N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Cases prompt closure of Fredericton high school

·13 min read
Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said even though the province is at the least restrictive yellow COVID alert level, people must remain vigilant. (Government of New Brunswick  - image credit)
Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said even though the province is at the least restrictive yellow COVID alert level, people must remain vigilant. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)

Fredericton's Leo Hayes High School will be closed Thursday and Friday following two positive COVID-19 cases at the school.

The Thursday closure will allow for contact tracing and a deep cleaning of the school, said David McTimoney, superintendent for Anglophone School District West, in an email to parents Wednesday, adding there will be no teaching.

Friday will be an online learning day for all students, said McTimoney, who advised that students follow their regular schedule online from home.

Monday will be a planned non-instructional day as per the school calendar, McTimoney said.

"We understand you may feel anxious over the coming days," McTimoney said.

"Public Health officials will contact you if your child has been in close contact with the confirmed cases and will tell you if your child needs to self-isolate.

"Please note that this contact may initially come through your school principal who will be sending the message on behalf of Public Health. If you are not contacted by Public Health officials (through a call or through the principal), your child can continue with regular activities."

McTimoney said Public Health will inform those at risk of the next steps, but to protect the privacy of students and personnel, won't share details such as names.

9 new cases, including 2 out of province

New Brunswick Public Health reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and issued a reminder about the importance of getting tested, even though the entire province is back at the yellow alert level for the first time since mid-March.

Seven of the new cases are in New Brunswick, while the other two involve residents who are isolating outside the province, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said in a statement.

Since Tuesday, 22 people have recovered from the respiratory disease, putting the active number of cases at 123.

Seven people are hospitalized in New Brunswick, including three in an intensive care unit. Another four people are hospitalized out of province.

"Although the entire province is in the yellow alert level, we must all continue to do our part to slow the spread by following public health guidance and by getting vaccinated once we are eligible," said Russell.

"Don't take any chances with your health or the health of your family, friends and members of your community. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, please get tested."

Residents may request a test online or call Tele-Care 811 to book an appointment.

A section of the Edmundston region, Zone 4, which had been at the orange COVID alert level, joined the rest of the province at the yellow level, on Monday at midnight.
A section of the Edmundston region, Zone 4, which had been at the orange COVID alert level, joined the rest of the province at the yellow level, on Monday at midnight.(CBC)

The breakdown of the new cases is as follows:

Moncton region, Zone 1, two cases:

  • A person 30-39

  • A person 60-69

One case is a contact of a previously confirmed case and the other is an out-of-province travel case.

Bathurst region, Zone 6, five cases:

  • A person 20-29

  • Three people 50-59

  • A person 60-69

Three cases are travel-related, including one which is out-of-province, one is a contact of a previously confirmed case and the other one is under investigation.

Miramichi region, Zone 7, two cases:

  • Two people 60-69

Both cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.

New Brunswick has had 2,024 confirmed cases of COVID since the pandemic started. There have been 1,859 recoveries so far and 41 COVID-related deaths.

A total of 308,173 COVID tests have been conducted, including 1,483 on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday, 287,609 New Brunswickers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That's 41.5 per cent of the eligible population, aged 12 and older.

Special care home resident who died had 2 vaccine doses

Four of the five residents of a special care home in Grand Falls who died in a COVID-19 outbreak had received at least one dose of vaccine, and one of them had both doses, the Department of Health has confirmed.

On Monday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell had declined to say whether any of the victims at Pavillon Beau-Lieu had been vaccinated, citing confidentiality.

But on Tuesday, Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said in an emailed statement that "4 of the 5 were immunized with at least one dose and one of the 4 was immunized with two doses."

He did not offer any explanation for the sudden change in position.

The COVID outbreak at Pavillon Beau-Lieu, a special care home in Grand Falls, in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, has grown to 53 cases, including 38 residents and 15 staff.
The COVID outbreak at Pavillon Beau-Lieu, a special care home in Grand Falls, in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, has grown to 53 cases, including 38 residents and 15 staff. (Submitted by Madeleine LeClerc )

"I can also confirm that a first-dose clinic was held on Feb. 20th and a second-dose clinic on April 23rd at Pavillon Beau-Lieu."

Macfarlane did not say how much time elapsed between the inoculation of the residents who died and their onset of symptoms.

Russell has repeatedly stressed the vaccine takes at least two or three weeks to "really kick in," and the maximum protection is reached only two to three weeks after receiving the second dose.

The outbreak was declared on April 21 after one case of COVID-19 was confirmed.

The deaths of the residents, aged from their 70s to their 90s, were reported on May 2, May 3, May 5, May 6 and May 8.

A total of 38 residents and 15 staff at the 60-bed facility have now tested positive.

The outbreak involves the highly contagious variant first reported in South Africa.

Macfarlane did not say which vaccine the residents who died received.

Every resident in a long-term care home "was offered" a vaccine, he said.

"The majority of staff and residents have now received at least one dose."

On Monday, Education Minister Dominic Cardy told the COVID briefing that second-dose clinics have been held at 75 per cent of all long-term care homes in the province. The remainder will take place by the end of the month, he said.

More than 63 per cent of all long-term care home staff have received their first dose of a COVID vaccine, while nearly 36 per cent have received two doses "and are now fully vaccinated," Cardy said.

Anti-maskers clash with police at Edmundston courthouse

Nearly 20 anti-mask protesters clashed with police and sheriff's deputies at the Edmundston provincial courthouse Tuesday. They were upset they couldn't appear in court in person to contest charges of not complying with COVID-19 Public Health regulations in recent weeks. They were supposed to wait for a judge to call them on the phone instead.

The protesters arrived in groups, taking the stairs and elevators up to the second floor of the courthouse. They did not wear masks and did not maintain physical distancing.

They expressed their indignation at having to respond to the alleged violations by telephone and sought to appear in person before Judge Nicole Angers.

The protesters were not wearing masks when they showed up at the courthouse Tuesday in Edmundston.
The protesters were not wearing masks when they showed up at the courthouse Tuesday in Edmundston.(Radio-Canada)

Police officers asked the protesters to put on masks and obey physical distancing instructions. When they refused, the group was escorted outside, leading to two altercations with police, and an arrest.

During this time, in the courtroom, the judge tried to reach the protesters by phone.

About a dozen were found guilty after not responding to multiple calls, and each fined $292.50 per infraction.

Three people ended up pleading not guilty and are scheduled to return to court in November.

A total of 31 infractions for non-compliance with health measures were issued to nearly 20 people for alleged events that took place in Edmundston, Saint-Anne-de-Madawaska and Grand Falls between April 4 and April 20.

Surgical wait times up

The New Brunswick Medical Society says the backlog for surgeries has increased during the pandemic, but urgent operations are still getting done.

"If you go to the Government of New Brunswick surgical website, you'll see that prior to the pandemic, the wait list for 29 surgeries was approximately 260 days to complete 90 per cent of them," said president Jeff Steeves.

"And that's increased to 350 days, so that's about a 38 per cent increase in the wait list in the pandemic time."

Steeves said once the pandemic eases he'd like to see the medical society begin negotiations with the government about how to shorten the backlog.

136 KVHS students isolating

There are 136 Kennebecasis Valley High School students in isolation, awaiting the results of their COVID-19 tests, according to Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane.

No information has been released about how many staff or family members are also isolating after a positive case was confirmed at the Quispamsis school on Saturday.

Macfarlane did not say if the case origin has been determined, whether a COVID variant is involved, or if any other positive cases have been identified.

The school, which reopened Tuesday, has more than 1,000 students in grades 9-12, according to its website.

Isolation ends for Hampton school close contacts

Dr. A. T. Leatherbarrow Primary School in Hampton reopened as expected Tuesday, after families were notified of a positive case of COVID-19 at the school Sunday, confirmed Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane.

"Individuals previously identified as a contact of a person in the school have been instructed by Public Health to end their isolation," he said in an emailed statement.

Macfarlane did not respond to any other questions.

Roughly 230 students and staff at the kindergarten to Grade 2 school had been asked to self-isolate with their families until midnight Monday while contact tracing was conducted.

UNB Magee House update

"A handful" of people at Magee House, the University of New Brunswick Fredericton residence with a COVID-19 outbreak, are still self-isolating, said Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane.

"All should have their isolation period completed by May 16," he said in an emailed statement.

The outbreak at the 101-unit apartment-style residence was declared on April 27, after six cases were confirmed. Residents told CBC News they were notified about the first positive case on April 22.

At least 13 cases have since been linked to the outbreak that involves the highly contagious COVID variant first recorded in India. No public update on case counts have been provided since May 4.

Isolation for those who tested negative throughout the outbreak ended Saturday at 11:59 p.m.

"Regional medical officers of health have the purview to extend isolation as required," Macfarlane said of the others.

An unknown number of adults and possibly children who live in UNB's Magee House residence in Fredericton are expected to remain in quarantine until Sunday because of the outbreak of the coronavirus variant first reported in India.
An unknown number of adults and possibly children who live in UNB's Magee House residence in Fredericton are expected to remain in quarantine until Sunday because of the outbreak of the coronavirus variant first reported in India.(Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

Public Health believes the elevator in the seven-storey building was the source of transmission in the outbreak, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell told CBC News.

"Surfaces definitely were the cause, based on all the investigations around the ventilation system, et cetera, and in questioning the cases, et cetera," said Dr. Jennifer Russell.

"So our final conclusion, based on the fact that we did not find anything else, that is our best hypothesis and conclusion at this point in time."

About 180 people live in the building, which is designed for mature students, some of whom have families.

Health officials previously said the risk of contamination from recirculated air had been deemed "minimal."

A Public Health inspector and UNB engineers found "there was a teeny tiny chance that there could have been some cross-contamination with one particular component" of the ventilation system, Russell had said.

"So that was shut off [April 27]. And they won't be turning it back on until we give the go-ahead."

Atlantic roundup

Nova Scotia reported 149 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, putting the total active cases at 1,621. Seventy-five people are in hospital, including 15 in intensive care.

Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed 10 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 81 active cases.

Prince Edward Island has had no new cases since Monday, and has nine active cases.

Latest exposure notifications

Public Health has identified a potential public exposure to the coronavirus at the following locations and dates in the Fredericton region, Zone 3:

  • My Home Consignment, 5 Acorn St., Fredericton — May 8 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., May 7 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., May 6 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and May 5 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

  • Sobeys, 1180 Prospect St., Fredericton, — May 8 between 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

  • Lunar Rogue, 625 King Ave., Fredericton — April 28 between 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

  • Fix Auto, 156 Greenview Dr., Hanwell — May 6 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., April 30 between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., April 29 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., and April 28 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Public Health is offering COVID-19 testing to anyone who has been in a public exposure area, even it they're not experiencing any symptoms. Residents may request a test online or call Tele-Care 811 to book an appointment.

Previous exposure notifications

Public Health has identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious on May 6 while on the following flights:

  • Air Canada Flight 396 – from Edmonton to Toronto, departed at 6:50 a.m.

  • Air Canada Flight 8898 – from Toronto to Moncton, departed at 8:43 p.m.

Public Health has identified a potential public exposure to the coronavirus at the following locations and dates in the following regions:

Moncton region:

  • Pumphouse, 5 Orange Ln., Moncton, on May 4 between 8 and 10 p.m.

  • Staples, 233 Main St., Moncton, on May 5, between noon and 8 p.m.

  • Walmart Supercentre, 477 Paul St., Dieppe, on May 6, between 7 and 10 p.m.

  • Greco Pizza, 311 Acadie Blvd., Dieppe, on May 7, between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.

  • Greco Pizza, 120 Killam Dr., Moncton, on May 5, between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m., May 3, between 5:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m., and May 2, between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m.

  • Greco Pizza, 311 Acadie Blvd., Dieppe, on May 4, between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m.

  • Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre emergency department, 330 Université Ave., Moncton, on May 7, between 2-9:30 p.m., and May 6, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Saint John region:

  • Foodland, 1 Market Sq., Quispamsis, on May 3, between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Fredericton region:

  • Lunar Rogue, 625 King St., Fredericton, on April 28, between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m.

  • Fix Auto, 156 Greenview Dr., Hanwell, on May 6, between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., April 30, between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., April 29, between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. and April 28, between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

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.

  • Sore throat.

  • Runny nose.

  • Headache.

  • New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell.

  • 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.

  • Follow instructions.