New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health says she's "not really worried" about COVID-19 being brought into the province by Canadian travellers, based on the low case numbers since the borders opened just over two weeks ago.
But Dr. Jennifer Russell says she wants to see as many eligible New Brunswickers as possible vaccinated with two doses when the province eventually opens up to people from the U.S. and international travellers.
Since the province reopened to all Canadians at midnight June 16, daily case counts have been in the single digits, including zero new cases reported Tuesday.
On June 27, the seven-day average dropped to one case per day.
"And that's an incidence that we haven't really seen since November of 2020," said Russell.
"With travel open across Canada and the numbers as low as they are, I'm not really worried about importation of cases, to a great extent."
The national seven-day average of new cases also dropped to 625 per day on June 30 from 8,000 on May 1, which means the risk of importation of COVID-19 into New Brunswick per traveller has decreased significantly, she said.
"The risk will never be zero. So, you know, we'll always be very concerned and will continue to do the surveillance we need to do.
"But at some point there will be more international travel and then eventually when they open up the border with the U.S. So it would be nice to make sure that we have the highest percentage of the population vaccinated with two doses."
Nearly 42% double-dosed
Nearly 42 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 and older are now fully vaccinated.
A total of 9,870 doses were administered Monday, including 8,977 second doses, which bumped the two-dose vaccination rate to 41.6 per cent, the COVID-19 dashboard shows.
The province's goal under the path to green is to have at least 75 per cent of the eligible population double-dosed by Aug. 2 and lift all Public Health restrictions, provided COVID hospitalizations remain low and all health regions remain at the yellow COVID alert level.
"As of right now, our projections are lining up very well," said Russell.
It will require a "sustained effort" and the "continued commitment" of New Brunswickers to reach the target, she said.
The one-dose vaccination rate inched up to 78.5 per cent with the 893 first doses administered Monday.
Although some jurisdictions are offering incentives to persuade people to roll up their sleeves, Russell doesn't believe that's necessary.
"Our supply right now, as soon as we get it, it's going into arms. And so we're just a well-oiled machine," she said.
"We haven't really hit a wall where we would have to scratch our heads and say, 'Wow, how are we going to increase uptake?' Our demand right now and supply are pretty equally matched at this point."
Russell acknowledged that the people who are still unvaccinated might be harder to convince, but said the province is trying to reach them through targeted messaging "to make sure that they feel like the vaccines are acceptable."
It's also offering special clinics, such as mobile walk-in clinics, "because not everybody has the time and energy and wherewithal to do the online booking," she said.
"They may need a ride, they may need someone to go with them, there are people who are afraid of needles. There's all sorts of reasons why people may not have gotten their first dose already. So we're trying to help people with that right now by making it as easy as possible."
People are eligible for a second dose once at least 28 days have passed since their first dose.
They are asked to bring a copy of the record of immunization they received after getting their first dose, a signed consent form and their medicare card.
Revised case count, 15 active cases
Public Health revised Tuesday the number of cases of COVID-19 reported in New Brunswick.
Two cases previously identified in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, have been removed from the total as both people are from another jurisdiction and will be accounted for there.
There are 15 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, the lowest in several months.
Four people are in hospital with the respiratory disease, none in intensive care.
New Brunswick has had 2,336 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with 2,274 recoveries so far and 46 COVID-related deaths.
A total of 365,667 tests have been conducted, including 608 on Monday.
There are no new public exposure notices. Previous public exposure notices can be found on the government of New Brunswick's website.
Mobile walk-in clinics
The province launched a weeklong series of mobile walk-in clinics Tuesday, designed to make vaccination more accessible and convenient.
Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane could not immediately provide any data on the first clinic held in Grande-Anse at the Club d'âge d'or de Grande-Anse, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. AT.
The clinics will be administering the Moderna vaccine, which can be used safely and effectively as either a first or second dose, Macfarlane said. Even if people received a different vaccine as their first dose, they can receive Moderna for their second dose due to the interchangeability of COVID-19 vaccines.
Other clinics scheduled for this week include:
Paquetville — Centre des loisirs de Paquetville, 1086 du Parc St., Wednesday, July 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saint Andrews — Town Hall parking lot, 212 Water St., Thursday, July 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Bathurs — Bowlarama, 2020 St. Peter Ave., Thursday, July 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Blacks Harbour — Fundy Arena, 6 Arena St., Friday, July 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dieppe — Bowlarama, 476 Gauvin Rd., Saturday, July 10, from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
People attending the mobile clinics are asked to bring their medicare card, a signed consent form and a record of vaccination if they're receiving a second dose.
The Department of Health is working with Extra-Mural and Ambulance New Brunswick and partners from local government and the business community to put on the clinics.
Chambers of commerce provide free rapid test kits
Several chambers of commerce in New Brunswick plan to distribute free self-screening COVID-19 rapid test kits to small- and medium-size businesses and organizations as part of a national program, so they can regularly test their employees.
The goal is to proactively identify asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic workers and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces and communities.
"We will not only keep people in our community safe but hope to assist our small- and medium-sized businesses get back on track after a very difficult year," John Wishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton, said in a statement.
"As [Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer] Russell has talked about extensively, the green phase of recovery is 'living with COVID,' which means, as more New Brunswickers are vaccinated, future cases of COVID-19 are much more likely to be asymptomatic," said Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
"Consistent workplace testing of those without symptoms will therefore become more of an important tool than in the early days of the pandemic."
The rapid antigen screening kits do not replace the PCR tests administered by Public Health, noted Cathy Pelletier, executive director of the Edmundston Region Chamber of Commerce. "But they are another tool in the toolbox companies can use" to help their employees and customers feel safe as they open their doors again.
"The summer that's coming, it's going to be crucial for these businesses to be able to make it through," she told CBC's Shift. "So that's why we need to stay local, focus local, shop local within our province at the beginning, and then I think the businesses will do a little bit better and be able to get back on track."
Participating businesses will need to submit their screening results regularly. This accumulated data will be reported to Health Canada and the New Brunswick Department of Health, the release said.
The Chambers of Commerce Rapid Testing Initiative is made possible by Health Canada and the partnership and support of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce.
The chambers have signed an agreement with the New Brunswick Department of Health to be the distributor of the kits in the province. All participating businesses and organizations must also sign a document with guidelines on how the rapid tests should be used.
Businesses and organizations interested in obtaining rapid test kits should contact the nearest participating chamber of commerce. These include the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce and the Edmundston Region Chamber of Commerce. Together, they represent more than 3,200 members
Atlantic COVID roundup
Nova Scotia reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and has 44 active cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador has no new cases, and 16 active cases.
Prince Edward Island has one new case, putting its active case count at two.
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment test online.
Public Health says symptoms of the illness have included a fever above 38 C, a new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, a new onset of fatigue, 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 Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor, and follow instructions.