New Brunswick officials announced three new cases of COVID-19 in the province Thursday that aren’t linked to an outbreak at a special care home in Moncton. 

The new cases bring the province’s total number of active cases to 24. Three people are in hospital, one of which is in intensive care, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference. 

The new cases are a person in their 20s in the Fredericton health zone, a person in their 40s in the Saint John region and a person in their 30s in the Campbellton region. The Fredericton and Saint John cases are related to travel outside the Atlantic “bubble,” while the Campbellton case remains under investigation. 

Premier Blaine Higgs announced face masks will become mandatory in most public spaces as of midnight.

The “bubble” with Quebec’s Avignon region has closed, Higgs also announced. 

Russell said the Moncton-region hasn’t met public health’s criteria to revert back to the “orange” phase that affects public gatherings and businesses. 

“At this point in time, we’re not prepared to go to the orange phase,” Russell said. 

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, says the province is using lessons learned from the outbreak in late spring at the Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville, where two residents died. (Submitted by the Province of New Brunswick)

The latest cases were announced a day after 17 new cases were found, the highest single-day increase in the province since the pandemic began. Those cases were all linked to an outbreak at the Manoir Notre-Dame special care home declared Tuesday when two residents tested positive. 

Russell said to slow the potential spread of COVID-19, visitation is now prohibited at adult residential facilities in the Moncton region until further notice.

Russell said all residents, staff and close-contacts have been tested. Residents will be tested again with those results available in the coming days.

There was no new information about the potential source of the outbreak. 

Seeking help

Meanwhile, Horizon Health Network has asked its employees to volunteer to work at the home.

The Oct. 7 memo from Maura McKinnon, Horizon’s chief human resource officer, says there’s an “urgent” need for licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and personal care assistants to provide patient care at Notre-Dame as a result of the outbreak.

The memo says Horizon has been asked to determine if anyone in those classifications can commit to a minimum of 14 days working at the home that has about 110 residents. 

A person in a protective suit and using a respirator leaves the Manoir Notre-Dame special care home in Moncton on Wednesday. A memo from Horizon Health Network says the home with about 110 residents needs more nurses and personal support workers as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak. (Shane Magee/CBC)

As of Wednesday, 19 positive cases were linked to the facility. Thirteen are residents, four work at the facility, and two are family members of people who live or work there. 

The memo says employees will be provided “extensive” training in things such as personal protective equipment guidelines. As well, hotel accommodations, meals, expenses, salary, and two weeks paid self-isolation will be provided to those employees who are selected to work at the home.

With four employees positive and others in self-isolation, the province has sent a “critical care team” to the home to help tend to residents, Russell said at a news conference Wednesday. 

Russell said they’re using lessons learned from the outbreak in late spring at the Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville, where two residents died.

Manoir Notre-Dame is a special care home in Moncton licensed for 120 beds. (Shane Magee/CBC)

At that time, public servants were asked to volunteer to help because of a staffing shortage. The home’s owner said that when the outbreak began, 10 of its 29 workers left their jobs. 

It’s unclear whether there have been any resignations at Notre-Dame. Neither the New Brunswick Nurses Union or Canadian Union of Public Employees represent workers at the home. 

No one from Notre-Dame management has commented since the outbreak began. Admissions to the home, as well as visits, have been suspended until further notice.

Not known how outbreak started

The source of the outbreak remains under investigation.

Russell said Tuesday that a rapid-response team was sent to the home on Monday night to begin mass testing and contact tracing. She said all staff and residents were tested in a four-hour period. 

Those who tested positive range in age from their 20s to over 90. 

There are two other potential sources of exposure to COVID-19 related to the outbreak: the optical centre at Costco in Moncton and the Moncton St-Hubert restaurant where an employee has tested positive. 

Public health officials have asked anyone who has visited those locations between specific dates and times to self-monitor for symptoms and, if they have those symptoms, to call 811. 

Those dates and times for Costco are: Oct. 1 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Oct. 2 from 12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Oct. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For St.-Hubert: Oct. 3 from 11:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Oct. 4 from 11:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

St.-Hubert spokesperson Josée Vaillancourt said the employee who tested positive on Tuesday evening is not showing symptoms and is doing well.

Vaillancourt said two other employees at the location have been asked to stay home and get tested. She said workers wear masks and take other precautions to protect customers. 

New Brunswick’s COVID cabinet committee is to meet later Thursday and Premier Blaine Higgs has said mandatory masks will be on the agenda. 

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

Vitalité Health Network is temporarily suspending visits throughout the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre as it moves to a higher internal alert level. It is also 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 says no visitors will be allowed at the Moncton Hospital. There are some exceptions with the details available on Horizon’s website. 

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