COVID-19 Update: Yellow is coming to NB, but tighter restrictions elsewhere in Atlantic provinces

Chief Medical Officer of Health Jennifer Russell on Friday. Screencap from CPAC livestream.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Jennifer Russell on Friday. Screencap from CPAC livestream.
Erica Butler - CHMA - SackvilleNB | 01-03-2021

New Brunswick announced another death related to COVID-19 on Sunday. A person in their 90s who lived at Villa des Jardins, an adult residential facility in Edmundston, has died with the disease. The total number of deaths related to COVID-19 in New Brunswick is now 27.

No new cases were reported Sunday, and just two were reported Saturday. The total number of active cases in the province is 38 as of Monday morning. Zone 1 has five active cases of COVID-19, with just two new cases reported in the past 7 days.

Public Health issued a potential exposure advisory on Friday, for Air Canada flight 8902 from Montreal to Moncton on February 14.

New Brunswick’s testing numbers were down Sunday, with 560 tests completed in the province, and 209 of those in Zone 1.

Data from the NB COVID-19 dashboard. Chart by Erica Butler.

“YELLOW IS COMING” SAYS RUSSELL

Hear this story as reported on Tantramar Report:

In their briefing on Friday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Jennifer Russell and Premier Blaine Higgs also announced upcoming changes to restrictions which will come into effect at the end of the week, if case numbers remain low.

The province will revert back to the yellow phase of restrictions as early as Sunday, March 7, but with significant changes.

“It won’t be the same set of rules that you experienced last summer and fall when all of New Brunswick was last in the yellow alert level,” said Russell on Friday. “Due to the presence of the new variants of COVID-19, the new yellow level will be a little more controlled than what was in place last year.”

The new yellow will actually be significantly different than what was in place over the summer, with the most notable change being that household bubbles will still be in place, with the Steady 10 system expanded to a Steady 15.

This means any given household may keep a list of 15 people on its close contact list. That group may have close contact and operate as a bubble when visiting venues or dining out.

Sports teams will be allowed to play within their league across zones, following their operational plan.

Tournaments or larger events within a zone may be permitted, subject to approval of the plan.

Formal indoor gatherings will be permitted with an operational plan in place as long as the venue is at 50 per cent capacity or less, and physical distance can be maintained.

Formal and informal outdoor gatherings of 50 people or fewer will be permitted with physical distancing in place.

IMMEDIATE CHANGES TO ORANGE

The province also announced immediate changes to the current orange phase of restrictions, including allowing travel and close contact across health zones, and allowing visits in hospitals.

Russell acknowledge the potential confusion at play with changing restrictions. “This is all part of the dance that we have engaged with in the COVID-19 pandemic since it began,” said Russell. “We will loosen and tighten restrictions, and adjust measures within each level of the restrictions as required to keep New Brunswick are safe.”

“I know that these changes can be confusing and frustrating,” she said. “And each of us has become deeply fatigued by the pandemic… But we must be nimble and we must be positioned to respond quickly to keep the virus at bay. And keep in mind that this virus is changing all the time and we must change with it.”

ATLANTIC BUBBLE LATE SPRING OR SUMMER?

Premier Blaine Higgs also spoke on Friday, and made brief mention of reopening the Atlantic bubble, saying that it was a definite possibility for late spring or summer. Higgs tied the chances for a re-established bubble to the ongoing vaccine rollout, and also acknowledged some recent good news on that front, approval in Canada of the AstroZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is indeed great news,” said Higgs. “And it provides another tool in our fight against this virus.”

Higgs said the province will share more information on how the new approval will impact the supply and rollout in New Brunswick, “as soon as we are able to do so.”

TIGHTENED RESTRICTIONS ACROSS ATLANTIC CANADA

PEI announced five new cases in the province on Sunday, bringing the total new cases in the past five days to 17.

PEI also announced 72 hours of stricter red level measures, closing non-essential businesses and recreation facilities, and limiting people to their household bubble, plus contacts for essential support. Schools will be closed until Thursday, but no changes have been made to the province’s long term care rules.

About a half dozen pop up testing clinics will continue operating on Monday in PEI, and are focussed on people in their 20s.

Over in neighbouring Nova Scotia, that province also announced increased restrictions on Friday, after reporting about 30 new cases the previous week.

Nova Scotia’s new restrictions will last one month, until March 26th, and apply only to the Halifax region and surrounding communities. The restrictions include limiting visits to long term care homes, closing restaurants by 9pm, and banning in person events.

Nova Scotians are also being asked to avoid all non-essential travel within the province and elsewhere, especially in and out of the Halifax area.

Nova Scotia is continuing with its aggressive testing strategy, and set a new record for tests processed in a single day, with 4,839 tests processed on Saturday.

Newfoundland and Labrador announced 7 new cases on Sunday, following four new cases announced Saturday. The province now has 262 active cases of COVID-19.

Across Canada, there were just over 2300 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Sunday. The national total of active cases remains around 30,000.