N.B. releases COVID-19 winter plan, reports 97 new cases, two deaths Friday

Two more people have died of COVID-19 in New Brunswick as the province reported 97 new cases of the virus on Friday.

This brings the total number of active cases in the province to 711.

During the province's COVID-19 update Friday afternoon, the government announced a COVID-19 plan for the winter.

"We want New Brunswickers to gather with family and friends over the holidays," said New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell. "But we want it to be done safely."

She alerted residents that while the majority of New Brunswickers are doing the right things, disruptions may happen such as enhanced restrictions as the province works to stop the spread of the virus.

UNVACCINATED PEOPLE AT GREATER RISK

Dr. Russell said unvaccinated people are at a much greater risk of experiencing the worst effects of COVID-19.

She said over the past couple weeks there has been an increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

While looking at today's new cases, Dr. Russell offered an apples-to-apples comparison. She said there are 8.8 cases per 100,000 vaccinated New Brunswickers, versus 32.9 cases to 100,000 unvaccinated residents.

She added that about 59 per cent of those in hospital with the virus are over the age of 60.

"Those who are older and unvaccinated face the greatest risk from COVID-19 right now," Dr. Russell said.

She's also encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated as soon as possible.

The province said booster doses are available for those over 60, while booster eligibly will be expanded to those over 50 next week, and to 40 in the coming weeks.

Dr. Russell said 80 New Brunswickers, who recently travelled to where the new variant is present, are being monitored for Omicron.

THREE LEVEL COVID-19 ACTION PLAN

During Friday's COVID-19 update, New Brunswick's Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced a new three level COVID-19 winter action plan.

She said, when combined with vaccinations and public health guidelines, the action plan will help reduce the spread of the virus.

The plan goes into effect Saturday at 11:59 p.m. until spring, at which time it will be re-evaluated.

Shephard said the entire province will begin in level one, the lowest of the three levels, which is similar to the current measures that are in place.

Once level one takes effect, the province's health minister said that informal gatherings in homes will have a 20 person capacity and outside informal gatherings will be limited to 50 individuals.  She is encouraging everyone to keep contacts as low as possible.

Under level one, Shephard said masks are required in outdoor public spaces where physical distancing is not possible.

Physical distancing between customers and patrons should also be followed at malls, grocery stores, salons, and other businesses.

 There are two more levels of the winter action plan – they include lower capacity levels, travel restrictions and gathering limits.

Shephard said the province's education system will continue to follow its existing plan.

Details regarding New Brunswick's COVID-19 plan can be found on the province's website.