Health officials in New Brunswick have identified two new cases of COVID-19, involving employees of the Campbellton Regional Hospital.
One of the individuals is in their 30s and the other in their 40s. New Brunswick health officials didn’t hold a press conference on Thursday to discuss the reason for transmission. Of the province’s now 153 cases, there are five people in hospital, which includes one in intensive care. The death toll remains at one.
New Brunswick previously had no active cases after all of its patients had recovered by May 16. But since May 21, they’ve discovered 32 new cases in the Campbellton region, which includes three people who have recovered. They’re all part of a cluster that officials believe was started by a family doctor at Campbellton Regional Hospital, who exposed at least 150 people to the virus in the health-care and community setting.
On Thursday, CBC News reported that the medical professional, Dr. Jean Robert Ngola, is seeking an apology from Premier Blaine Higgs after a private investigation determined he’s not “patient zero.”
During Ngola’s overnight round trip to Quebec to retrieve his four-year-old daughter, he interacted with only a few people. They’ve all since tested negative for COVID-19, according to his lawyer, Joël Etienne.
“Dr. Ngola must have therefore contracted the virus from a vector in New Brunswick; and, therefore, he cannot have been the individual who carried the virus over the border,” Etienne wrote in a letter to the premier.
Ngola said he received a call on May 25 informing him that one of his patients tested positive for COVID-19. They had met May 19, but for reasons that did not require physical contact while the patient had no symptoms and was wearing a mask. Upon getting the news, Ngola said he cancelled his shift for that night. He and his daughter both tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after, but neither was showing symptoms.
Higgs has never called Ngola by name, but on May 27 he said an “irresponsible individual” was behind the cluster of cases in Campbellton. His identity was leaked shortly after, and the family doctor has since been the victim of racial attacks both in the Campbellton community and online.
“A racialized Canadian, Dr. Ngola was singled out by the premier of New Brunswick, publicly shamed and outed in social media, contrary to the privacy laws that were enacted to protect him as a patient,” the lawyer alleges in the letter.
“These destructive Trumpian comments were premature, careless, showed a blatant disregard for the separation of powers, and have ultimately caused irreparable damage to Dr. Ngola’s reputation and career.”
Of the province’s 33 cases since March 21, 32 have been in the Campbellton region. The virus spread to a long-term care facility in Atholville, which led to the province’s first and only fatality. The only other active case outside of Campbellton is in the Moncton area (announced earlier this week), and involves a migrant worker whose reason for transmission is believed to be travel related.
Ngola, who has been suspended by Vitalité (a New Brunswick health authority) and is under investigation by the RCMP, is seeking to be reinstated as soon as he is cleared of COVID-19.