New Brunswick announced two deaths related to COVID-19 in the Edmundston region on Saturday, bringing the province to 20 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
One death was a resident in their 80s at Manoir Belle Vue, a care home experiencing an outbreak of the virus.
The second death was an individual in their 60s who lived in Zone 4, which covers most of northeastern New Brunswick.
Premier Blaine Higgs offered condolences to the family and friends of the two individuals who died.
"I encourage everyone to keep these people in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time," he said in a statement. "We continue to have challenges in the daily case counts, but the trends are improving."
The province also reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday.
There are 10 new cases in the Edmundston and Grand Falls region (Zone 4):
an individual 19 and under.
an individual in their 20s.
two people in their 30s.
two people in their 40s.
an individual in their 50s.
an individual in their 70s.
two people 90 and over.
One new case is in the Fredericton region (Zone 3):
an individual in their 50s.
One new case was reported in the Bathurst region (Zone 6):
an individual in their 50s.
New Brunswick has confirmed 1,337 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 1,095 recoveries. There are 221 active cases. Eight people are in the hospital, including two in intensive care.
Public Health has conducted 208,934 total tests, including 1,196 since Friday's update.
5 new cases at Manoir Belle Vue
An Edmundston care home is offering its condolences following the death of another resident.
On Saturday, Manoir Belle Vue announced its second death in a statement on Facebook.
The home also reported five new cases, including three residents and two staff members. There are now 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the facility, including 37 residents and 23 employees.
The update published Saturday said 10 have recovered.
"We are holding our heads high and continuing to persevere," management wrote. "One day this will be behind us."
All residents and employees will be tested again at the start of next week.
More variant cases expected
New Brunswick is preparing for more cases of COVID-19 variants in the coming weeks.
Public Health has found four cases of the coronavirus variant first reported in the U.K.
Two are in the Saint John region (Zone 2) and one in the Miramichi region (Zone 7).
There are currently 228 total active cases of COVID-19 across the province.
More than 100 of those cases are in the Edmundston and Grand Falls region, which remains under a full lockdown.
The Moncton region (Zone 1) is under the red-level restrictions with 47 active cases, while the rest of the province remains in the orange recovery phase.
Higgs said Friday that a probable fourth case was discovered, but did not disclose where.
"The person is obviously in isolation and the tests are coming forward," Higgs said.
Public Health confirmed a close contact of a previous variant case tested positive for COVID-19 and is suspected to have the variant as well.
The individual is being treated as though they have the variant while a sample is analyzed at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
Sights set on Atlantic bubble
The premier said he expects more cases of the variant to be found but is confident the province is capable of keeping it under control.
"We need to be diligent about protecting ourselves and others. We can avoid an outbreak with this variant, but we have to be cognisant, that, yes, it is here in New Brunswick now," he told CBC New Brunswick News at 6.
Higgs urged New Brunswickers not to hold large gatherings during Sunday's Super Bowl and to continue to follow Public Health measures.
"Our hope right now is to get back into the Atlantic bubble, let that be our goal at this point in time as the rest of the country recovers," he said. "There is some hope in that as the vaccines roll out."
Cases have been declining in New Brunswick over the past week.
Vaccination of everyone could be delayed
New Brunswick initially expected to be able to offer COVID-19 vaccination to everyone who wanted it by early fall.
But the province now anticipates it could take until the end of 2021 for everyone to get immunized, following delays in Canada's vaccine delivery schedule.
Higgs said he still remains hopeful for herd immunity around September.
"There's a number of vaccines that are currently available and under approval process, so we should be able to expedite that," he said.
The premier said Canadian biomedical companies should be encouraged to explore production options in the event a supply of booster shots is needed into the future. Some experts believe the vaccine could be similar to the flu shot and require additional doses to maintain immunity.
"We should have a licence to manufacture it right here," he said.
Potential public exposure
Public Health officials have identified a potential exposure to COVID-19 at an Edmundston grocery store.
People who visited Atlantic Superstore at 577 Victoria St. during operating hours between Jan. 22 and Feb. 5 should self-monitor.
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.