New Brunswick is reporting five new cases of COVID-19, four of them in Zone 3, where Public Health has now confirmed 15 cases connected to the isolation hotel Delta Fredericton, there's an outbreak at the hospital and confirmed cases at two schools.
Five are "direct" cases at the Delta, said Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane. Another 10 cases are direct contacts of previously confirmed cases.
He did not say if the cases involve staff, isolating guests or regular hotel guests, but on Thursday said at least one case involved an employee.
"Although it is not an outbreak, Public Health has put in processes at the Delta Fredericton similar to those used by the PROMT (Provincial Rapid Outbreak Management Team) in a long-term care facility outbreak to facilitate risk management processes and testing," Macfarlane said in an emailed statement.
Hotel staff, vendors and other personnel have been tested twice this week, including on Thursday.
Canadian Red Cross continues to co-ordinate services for isolating guests and with the hotel, said Macfarlane.
The Delta has been serving as one of the province's designated quarantine hotels for non-essential travellers since the government announced the added restriction last month.
On Thursday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell confirmed the Delta is no longer part of the program, leaving only three. At that time, two positive linked cases had been identified at the hotel.
Public Health issued potential public exposure notices for the Delta and its restaurant, STMR.36 BBQ & Social, for May 6 to 12. They were among about 25 new notifications, which included massage clinics, skate parks, hardware stores and pubs.
Last week, Public Health had issued an exposure notice for the hotel and restaurant, covering April 26 to May 2.
Premier Blaine Higgs said if there is a significant increase in case numbers or untraceable transmission, the city could be locked down, as Edmundston was last month.
Staff who worked during the two listed exposure periods were advised Thursday in a notice from Public Health that the risk of transmission was increased and were "strongly encouraged" to get tested on-site.
Isolating means that you must stay at home. Do not go to school, work, other public areas, or use public transportation. (e.g. buses, taxis) Do not have any guests, even if you are outdoors. - Public Health notice to Delta Fredericton employees
If they choose to get tested, they're required to abide by work isolation for up to 14 days after the most recent exposure period, the notice obtained by CBC News states.
Work isolation means they need to isolate at home, except to go directly to and from work, and wear a mask at work at all times.
If they choose not to get tested, they'll be required to isolate for 14 days after the date of the last potential exposure in the workplace.
"Regardless of whether or not you get tested, the other members of your household must isolate for 14 days after the date of your last potential exposure in the workplace," the notice states.
"Isolating means that you must stay at home. Do not go to school, work, other public areas, or use public transportation. (e.g. buses, taxis) Do not have any guests, even if you are outdoors."
The employees and their families need to closely monitor for any symptoms. Even if they've received negative test results, if any symptoms develop, they should get tested again, Public Health advises.
"We understand that this is an unexpected and stressful development."
Asked Friday about the back-to-back, week-long, 24-hour exposure notices and whether an isolating guests had been identified as the possible source, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said she didn't have any information about an index case.
As to whether the situation calls into question the wisdom of making people isolate at a hotel instead of a private residence, she replied: "I guess at this point today that's still speculation.
"We're not going to know the wisdom of any of our decisions, quite frankly. There are times when I've said to my colleagues, 'The decisions we make today, we will be judged on in three months.' That is the reality of our COVID reality. And so I'm not prepared to go there."
Shephard acknowledged the roughly 25 public exposure notifications are worrisome, particularly when it's the coronavirus variant first reported in India that is circulating. "We know that it doesn't take much for the variants to get transmitted."
But the province has managed to work quickly before, she said, citing the recent outbreak at the Magee House residence at the University of New Brunswick Fredericton campus as an example.
"A handful" of people in the 101-unit apartment-style residence remain locked down until May 16 after at least 13 cases have been confirmed in the outbreak, which was declared on April 27 and involves the India variant.
"If we find that we're in a position where we need to take some further action … we're not going to be shy to do that," Shephard said.
She is committed to be "as transparent as possible" about the situation, sharing as much information as she can, she added.
Liberal Leader Roger Melanson said transparency "is always a good thing."
"People not only want to know, but [it] brings them more confidence in all of the work being done and brings even more credibility to the work being done by Public Health.
"And so I will always push for more transparency. But, you know, there's privacy matters that need to be considered all the time. It's always a balance for them [as] to how far they can go."
Asked whether he believes the hotel quarantine system is still working to keep guests and staff safe, Melanson replied: "I guess you could ask the question a bit differently — If these individuals would be out in the community, would it be worse? I would argue, probably."
The fact people are all isolating in one area probably makes it easier for contact tracing and enforcement, he said.
Melanson did remark, however, that the roll out of the program has been "really, really terrible.
"They weren't ready to really implement this policy."
Green Party Leader David Coon said the positive cases at the Delta raise questions about what training staff at the quarantine hotels received regarding how to safely interact with guests arriving to self-isolate.
But he noted the program has always been intended for people who don't have a safe way to isolate on their own. Under eased up rules announced earlier this month, people can now stay at a stand-alone private residence with government approval.
Still, Coon, whose riding is Fredericton South, described the situation at the Delta, the positive employee at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, two confirmed cases at Leo Hayes High School, one positive case at Nashwaaksis Middle School and the "alarming" number of public exposure notifications in the region as "very concerning."
"It's terrible to be in the dark right now," he said.
Coon urged residents to "abundantly cautious" in following Public Health measures, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask and hand washing, in the coming days, and to get tested for COVID-19.
116 active cases
The breakdown of the five new cases of COVID-19 announced on Friday is as follows:
Fredericton region, Zone 3, four cases:
Two people 19 or under
A person 20-29
A person 30-39
Three of the cases are contacts of a previously confirmed case and the other one is travel-related.
Saint John region, Zone 2, one case:
A person 20-29.
This case is under investigation.
Since Thursday, 16 people have recovered, putting the total number of active cases of the respiratory disease at 116.
Six patients are hospitalized in New Brunswick, including two in an intensive care unit. Another four patients are hospitalized out of province.
New Brunswick has had 2,045 confirmed cases of COVID since the pandemic started. There have been 1,887 recoveries so far and 41 COVID-related deaths.
A total of 310,906 COVID tests have been conducted, including 1,362 on Thursday.
As of Friday, 305,997 New Brunswickers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That's 44.1 per cent of the eligible population, aged 12 or older.
On Thursday, the province set a new single-day record for COVID-19 vaccinations, with 10,400 doses administered, said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard.
36 Horizon staff off because of Fredericton hospital outbreak
Thirty-six Horizon Health Network employees in the Fredericton area are off work because the COVID-19 outbreak at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation and Veterans Health Unit, a spokesperson said Friday.
Geri Geldart, vice-president of clinical services, confirmed the staff are off for "COVID-related reasons."
"This number is subject to change at any time," she said in an emailed statement, noting testing is underway.
The outbreak was declared Thursday after an employee of the Chalmers hospital tested positive for a COVID-19 variant of concern.
Geldart confirmed the employee is a health-care worker.
"Patients who may have been close contacts have been notified and have been placed under isolation precautions as an additional safety measure," she said.
"Any patients who had close contact with the health-care worker who have been discharged will be contacted by New Brunswick Public Health for follow-up guidance."
Geldart did not respond to questions about how many members of the public may have been exposed to the positive employee, who is self-isolating.
On Thursday, when Horizon announced the outbreak, it said there had been "a high-risk of exposure in recent days."
Although the affected employee works at the hospital, Horizon declared the outbreak at the other two facilities as well because all three are located in close proximity on a single campus, said Geldart.
"As it is common for staff to travel between these facilities — and given how rapidly this particular variant can be transmitted from person-to-person — the decision was made out of an abundance of caution to reduce the risk of spread."
All three facilities have returned to red level protocols.
Non-urgent surgeries and outpatient appointments are postponed until further notice.
Non-urgent professional service outpatient appointments, including therapeutic services, blood and specimen collection, diagnostic imaging (X-ray), electrodiagnostics and respiratory therapy, are also postponed.
Visits are restricted, with some exceptions.
Use of AstraZeneca clarified
New Brunswick clarified its position on the use of AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Friday.
The province is continuing to offer AstraZeneca to those 55 and older who have provided their informed consent, Public Health said in a news release.
Currently the supply of AstraZeneca is limited, with fewer than 4,000 doses available, so it's being used primarily for people who are confined at home and don't have access to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which require ultra-cold storage, which can't be transported to them.
More than 13,000 more doses of AstraZeneca are expected to be delivered to the province the week of May 17. These will be used as second doses for those who received their first dose of AstraZeneca and wish to receive it for their second dose.
"Depending upon the supply, it may also be offered to people 55 and older who would like to receive it as a first dose," the release said.
On Thursday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said during the live COVID-19 news briefing: "We will not be using the [AstraZeneca] vaccine for first doses in our campaign for the general population."
She also confirmed two new cases of rare blood clots in New Brunswickers following a first dose of the AstraZeneca shot, including one still in hospital. That brings the province's total number of reported blood clot reactions to four, including one death.
"AstraZeneca is one of the vaccine tools we are using to fight COVID-19," Russell said in a statement Friday.
"It is approved by Health Canada and has proven to be very effective in other parts of the world, such as in the United Kingdom, which has seen a substantial drop in hospitalizations and death," she said.
"Supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine is relatively low in New Brunswick, so we are using it strategically as it does not have the same refrigeration requirements as other vaccines."
Vaccine appointments at pharmacies
The New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association has created an online document that shows the availability of vaccine appointments at participating pharmacies, as well as the best way to contact each pharmacy, Public Health announced Friday.
The availability of appointments is subject to change, however, it advised. In some cases, available times indicated in the document may be filled by the time someone tries to book an appointment.
This list will be updated weekdays, based upon information provided by the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association.
When people contact a pharmacy, they're asked to use the pharmacy's preferred booking method identified in the document.
Vaccination rates in long-term care homes
A chart of vaccination rates for long-term care homes will be posted online early next week "to keep New Brunswickers better informed," Public Health said Friday.
The Department of Social Development is working with its partners to encourage staff in long-term care facilities to get vaccinated, it said in a news release.
"The goal is to provide a safe environment for everybody, particularly for the vulnerable seniors living in these facilities."
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.
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:
McDonald's Restaurant, 1177 Prospect St., on May 5, at 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.
McDonald's Restaurant in Walmart, 125 Two Nations Crossing, on May 6, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Brainfix Clinic, 56 Avonlea Crt., on May 6.
Adica Massage Clinic, 152 King St., on May 6.
Williams Chiropractic, 169 Main St., on May 6.
Simms Home Hardware Building Centre, 190 King St., on May 6.
Costco Gas Bar, 5 Wayne Squibb Blvd., on May 6.
Massage Experts, 169 Dundonald St., on May 6, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and on May 7, from 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Delta Fredericton, 225 Woodstock Rd., on May 6-12.
STMR. 36 Restaurant – Delta Fredericton, 225 Woodstock Rd., on May 6-12.
Jacks Pizza, 379 King St., on May 7, at 1 p.m.
Mitch Clarke Skate Park, 116 Johnston Ave. on May 7, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Garrison Skatepark, York Street parking lot, on May 7, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
James Joyce Pub, 659 Queen St., on May 7, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
McDonald's Restaurant, 94 Main St., on May 7, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and May 8, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Princess Auto, 21 Trinity Ave., on May 8, from 8 a.m. to noon.
Fredericton Public Library, 12 Carleton St., on May 8, from 10 a.m. to noon.
Northside Market, 170 Main St., on May 9, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Irving Oil, 181 King St., on May 9, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Dollarama, 5 Trinity Dr., on May 9, from noon to 2 p.m.
NB Liquor, 18 Trinity Dr., on May 9, from noon to 5 p.m.
Home Sense, 18 Trinity Dr., on May 9, from noon to 5 p.m.
Tim Hortons' drive thru, Regent Street, on May 10, at 1:30 p.m.
Atlantic Superstore, 471 Smythe St, on May 10, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and May 11, from 10 a.m. to noon.
Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, 700 Priestman St., on May 10-11.
Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation, 800 Priestman St., on May 10-11.
Veterans Health Unit, 680 Priestman St., on May 10-11.
Shoppers Drug Mart, 1040 Prospect St., on May 11, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Scott's Nursery, 2192 Route 102, on May 8, from 3 p.m. to 5 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.