On a day New Brunswick announced 30 new cases of COVID-19, Public Health officials are asking all students and staff at two Woodstock schools to self-isolate following positive test results.
Townsview School and Woodstock High School announced cases Saturday morning, according to the Anglophone West School District website.
The announcement said "due to high-level activity" all members of both school communities are required to stay home and self-isolate over the weekend.
Three cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at Woodstock High School and one case at Townsview School.
New cases were also announced at two schools in the Campbellton region on Saturday.
One case was confirmed at both Académie Notre-Dame in Dalhousie and Polyvalente Roland-Pépin in Campbellton, according to Public Health. Public Health is conducting contact tracing.
Garderie Tic Tac Toe, a Dalhousie daycare centre, also reported one case.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer, said the decision was made to have students and staff self-isolate since contact tracing will take more than 24 hours to complete.
Russell said the transmission occurred before the province rolled back to the orange phase.
"The fact that everybody is self-isolating at home right now just means that there is no risk if they've missed somebody, if there's somebody out that didn't know they were a close contact," she said in an interview.
30 new cases
The cases come as New Brunswick sees a surge in cases of COVID-19 in the new year, sending the entire province back to the orange phase.
New Brunswick recorded its second-highest total for a single day on Saturday, announcing 30 new cases. That brings the total number of active cases to 171.
The new cases are in:
Moncton region (Zone 1), 6.
Saint John region (Zone 2), 3.
Fredericton region (Zone 3), 8.
Edmundston region (Zone 4), 7.
Campbellton region (Zone 5), 6.
The province has reported 164 new cases in the last nine days.
There are 55 active cases in the Fredericton region, 47 in the Moncton region, 33 in the Saint John region, 20 in the Campbellton region and 16 in the Edmundston region.
The Bathurst and Miramichi regions are the only parts of the province with no known active cases.
This is the second time a case has been reported at Townsview School, which has about 600 students in grades K-8. It announced a case on Oct. 31. Académie Notre-Dame had also confirmed an earlier case on Oct. 10.
There are about 750 students who attend Woodstock High School.
The district said it plans to contact families with an update before the end of the weekend. It did not specify if the cases are students or staff members.
"At this point in time we're not worried about community transmission." - Dr. Jennifer Russell
Russell said it is too early to tell if the four schools will be able to open on Monday.
She said officials consider if a positive case attended school and was contagious in deciding if an entire school community needs to isolate.
Public Health is conducting contact tracing and will directly contact anyone in close contact with a confirmed case. All school activities this weekend are cancelled.
Public Health says students and staff should avoid contact with other members of their household while self-isolating.
Zone 3 considered 'hotspot'
Russell said Public Health has a clear picture of the situation in every zone and is concentrating on Zone 3 as a "hotspot."
"In terms of where we need to manage those risks and help people have COVID-19 transmission stop, we're focused on that Woodstock area right now," she said.
There are no plans for widespread community mass testing.
"At this point in time we're not worried about community transmission — all the cases are linked for the most part," Russell said.
About 95 per cent of New Brunswick cases throughout the pandemic have been related to travel or directly linked back to a person who travelled.
The province is now requiring weekly testing for students travelling into New Brunswick from other provinces due to custody agreements. The new rule applies to those who reside in Quebec or Nova Scotia but attend kindergarten to Grade 8 in New Brunswick.
Woodstock mayor concerned
Woodstock Mayor Arthur Slipp said he was informed of the cases by the district and his priority is ensuring accurate contact tracing occurs this weekend.
Slipp said the community is concerned after an email about the cases was sent to families early Saturday morning.
"Our first thought is let's keep everybody safe, and let's do what we have to do to try and minimize and contain the spread of the virus," he said.
It is unclear how many active cases are in the Woodstock area. Public Health reports cases by health region unless there is an outbreak within a facility.
"We're not at a serious point, but what we're trying to do is work with all of the different government departments to make sure this situation can be contained," Slipp said.
Second vaccine doses begin
New Brunswick will administer second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to about 1,800 people over the weekend.
Members of priority groups were among the first to receive the shot in the province on Dec. 19 and 20. Those individuals will be administered second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a clinic in Miramichi.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said more than 3,900 people have received their first doses.
She told CBC Radio's The House on Saturday the province has received 11,175 total doses of the vaccine. Most of the remaining shots will be used for second doses.
New Brunswick has confirmed 765 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. There have been 584 recoveries and nine COVID-related deaths. The death of a 10th person with COVID-19 was unrelated to the disease.
The province has conducted 160,039 tests, including 1,476 since Friday's update.
Outbreaks at 4 long-term care homes
There are four active outbreaks of COVID-19 inside New Brunswick long-term care facilities.
The largest is at Shannex's Tucker Hall nursing home in Saint John, which has confirmed 21 cases, including 13 residents and eight staff as of Friday night.
The home experienced a resurgence of COVID-19 this week, reporting 15 new cases on Tuesday. It has 90 beds and about 130 employees.
There is currently one employee case at Canterbury Hall, a Shannex assisted-living facility in Riverview. Public Health declared an outbreak on Thursday and tested all 109 residents and staff.
Residents are isolating in their rooms.
All tests conducted at the 60-bed home have returned negative, Shannex said in a statement.
One case was also confirmed at Fundy Royal Manor II, a 28-bed special care home in Hillsborough
Foyer Ste-Élizabeth, a 50-bed nursing home in Baker-Brook, in the Edmundston region has also reported one case.
Earlier this week, one case was announced at Peoples Park Tower, a Moncton retirement home. The resident caught COVID-19 while attending a holiday gathering, according to management.
No resident or employee in the building was determined to be a close contact of the case.
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:
A fever above 38 C.
A 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.