green: contact with all family and friends will be allowed instead of being limited to a steady 15, the province will reopen to parts of Atlantic Canada and Quebec, and truckers and cross-border commuters will no longer be subject to isolation and testing requirements.
Vaccination rate by health zone Health zone Vaccination rate Moncton region, Zone 1 67.6 per cent Saint John region, Zone 2 67.1 per cent Fredericton region, Zone 3 65.3 per cent Edmundston region, Zone 4 66.1 per cent Campbellton region, Zone 5 66.2 per cent Bathurst region, Zone 6 66.5 per cent Miramichi region, Zone 7 68.9 per cent
*The provincial rate is higher because some people didn't provide their postal code, so their vaccination couldn't be assigned to a health zone, the chief medical officer of health said.
Russell said she's confident the goal will be reached in the coming days. The province has enough doses and appointments available.
She appealed directly to people under 40. "When you get vaccinated, opportunities will open up that you have not had in more than a year. So spending time this summer hanging out with friends, and at the beach, or at the camp, and having bonfires and barbecues, that can happen," she said.
"There is a path to a normal summer for all of us in New Brunswick and it leads through a vaccination clinic."
Snowbirds and other residents who were vaccinated out of province and have returned to New Brunswick have not yet been added to the total, said Russell.
Public Health is aware of at least 300 such people, as of Friday, she told reporters. "As soon as we get more information on the people who got vaccinated outside the province, we will include them in our rates."
People who registered with the New Brunswick Travel Registration program are supposed to receive an email from Public Health inviting them to complete a questionnaire confirming whether they received a dose while outside the province.
A new website has also been created for these people to voluntarily fill out so they can be counted toward the 75 per cent vaccination goal.
The mandatory fields include their name, age group, the type of vaccine they received, the date it was administered, and their email address.
Department of Health officials have not responded to questions about how they will verify the information submitted.
There's reason to certainly be optimistic that we would be able to to look at bordering regions of Nova Scotia to be included. - Blaine Higgs, premier
Premier Blaine Higgs said while the province fell short of its "ambitious" target, it has made "great strides" in recent days.
He noted in particular vaccinations among those aged 12 to 19 jumped to nearly 45 per cent from 16.5 per cent.
Higgs estimated it will take another four or five days to reach 75 per cent.
The delay could see visitors from some parts of Nova Scotia welcomed during Phase 1 instead of Phase 2, he told reporters.
"There's reason to certainly be optimistic that we would be able to to look at bordering regions of Nova Scotia to be included," much like the border regions in northern Quebec, Higgs said. He plans to discuss the matter with Public Health on Wednesday, he said.
Higgs suggested the Atlantic bubble, which allows travel within the four Atlantic provinces without the need for isolation or testing, could be fully restored sooner than anticipated.
"I think you'll see the bubble reunite here over the coming weeks. I think we're all trending in the same direction."
He does not expect the delay of Phase 1 to affect the July 1 target for Phase 2, he said.
If at least 20 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 65 or over have received their second dose by then, travellers from across Canada with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed into the province with no isolation required. The same will apply to travellers from Maine, pending changes to the federal regulations.
Those who have not been vaccinated will also be permitted to enter the province, but will be required to isolate and undergo COVID testing between days five and seven. They will be released from isolation if they test negative.
International travellers with two doses will not be required to isolate, pending changes to federal regulations, while those with one dose or no vaccination will be subject to 14-day isolation, with a test on day 10.
No information about how the province will verify if a traveller has been vaccinated has been released. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC News on June 2 Public Safety was working on a plan.
"We'll have more to say about that in the next day or so," she said.
Businesses, such as restaurants, gyms and salons, will also be able to operate at regular capacity during this phase.
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.
2nd doses now available for some
New Brunswickers who received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before April 1 can now book an appointment for their second dose through a participating pharmacy or at a Horizon or Vitalité Health Network clinic, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell.
On June 14, eligibility for second doses will expand to include anyone who received their first in April.
On June 21, eligibility for second dose appointments will be extended to everyone, as long as at least 28 days have passed since their first dose, Russell said.
If possible, residents are asked to book an appointment at the same pharmacy or clinic where they received their first dose.
They should bring a copy of the record of immunization they were given, as well as a signed consent form and their medicare card.
People who received their first dose outside the province and have lived in New Brunswick for at least four weeks may register for their second dose, following the same schedule as those who received their first dose in New Brunswick.
Vaccines key to avoiding variant-fuelled 4th wave
New Brunswick's COVID-19 vaccination efforts are key to avoiding a possible fourth wave fuelled by the highly transmissible variant first reported in India, B1617, the chief medical officer of health said Monday.
So far, the province's experience with the variant, recently renamed Delta by the World Health Organization, has been mostly in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, said Dr. Jennifer Russell. But she believes it has now also been identified in the Bathurst region, Zone 6, she said.
The variant, believed to be behind recent spikes in cases in parts of the United Kingdom, has been shown to be more transmissible than previous versions of the virus.
"The need to get everybody vaccinated right now is very, very high to avoid that fourth wave," Russell said.
Last Friday, Canada's chief medical officer said the variant has been found "essentially across Canada and warned it could "take off" in under−vaccinated populations.
Dr. Theresa Tam said there is some evidence that one dose of a vaccine provides some protection but two doses are better.
"So it is very important to get that second dose when variants such as the Delta variant (are) in our community."
Research has shown that one dose of vaccine is only about 33 per cent effective against the Delta variant.
1 new case
Public Health confirmed one new case of COVID-19 on Monday, putting the total active cases at 111.
The person in their 30s is in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, and is a contact of a previously confirmed case.
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.
New Brunswick has had 2,266 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, 2,110 recoveries and 44 COVID-related deaths.
A total of 343,92 tests have been completed throughout the pandemic, including 864 on Sunday.
2nd positive case at Nackawic school
A second positive case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Nackawic Senior High School, Public Health announced Monday.
All students and staff have been directed to restrict their movements for the next 48 hours as contact tracing is conducted, according to a news release.
In the notice sent to staff and families, Dr. Yves Léger, the regional medical officer of health, asks them to:: 'Limit your outings to essentials outings only."
If possible, they should also avoid taking any medication that could hide symptoms or a fever, such as ibuprofen (i.e. Advil) or acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol), he said.
Students will continue to learn online this week, Public Health said.
Anyone identified as a close contact of the positive case will be contacted directly by Public Health.
Families were notified about the first positive case on June 1.
No information about whether the cases involve students or staff has been released. The school has about 270 students in grades 9 to 12.
Atlantic COVID roundup
Nova Scotia reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday for a total of 182 active cases, including seven people in intensive care.
Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed two new cases as the number of active cases rose to 70.
New public exposures
Public Health has identified numerous new 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 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 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.