Many New Brunswickers watched Thursday's provincial COVID-19 briefing with the unmet expectation some areas would transition to red -- the government's highest level of pandemic restrictions.

"There's a lot of comments and chatter on social media about red and it hasn't come from government," said New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. "This situation will be assessed every single day."

All areas of New Brunswick went from the yellow phase (the province's lowest level of COVID-19 restrictions) to orange (the middle level of restrictions) on Jan. 6.

"We need to see what (the 'orange') phase will do to help us get things under control," said Shephard.

Confirmed reports of COVID-19 have been increasing in New Brunswick, with 24 new cases reported on Thursday, bringing the province's total of active cases to 130.

New Brunswick's top doctor says going to red is certainly a possibility, adding it's a decision that won't be taken lightly.

"We just know that the ramifications of going to red in terms of what we saw with the first wave were quite negative in terms of unintended consequences and negative outcomes," says Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health.

The mental toll of changing COVID-19 restrictions in New Brunswick has caused "a constant roller-coaster of emotion" according to one Saint John-based clinical therapist.

Laura Gaitan says there's been a general level of discouragement amongst many of her clients since the change from yellow to orange.

"It's a lot of, 'What if we go to red?' and then I kind of challenge them (and say) 'What if?'" said Gaitan. "We're going to work within the parameters that we're given just like we did in orange."

Gaitan's advice is for people to focus on what they can control in their day-to-day lives.

"We have to learn to cope with fear, we have to learn to cope with uncertainty," she said.