Public Health has recommended that all health zones transition back to the orange level of COVID-19 pandemic recovery at midnight.
27 new cases were announced Tuesday, the highest daily caseload reported in the province since the pandemic began.
Nine of the new cases were found in the Moncton region, 11 cases were announced in the Fredericton health zone, three were discovered in Saint John and two cases each were found in the Edmundston and Campbellton areas.
There are now 80 active cases in the province.
“We had hoped that this wouldn’t happen, but we expected it might and we are ready for it now that it’s here,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health. “We are acting quickly and decisively to prevent the outbreaks now underway from spreading broadly across the province.”
Under orange level restrictions, New Brunswickers are limited to single-family bubbles. Masks are required in outdoor spaces when two meters of distancing can’t be kept.
The province also asks residents to not travel between zones for non-essential reasons, but those who live and work in separate zones are allowed to do so.
Though the province reported an uptick in cases over the weekend, most of those cases were localized in the Fredericton and Moncton regions. However, the province’s chief medical health officer said chains of transmission have caused clusters of cases in several regions.
Dr. Jennifer Russell said the province is fearful of further acceleration of new cases.
“There’s a serious risk that the outbreaks now underway could spread even more widely, overwhelming our healthcare systems with hundreds of new cases everyday as is now happening in Maine and Quebec,” she said.
With 50 new cases reported since Sunday, the province has seen its total active case number double in that span.
Premier Blaine Higgs pointed out that a single case of COVID-19 in the Saint John region last fall led to 80 further confirmed cases.
“We do not want what is happening in other provinces and countries to happen here in New Brunswick,” Higgs said. “We have seen how fast this can spread, how fast it can get out of control.”
The premier said they expected some New Brunswickers would act ‘selfishly’ over the holiday season by ignoring COVID-19 restrictions, and the new cases proves they were right to be concerned.
Higgs warned the current path could lead to hundreds of new cases in the province. He said one person ignored symptoms and exposed up to 150 people to the virus after going to work.
The province now plans to increase check-ins on those self-isolating after travelling to the province.
Dr. Russell said they believe many of the cases are connected through family gatherings over the holidays, but that they haven’t seen any uptick caused by gatherings on New Year’s Eve.
“People who have exhibited COVID-19 symptoms attended holiday gatherings with family and friends, and some people have gone to their workplace with symptoms,” she said.
She added they are also concerned about the new variants of COVID-19 that have caused stringent lockdowns in the United Kingdom.
One person remains in hospital with the virus, and they are in intensive care.
The province also announced relief for small businesses Tuesday. Opportunity NB grants of up to $5,000 will be available for businesses that were open through orange or red phases of the pandemic since October 10.
Premier Higgs said the province has requested additional COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government.