New Brunswick circuit breaker ends in multiple northern provincial zones
By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
RIVER VALLEY SUN
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced Thursday afternoon, Nov. 4, that the province will end COVID-19 circuit-breaker measures in three zones in northern New Brunswick while extending them in two zones in the southern end of the province.
In a virtual press conference with New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell, Minister Shephard confirmed the end of the tightened restrictions in Zone 3’s northern portion of the Upper River Valley, and all of Zone 4, the Edmundston region, and Zone 5, the Campbellton region.
Shepard said the restrictions in Zones 3, 4 and 5 would end Friday, Nov. 5, at 6 p.m.
Shephard and Russell said the province based the decision to lift the circuit breaker in these regions on the vastly improved numbers, including a sharp decline in new COVID infections and active cases.
While the numbers are heading in the right direction in northern New Brunswick, Shephard and Russell expressed concern about what’s occurring in the southern New Brunswick regions of Moncton and Saint John.
As a result, Shephard said, the province would extend the circuit breakers in Zones 1, Moncton, and Zone 2, Saint John, for at least another week.
Russell said COVID-19 daily infections, active cases, hospitalizations and those in ICU continue to decline significantly since the introduction of the circuit breakers four weeks ago, but not in all areas of the province.
“Progress has emerged slowly and at different rates across our province,” she said, “Some areas have done very well in reducing the spread of the virus, while outbreaks persist elsewhere.”
In addition to the concerns leading to the extension of circuit-breaker measures in the Moncton and Saint John regions, Russell said Public Health would keep an eye on the sharp increase recently in Zone 7, the Miramichi area.
Russell said the Miramichi region saw a spike in new cases over the past week following an outbreak at a community shelter. She said health officials connected the spread of the virus to two separate clusters of infection.
Although concerned, Russell said, the COVID team in the area believes it can handle the rising numbers without implementing circuit-breaker measures.
However, she added, Public Health would monitor the Miramichi spread closely.
“We look very carefully at the patterns of transmission and the risk areas we’re seeing at what the potential impacts can be,” Russell said.
She said if the regional COVID team is correct and can stabilize the spread, no new measures would be needed. If not, they would consider a circuit breaker.
Public Health’s Thursday update also announced a person in the 70s from the Campbelltown region died because of COVID-19. That marks the 120th confirmed COVID-related death in the province since the pandemic began, with well over half occurring this autumn during the virus’s fourth wave.
During Thursday’s press conference, Russell clarified instructions to New Brunswick Royal Canadian Legions about regulations related to Remembrance Day activities next week. She apologized for incorrect information sent to some Legion members on Wednesday.
Russell said regulations would allow indoor and outdoor Remembrance Day ceremonies across the province, including circuit breaker areas, that respect current Public Health measures.
During the launch of the poppy campaign last week in Woodstock, Branch 11 president Nick Thomas said he and all members looked forward to seeing large crowds at the cenotaph services, following last year’s COVID-related reduction.
The Woodstock Legion also plans to host indoor events leading up to and during Nov. 11.
Numbers reported in the Public Health update on Thursday delivered positive numbers, with active cases less than half what they were just two weeks ago.
Russell said Public Health confirmed 39 new COVID-19 infections in the province in its daily update, a significant decline from the more than 100 daily cases reported just a few weeks ago.
She said New Brunswick hospitals are now treating 18 people, including 12 in ICU. Again both numbers represent a significant decline.
Shephard addressed the impact of COVID-19 on the province’s health system, noting the additional pressure caused by the ongoing CUPE strike, which includes several health-care workers.
She said the pandemic and strike forced both the province’s health network to postpone several health-care services.
“To date,” Shephard said, “7,991 appointments, including appointments for surgeries and procedures, had to be cancelled or postponed by Horizon Health Network.”
She said Horizon cancelled 188 surgeries, and its community health centre clinics and addiction and mental clinics continue to operate with reduced services.
Shephard said the Vitalitie network cancelled 661 appointments of outpatient care services, 90 surgeries and 18 MRI appointments.