With strict new rules limiting under-vaccinated New Brunswick residents' access to numerous public venues only five days away, Public Health reports increasing vaccination bookings.
Meanwhile, the number of new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and patients in intensive care units is also rising. In its Friday, Sept. 17 provincial update, Public Health reported 57 confirmed new cases across the province. For the second day in a row, Zone 3, the Fredericton and Upper River Valley region, saw the most new cases with 16, although Zones 1, Moncton, and 4, Campbellton, were not far behind.
New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell welcomed the rising interest in vaccinations.
"Demand for vaccinations has picked up over the last few days, and I am greatly encouraged by this," she said. "Yesterday, we scheduled 1,929 vaccination appointments at regional health authority clinics, in addition to 1,700 bookings the day before. Prior to Wednesday's announcement, the recent average was 600 bookings per day.
Russell said Public Health saw a significant uptick at pharmacies and walk-in clinics. On Thursday, she said, officials had to deliver 600 additional vaccines to a clinic in the Moncton area.
On Friday, Public Health reported 77.5 per cent of eligible New Brunswick residents already received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, while more than 86 per cent had their first dose.
Health officials continue to urge the unvaccinated to book appointments as soon as possible, saying the province needs at least 90 per cent vaccinated level to get the pandemic under control.
People can book appointments at health network clinics and participating pharmacies. They can also utilize walk-in and mobile clinics in their area. Public Health will host a walk-in clinic on Monday, Sept. 21, at the AYR Motor Centre.
On Wednesday, Russell and Premier Blaine Higgs announced that effective 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, people over 11 years of age must show proof they're fully vaccinated to enter bars, restaurants, entertainment and sports venues and other public events.
On Friday, the town of Woodstock announced that starting at 5 a.m. Wednesday, only vaccinated patrons 12 and older will be allowed into the AYR Motor Centre. The regulations won't affect children 11 and under who are not eligible for a vaccine.
As it prepares for the new restrictions, the town announced it would host vaccination-disclosure sessions between 8 and 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 20, and Tuesday, Sept. 21, at the Ayr Motor Centre Field House. People can also email their vaccination record and a piece of ID to email@example.com
"We encourage anyone who intends to utilize the AYR Motor Centre for any reason to participate, to provide a more efficient check-in," town officials stated in its notice. "Once patrons' initial disclosure has been received, these patrons will not be required to bring their vaccination records each visit. We encourage all user groups to participate, as the AYR Motor Centre will be carrying the responsibility for the disclosure of all patrons."
In its Friday update, Public Health said 41 of the 57 new infections identified were not fully vaccinated.
The 72 per cent number is lower than most daily announcements, which tend to run 85 per cent or more of infections among the under-vaccinated.
During the provincial press conference on Wednesday, Dr. Russell said those not fully vaccinated represent a vast majority of all cases and hospitalizations. They are also more likely to face much more significant health issues from the virus. She said the under-vaccinated are 23 times more likely to be hospitalized.
"Today, we are seeing 28 per cent of the new cases in fully vaccinated people," said Russell on Wednesday. "These breakthrough cases are expected while the virus continues to circulate, although those vaccinated are far less likely to be seriously ill or hospitalized. However, the circumstances with this virus have changed, and that is why we must change with it."
Russell said Public Health strongly recommends that everyone wear a mask in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status.
"And if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild, do not assume they are fall allergies; get tested," she said.
Public Health's recommendation that everyone wears a mask appears to contradict the viewpoint of Premier Blaine Higgs, who stated recently he doesn't wear a mask. During a provincewide CBC radio interview Wednesday morning, Higgs called not wearing a mask served an award for getting both doses of the vaccine.
However, Higgs said in the same interview that mask mandates are still possible.
Public Health's Friday update reporting the 57 new cases push the province's active infections to 370. Of those, 17 people are undergoing treatment in hospital, with 10 in the ICU.
Of Zone 3's 16 new infections, eight were under 20, and all but one were under 60. Seven of the cases are under investigation, while Public Health contact tracers linked the other nine to previously known cases.
Zone 1, the Moncton region, reported 15 new infections, with 14 in Zone 5, Campbellton, Nine in Zone 4, Edmundston, and three in Zone 2, Saint John.
Zone 6, Bathurst and Zone 7, Miramichi, did not report new cases on Friday.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun