CAMPBELLTON, N.B. — People from a city in northern New Brunswick lined up outside testing centres Saturday, anxiously waiting to find out if they've been exposed to COVID-19.
Health officials have been focusing on Campbellton, N.B., since earlier in the week when it was learned that a health-care professional who contracted the novel coronavirus outside the province didn't self-isolate after returning to New Brunswick.
Public Health officials confirmed another new case in Zone 5, the Campbellton region, Saturday — bringing to nine the number of active cases in the area in just over a week.
The new case, which is under investigation, is an individual in their 70s.
To date, there have been 129 confirmed cases in New Brunswick and 120 people have recovered from their illness.
Three people are hospitalized and there are no patients in an intensive care unit.
Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin said people were waiting about 15 minutes in the lineups to be tested, while seniors could call the 811 Tele-Care line to make an appointment to avoid the lines.
She said people are not happy that a health-care professional would put the public at risk.
"People have been pretty hateful and nasty on social media," she said.
The mayor said she was embarrassed by many of the comments and urged people to help each other and limit their contacts for the next two weeks.
"The man is human and I don't think it's my place to judge him. His professional association will judge what they have to judge if there was any wrongdoing done," she said.
Premier Blaine Higgs has criticized the worker at the centre of the cluster as "irresponsible." He said this week that information had been passed to the RCMP and suggested the individual could be charged with violating public health orders.
On Friday, a spokeswoman for the New Brunswick RCMP confirmed that the force is looking into the matter.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said people need to show understanding, forgiveness and compassion during this pandemic.
"Please remember that COVID-19 brings out many emotions in us," said Russell. "It causes many of us to experience feelings of confusion, anxiety, fear and grief. Some may also be angry. It is completely normal to feel these feelings when we face situations that are beyond our control."
Gilles Lanteigne, president and CEO of the Vitalite Health Network confirmed the health-care professional thought to be patient zero in the outbreak has been suspended from work indefinitely after coming into contact with more than 100 people at the Campbellton Regional Hospital.
Elective surgeries have been suspended, and ambulances are being diverted to another hospital. Zone 5 has been moved back to the "orange" phase of the province's reopening plan, with previous restrictions reinstated.
"We can get through this. It all will be fine," Anglehart-Paulin said.
"We've got 14 days they tell us to hold our breath, so we're going to hold our breath for another 14 days."
Russell said everyone must be vigilant and self monitor for symptoms, regardless if they have been recently tested for COVID-19.
Before the Campbellton area cases, the province had gone two weeks without new cases and was actively reopening many businesses and services.
The latest cases follow a protest earlier in the month by more than 400 people from Campbellton and the Quebec communities of Pointe-a-la-Croix and Listuguj First Nation, calling for a "bubble" to be created between them.
Anglehart-Paulin said the flood of emails she was getting in support of opening the border suddenly stopped when the latest cases were reported.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2020.
— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.
The Canadian Press