The Saint John region, Zone 2, will roll back to the orange phase of recovery as of midnight Friday night after seven new cases turned up there.
Premier Blaine Higgs warned that if people don't follow the rules of the orange phase, they could see a further rollback to the red phase, where COVID-19 measures are the most severe.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, announced the move back to orange at the second COVID-19 briefing in two days, where she also announced there were nine new cases in New Brunswick.
Two of those are in the Moncton region, Zone 1, which was rolled back to the orange phase on Thursday.
Higgs and Russell both repeatedly stressed the importance of public co-operation, imploring residents to follow rules around large gatherings, single-household bubbles and preventive measures.
"If we can't get these numbers under control quickly we may need to move back to the red level," Higgs said. "You must stay to the single-household bubble — people who live in the same house with you."
Russell noted that the single-household bubble can be extended to caregivers or an immediate family member who lives alone and needs support.
"The objective is to keep your circle of contact small," she said.
Nine new cases reported, 600 people self-isolating
Public Health reported nine new cases of COVID-19, all of them under investigation.
There are currently about "at least" 600 people self-isolating in New Brunswick from different cases that have been traced from contacts, Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday. Of those 600 people, about 300 are in the Saint John region.
The seven new cases in the Saint John region (Zone 2) are:
one individual 20 to 29;
three people 40 to 49;
one individual 50 to 59;
one individual 60 to 69; and
one individual 70 to 79.
The two cases in the Moncton region (Zone 1) are:
one individual under 19; and,
one individual 20 to 29
The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 401, and 343 have recovered. There have been six deaths, and the number of active cases is 51, with one person in hospital.
As of today, 114,020 tests have been conducted, including 1,006 tests on Thursday.
Warnings and new rules about large gatherings
Large gatherings were singled out for special caution at the government's COVID briefing on Friday.
"Far too frequently we have seen COVID-19 spread through contacts at casual social gatherings," Dr. Jennifer Russell said. "People need to have a higher level of comfort saying no to going to these gatherings."
Gatherings in orange phase
Residents must stay within a single-household bubble.
No informal indoor gatherings beyond this single household bubble are permitted.
Outdoor gatherings with physical distancing of 25 people or fewer are permitted.
Formal gatherings of up to 25 people allowed for weddings, funerals and faith-based services.
Faith venues may hold services with up to 50 people, but masks are mandatory.
Restaurant dining rooms can remain open, but a single-household bubble must be maintained.
A full list of the rules under the orange phase is on the government's website.
Gatherings in yellow phase
Informal indoor gatherings of up to 20 people are permitted, close contacts should be limited to a consistent list of family and friends.
Keep uncontrolled outdoor gatherings with physical distancing at 50 people or fewer.
Occupancy in controlled indoor or outdoor settings should be kept at levels that allow for physical distancing.
A full list of the rules under the yellow phase is on the government's website.
Stepped-up inspections and enforcement
Residents in the Saint John and Moncton regions are being advised that police officers, peace officers and Public Health inspectors will be in Zones 1 and 2 to make sure orange-phase rules are being followed.
"We will be monitoring more closely and issuing fines," Premier Blaine Higgs said at the COVID-19 briefing on Friday. "We will never catch everyone nor will we try, but we really want everyone to help us here … because the health system is at risk."
The Fredericton Police Force issued a release on Friday saying that it is immediately stepping up inspections of public gatherings, and warned that violations could lead to a minimum fine of $292.50.
Fredericton is in the yellow phase, but the force said it is acting "with the safety of all Frederictonians and surrounding areas in mind."
Legislature not equipped to run virtually
Members of the Legislative Assembly grappled Friday with the fact that the legislature doesn't have a way to hold hybrid, partly virtual sittings to accommodate MLAs from zones under the COVID-19 orange phase.
"The technology exists. It just needs to be implemented," Liberal Leader Roger Melanson told reporters.
He and Green Party Leader David Coon said they've been pushing the idea of the assembly adopting a system similar to the House of Commons since April. It allows some members to attend in person and others to take part virtually.
But it still hasn't happened.
"I don't know what's been the hold-up. I know it's not the premier. … He wants to see it as badly as any of us in the legislative assembly."
The delay became an issue Friday as MLAs wrestled with how to handle Zone 1 and 2 both moving to the orange phase of COVID-19 restrictions.
A total shutdown of the legislature would throw a wrench in the government's agenda.
Capital budgets are usually introduced in December to give contractors lead time to assess how many workers and material they need to line up for the next summer construction season.
Under current orange phase guidelines, MLAs from an affected zone could travel to the capital because the legislature is considered their workplace. Travel for work is still allowed under the restrictions.
But MLAs spent more than an hour Friday discussing whether they should attend next week even if the rules allow it.
There was no final decision. The legislative administration committee will meet Tuesday to discuss it further.
Premier Blaine Higgs said the legislature could operate with a reduced number of MLAs from outside the affected zones, as it did in the spring. "That is a debate that is underway right now," he said.
He said the only other option would be to suspend the assembly for at least two weeks.
Outbreak at Shannex nursing home in Saint John
Public Health has declared an outbreak at Shannex Tucker Hall, a nursing home in Saint John.
Following a confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday, Public Health started an investigation at the facility. Contact tracing is underway and officials will conduct testing of all of the facility's residents and staff today, Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday.
Shannex confirmed late it was an employee that tested positive, and said it was working with Public Health and the Shannex COVID-19 response team.
Two Saint John nursing homes close doors as precaution
Loch Lomond Villa and Rocmaura Nursing Home both announced Friday that they are closing their doors to visitors as a precaution, effective immediately.
In a Facebook post, Loch Lomond cited concerns about the ongoing cases in the Moncton area and possible exposures in the Saint John region.
It noted virtual visits would still be possible via Zoom or Facetime, and said activities would resume as soon as Public Health advises it is safe to do so.
Snowbirds advised to stay home
Premier Blaine Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell had succinct advice when asked whether New Brunswick's snowbirds, residents who travel south during the winter months, should risk the trip this year.
"A pandemic is not the time to make any non-essential travel plans. Period," Russell said.
"I would certainly concur," Higgs said. "If we were looking at where is the safest place to be, I don't think I'd pick Florida. … I would hold off on that and wait for a vaccine."
Reports of packed grocery stores in Saint John
There were several reports on social media of packed grocery stores in Saint John ahead of news out of the Friday afternoon briefing.
"Hearing Saint Johners are out in force stocking up on groceries and essentials most people assuming a colour change," Steven Clark posted on Twitter.
Potential public exposure notices
A roundup of recent possible public exposure notices listed on the province's website, with dates when the potential exposure occurred:
Nov. 6-12 Fit 4 Less, 165 Main St. in Moncton (various times between 5 p.m. and midnight)
Nov. 6 - GoodLife Fitness at Moncton Junction Village Gym (8 - 9:30 a.m., 7 - 8:30 p.m.)
Nov. 6-10 Aldo Shoes at Moncton Champlain Mall (various times between 9:30 in the morning and 7:30 at night)
Nov. 6, 9, 10 and 12: Fitness room at the CEPS Louis-J. Robichaud, 40 Antonine-Maillet Ave. (various times in evening from 5:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.)
Nov. 8 Tandoori Zaika Cuisine and Bar at 196 Robinson St. in Moncton (1 a.m. and 2 a.m).
Nov. 9 GoodLife Fitness at Moncton Junction Village Gym (8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.)
Nov. 15 Air Canada Flight 8954 – from Winnipeg to Toronto arrived at 8:16 p.m.
Nov. 15 Air Canada Flight 8918 – from Toronto to Moncton arrived at 11:43 p.m.
Nov. 17 Keg Steakhouse and Bar, 576 Main St. (7:45 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.)
Oct. 24 Air Canada Flight 322 – from Calgary to Montreal on Oct. 24
Oct 24 Air Canada Flight 8792 – from Montreal to Saint John on Oct. 24 at 21:12 p.m.
Nov. 14 Five and Dime Bar (12:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m) and Freddie's Pizza (2:30 a.m. and 3:00 a.m)
Nov. 16 Big Tide Brewing Company, 47 Princess St. (12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.)
Nov. 16 Java Moose, 84 Prince William St. (2 p.m. and 2:30 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:
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.