There are now more than 100 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick. This recent spike in cases is primarily linked to separate outbreaks in Zone 1 (Moncton Area) and Zone 5 (Restigouche Area).
While most of New Brunswick remains in the Yellow Phase, Zones 1 and 5 reverted to the Orange Phase on October 9th. The phase change meant that hair salons, barbers, gym facilities, casinos, and performance venues had to close immediately. Gatherings in affected areas are now restricted to ten people or less.
"We learned that people have become complacent about being aware of the ongoing risks and taking the appropriate actions simply because our numbers were so low," said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer.
Manoir Notre-Dame, a special care home in Moncton, is at the centre of the outbreak in Zone 1. At least 19 people in the facility have tested positive, and there is one confirmed death of a resident in the home, the third COVID death in the province.
This zone has since returned to the Yellow Phase, as of October 22.
The outbreak in Zone 5 saw the first cases in New Brunswick schools since they reopened with safety precautions in the fall. Measures are being taken to prevent the spread, and schools are remaining open for the time being.
According to Dr. Russell, the outbreak in Zone 1 has been officially linked to travel. After the outbreak was declared, officials acted quickly, recommending testing to anyone who had visited locations where the public may have come into contact with a positive case, including the Moncton St. Hubert, Moncton Costco Optical Centre, or the Morton Avenue McDonald’s in Moncton.
As of October 9, masks are now mandatory in all indoor public locations. While not linked directly to the recent outbreaks, the change has come much later than in other provinces such as Nova Scotia. In Orange Phase zones, masks are also mandatory in outdoor public spaces.
"Having people masked indoors and outdoors, that means it's continuous, everyone is protecting each other, and we do know even though people can be mingling outdoors, they don't necessarily always physically distance," said Russell.
According to New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, police officers will be visiting businesses to ensure compliance with the new mask rules.
These new rules are effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19 when combined with efforts to social distance, sanitize hands, and reduce travel. As the province locked down early, it was able to have a fairly successful summer tourist season in comparison with other areas that have seen higher rates of infection. Subsequently, the New Brunswick economy has fared better than other areas that have been harder hit.
Compliance has occurred smoothly as Canada has not seen the same level of anti-mask resistance as the United States. However, on October 11, New Brunswick RCMP arrested an Ontario anti-masker who had organized a protest in Moncton. Chris Saccoccia was arrested for causing a disturbance on his flight and quickly sent back on a flight out of the province.
As of Saturday October 17, over ninety thousand tests have been conducted in New Brunswick.