Two new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the province Friday, both in the Campbellton area, Zone 5.
The cases involve one individual in their 40s and one in their 70s, and both people are self-isolating, the Health Department said in a news release Friday.
The province also reported eight recoveries from COVID-19.
This brings the total number of active cases down to 75. There have been a total of 324 cases of the disease in New Brunswick, with 245 recoveries and four deaths.
There were 548 tests conducted on Thursday, bringing the total number of tests to 95,584.
Premier confident Zone 5 can get handle on virus
As residents of Restigouche County head into the weekend under a more restrictive orange phase or recovery, Premier Blaine Higgs says the region is very close to being put back into the red phase as more positive cases of COVID-19 are announced.
After looking at the numbers, Public Health recommendations and where to find the balance, the premier said the government decided to limit interaction in the Campbellton region to single household bubbles to see if it would help limit the spread of the virus.
"Can we get a handle on this," Higgs said he and others asked. "And so we believe that we can, but we won't do it without the residents being part of it."
Three new cases were announced Thursday in the Campbellton region, or Zone 5, which now has 55 active cases and 300 people in self-isolation.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, said were four separate chains of infection in the region that cannot be linked, a strong indication of community spread of the virus.
Mass testing will take place Saturday and Sunday in Zone 5 as a way for Public Health to get a more accurate picture of the prevalence of the virus in the community. Russell said Public Health would have the data from the two days of testing by Tuesday.
Testing of non-symptomatic people will be held Saturday at the Memorial Regional Civic Centre in Campbellton and on Sunday at Inch Arran Arena in Dalhousie. Testing will be done from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.
This testing isn't for people who have symptoms, since they would follow the usual route to get tested at a testing centre.
Zone 1 hospitals allow more visitors, surgeries
Hospitals in Zone 1 are beginning to loosen restrictions now that the region has moved back into the yellow phase of recoveryy.
The Vitalité Health Network said it will start allowing more visitors and increase elective procedures at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton and Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Kent.
"The return of Moncton and surrounding area to the yellow phase allows us to now adopt somewhat less restrictive rules for visitors and to gradually re-establish service delivery," said Vitalité CEO Gilles Lanteigne in a news release.
Visits to patients will be allowed between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Patients can only have one visitor at a time, except when in palliative care, when two are allowed.
Patients who have, or are suspected of having, COVID-19 are not allowed to have visitors.
Many questions from public for Higgs, Russell
Premier Blaine Higgs and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell answered COVID-related questions from New Brunswick residents on CBC New Brunswick's Information Morning shows.
One of the most touching calls came from Edwina Baldwin. She said she has not been able to touch her husband, in a nursing home and in the late stages of Alzheimer's, since the province went into lockdown on March 15.
While she has been able to visit him, they must be six feet apart and supervised, and she can't touch him, despite a Sept. 2 announcement that nursing home residents are now allowed to hug one designated person.
"Why can I not touch my husband's hand? Next call I get he'll be on his way," Baldwin said.
Russell explained it is up to each home to determine how it can handle visits with family, based on the home's operational plan and directions from Public Health.
"I find it really sad, obviously," Russell said.
Testing possible for essential workers
After addressing a question about travel outside the Atlantic bubble, Higgs said the government is looking at putting new measures in place to test essential workers who are coming back to New Brunswick.
At present, these workers who come into the province from outside the bubble are not required to self-isolate for 14 days, as most other people are. Higgs said the province plans a testing program.
"We would do it maybe on the first day and tenth day, but we would work out some formula there that basically we'd stay in touch and we'd do the testing just to be sure," Higgs said.
Another caller asked how soon the province would see rapid testing similar to the pilot project being tested in Alberta that will test essential workers coming into Canada.
If the test comes back negative in 48 hours, the person is no longer required to self-isolate but will have to have another test on Day 6 or 7 after arrival.
Participants in the test project will be closely monitored through daily symptom checks and be required to follow preventive health measures such as wearing masks in public places and avoiding visiting high-risk groups.
Russell said her department will be watching what happens in Alberta to see if the ultimate goal of expanding it to other travellers can be done.
"In the meantime, you know, we do have to as, as the premier said, follow the public health directions right now."
Campbellton business community suffering
Luc Couturier said people in Campbellton are scared as the region continues to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We put our guards down and that's what happens."
Couturier owns and operates a family restaurant, Cafe Chez Wes, is the president of the business group Downtown Campbellton, and sits on the board of the Restigouche Chamber of Commerce. He says businesses have been hit hard, including his own.
"I've lost 50 to 60 per cent of my customers in a week or so. Business is very slow right now."
In addition to losing customers because of the suspension of the mini-bubble with Quebec's Avignon region Oct. 8, Couturier said now some businesses are dealing with a closure because of restrictions under the orange phase.
"We already see businesses downtown that will be closing their doors shortly. They can't keep up like that."
Couturier said he gets frustrated when he hears Premier Higgs claims that the economy is good in the province.
"Well I'm sorry, sir, but get out of your office and go in the malls and go in the downtowns. Businesses are suffering."
As a small business owner himself, Couturier said it isn't acceptable that no help was offered to them by the government.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test on the government website at gnb.ca.
Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: a fever above 38 C, a new cough or worsening chronic cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, new onset of fatigue, new onset of muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell, 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 Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.
Describe symptoms and travel history.
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