New Brunswick reported no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and Saturday will see the first group of people in the province vaccinated against the virus.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says there's a great deal of anticipation among staff about the first vaccine clinic, being held the Miramichi Regional Hospital.
"There's a little tiny bit of elation, but it's tempered with the knowing that this doesn't put us, you know, at the end of COVID," she said.
"Where this is going to roll out over months, we probably aren't looking for a 60 to 70 per cent vaccination until next September, thereabouts.
"And so we take it with cautious anticipation and excitement that we're beginning on a new path to COVID recovery."
A total of 1,950 people from priority groups are scheduled to get their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the weekend.
Another 3,900 doses are expected to arrive next week, followed by another 3,900 doses the week of Jan. 4 and then "regular deliveries" starting the week of Jan. 11, Premier Blaine Higgs has said.
Half of next week's shipment will be set aside to provide second doses to this weekend's recipients during a clinic Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 in Miramichi. It takes two doses of the Pfizer vaccine to immunize someone against the virus.
The remainder will be used to vaccinate 975 people, starting with their first dose at a clinic being organized in Moncton during the week of Dec. 28.
Shephard said a lot of planning has gone into this weekend's clinic.
"We're fully booked, everything's in place. We have an individual who will be monitoring for the Moncton rollout as well, because I think every time we do something, we learn from it, in every situation with COVID,"
"So we're looking forward to a smooth weekend, and we'll get those reports when it's all done."
Asked who will be the first person to receive the vaccine Saturday, she said there's a "top three."
She declined to divulge any more information about the individuals, other than reiterate they are members of the priority groups.
On Thursday, Higgs said Shannex residents and staff in the Miramichi region were invited to attend, as well as residents and staff of other long-term care and adult residential facilities in the Miramichi, Moncton and Bathurst regions.
Shephard said she's not sure yet if the number of people vaccinated will be included in the daily COVID-19 news release, but she thinks it's a good idea.
"I believe the public wants to know how we're moving forward and I think that we should be able to give them that information. So I would certainly ask and request that," she told CBC News.
Vaccine storage accepted
The provincial government is "gratefully accepting the kind offer" of an ultra-low temperature freezer from a former New Brunswicker who owns a tuna processing plant on Prince Edward Island, spokesperson Shawn Berry said Friday.
Jason Tompkins, the owner of TNT Tuna, offered last week to loan two of his lab-grade freezers to the government for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which must be stored at -80 C.
The government is taking one freezer "at this time," said Berry. It is being delivered "presently" and will be incorporated into the province's plan for storing Pfizer and possibly other vaccines, he said.
"We were heartened to see that several such offers of assistance have been made here in New Brunswick, and we currently have access to up to 11 available freezers for deployment around the province in support of the vaccination campaign."
52 active cases in province
There are 52 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, as of Friday. Three people are in hospital and two of them are in intensive care.
The active cases include: five in the Moncton region (Zone 1), 14 in the Saint John region (Zone 2), 14 in the Fredericton region (Zone 3), 17 in the Edmundston region (Zone 4) and two in the Bathurst region (Zone 6).
New Brunswick has had 573 confirmed cases since the pandemic began in March. Eight people have died and 512 people have recovered.
A total of 144,554 tests have been completed to date, including 1,226 on Thursday.
Yellow Christmas for Edmundston still possible
It's only one week until Christmas, but many New Brunswickers are still wondering exactly what celebrations will look like this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The full extent of the outbreak in the Edmundston Regional Hospital is still unknown, with 37 employees self-isolating.
The Edmundston region is the only part of the province in the orange phase of recovery.
The orange phase has stricter restrictions on both gatherings and travel in the region.
While Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said a yellow Christmas may still be possible for the zone, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.
She said she's "cautiously optimistic," but that we have to "watch and wait."
Issues for people with mask exemptions
A Moncton woman said it's still difficult for her or her son to receive services because of her son's inability to wear a mask.
This comes even after the Moncton region, Zone 1, moved into the less restrictive yellow phase of COVID-19 preparedness.
Christine Roberts's son Jayden is on the autism spectrum and has a medical exemption from the province's mandatory mask order.
She said she took her son Christmas shopping, but calling ahead and planning didn't appear to make her day much easier.
While some floor staff were helpful, she had a different experience when she went to the cash register.
"When I went to cash out, they absolutely refused," said Roberts.
"I showed them Jayden is exempt and the letter from the mall management and the government documents, and they wanted none of it."
Roberts said this happened at multiple stores, and even when she was allowed to proceed with her purchase, the extra effort and time was difficult on her and her son.
"By this time, you know, I'm having trouble holding it together," said Roberts.
"Jaden's sitting on the floor by this time kind of rocking back and forth."
Roberts said she'd like to see more education from the province about who is exempt from wearing a mask.
"Clear up your messaging," she said. "Some businesses allow exemptions and you know, some of them don't — even when you have the exemption.
"We're not doing anything wrong. We feel like we are most of the time. I shouldn't be scared or worried when I walk into the store."
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.