There are 17 new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick as public health officials scramble to contain an outbreak at a special care home in Moncton.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said all of the new cases are in the Moncton health zone and connected to the Manoir Notre-Dame special care home, where an outbreak was declared Tuesday.

Russell said 13 residents, four staff and two family members have tested positive for the illness. The first two positive cases at the home were announced Tuesday. Two of the home’s residents are in hospital. 

Russell said the source of the outbreak remains under investigation. 

There are 22 active cases of the respiratory illness across the province.

The 17 new cases are:

two people in their 20s, three people in their 40s, one person in their 50s, two people in their 60s, five people in their 70s, two people in their 80s, and  two people older than 90. 

Russell warned of two potential public exposures in Moncton related to the outbreak. 

Anyone who has visited the Moncton Costco Optical Centre and Moncton St. Hubert Restaurant since Oct. 1 is asked to self-monitor for symptoms. If they develop symptoms, they should call 811.

Anne-Marie Johnson with her mother, Huguette, a resident of Manoir Notre-Dame in Moncton. (Submitted by Anne-Marie Johnson)

Anne-Marie Johnson had feared there would be new cases at the home where her mother lives.

Johnson’s 89-year-old mother, Huguette, is one of 112 residents of Manoir Notre-Dame.

Russell said Tuesday that a rapid-response team was sent to the home on Monday night to begin mass testing and contact tracing. 

The outbreak has led to a series of changes to visitor access at other care homes in the region, and two local hospitals. 

Visitation changes

Vitalité Health Network announced Wednesday it is temporarily suspending visits throughout the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre as it moves to a higher internal alert level, and it’s reducing elective surgeries and some ambulatory services.

Visits to the obstetric, pediatric and palliative care units are restricted to one designated visitor per patient. Patients receiving a medically assisted death will be allowed two designated visitors, with one at a time, other than exceptional cases. 

Horizon Health Network announced no visitors will be allowed at the Moncton Hospital because of the Notre-Dame outbreak. There are some exceptions with the details available on Horizon’s website. 

There was far less activity outside Notre-Dame on Wednesday. A mobile emergency command centre has been established. Staff were coming and going from the trailer but declined to comment. Calls to the home went unanswered. 

At least 10 home oxygen kits were delivered to the home Wednesday morning, though it wasn’t clear why. 

An Ambulance New Brunswick command centre trailer has been set up beside the home. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Based on what she considered lax entrance procedures at the home, Johnson said she fully expected more cases at Manoir Notre-Dame. 

When she and her sister visited the home two weeks ago, they wore masks and had their temperature checked in the lobby, but no screening questions were asked. She also said her sister and brother-in-law, who visited on Sunday, were not contacted on Tuesday as part of the contact-tracing process.

I can’t show her how scared I am.- Anne-Marie Johnson

In a phone call on Tuesday night, Johnson said she tried to reassure her mother that everything will be OK. 

“I can’t show her how scared I am,” Johnson told Information Morning Fredericton. 

“I’m definitely sure I’m not the only person rattled this morning.” 

She said she doesn’t feel comfortable leaving her mother at Manoir Notre-Dame.

“If there’s 10 cases there, I can’t leave my mother there. I can’t,” said Johnson. 

She planned to contact the Department of Social Development on Wednesday and ask about removing her mother from the special care home.

Home oxygen machines were delivered to the home on Wednesday morning. (Shane Magee/CBC)

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep my mom. Bottom line. And I’ll make the calls that I need to make today,” said Johnson. 

She said the home was short-staffed before the pandemic hit, “but for us, that was the only home we could afford.”

At a news conference on Tuesday, Russell said the two positive residents were in their 70s and 80s. Both are in hospital in stable condition, she said.

No detailed information was immediately offered about the ages of the 17 new cases Wednesday.

Several workers who complained of COVID-like symptoms were being isolated and the rapid-response team was tracing contacts of the positive cases, said Russell.

Admissions and visits at Manoir Notre-Dame are suspended until further notice.

Johnson said her mother told her that all residents of the facility were on lockdown in their rooms. 

“She said, ‘I’m just going to lay here and I’ll be OK,'” said Johnson. 

According to the facility’s website, the home has residence rooms with two bedrooms and a shared bathroom as well as private rooms. It’s not clear how many of the rooms have shared bathrooms.

A representative of the New Brunswick Special Care Home Association did not return a request for comment.

Five active cases

Jodi Hall, executive director of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, said her organization doesn’t represent Notre-Dame since it’s not a nursing home. However, she said nursing homes are taking a closer look at their visitor rules.

Hall said she’s spoken with nursing homes in the region and hasn’t found any that shared employees with Notre-Dame. 

The cases at the home bring the total number of cases in New Brunswick since March to 222. Two people, both residents of Manoir de la Vallée, a special care home in the Campbellton region, died in June. 

There are now 20 active cases in the Moncton region and two in the Saint John region. A total of 81,696 tests have been done since March, with 887 over the last 24 hours. 

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