FREDERICTON — New Brunswick public health officials are reporting the province's first presumptive case of COVID-19.
Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, says health officials learned of the test result on Wednesday afternoon.
"This case is a woman between the ages of 50 and 60 years old in Zone One which is the southeastern part of the province," Russell said. "The patient travelled internationally from France and was confirmed that the patient was treated and tested and is in isolation at home."
She said the woman was only minimally symptomatic.
"My understanding is that she phoned ahead either to 811 or Public Health or the emergency department. So they knew to receive her with the proper precautions in place," Russell said.
"She was taken right in for assessment and put in an isolation room. She would have been tested after that."
Russell said health officials are reaching out to people who have been in contact with the woman and asking them to self-isolate for 14 days.
New Brunswick is the first Atlantic province to report a presumptive case of the disease linked to the novel coronavirus.
The positive test result still needs to be confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
Premier Blaine Higgs said in light of the case, he's looking to make alternate plans rather travel to Ottawa for this week's first ministers meeting.
"I haven't officially cancelled my trip there yet but we are in communications right now with the federal government and with my colleagues basically suggesting that we should be doing this by tele-conference," Higgs said Wednesday evening.
"We recently put out a travel ban for government of New Brunswick employees, and I think it's important given the knowledge today that I respect that ban as well."
Earlier in the day, Russell announced that anyone returning from travel outside of Canada will not be allowed to enter any long-term care facilities in New Brunswick for 14 days.
"This restriction also applies to those visitors who have travelled outside the country in the last 14 days from entering hospitals to visit those most at risk for severe illness."
She said public health officials are concerned about keeping the infection out of nursing homes, seniors' residences and other such locations.
The latest restriction does not apply to health-care professionals who work in those facilities unless they have visited China's Hubei province, Iran or Italy.
"For the New Brunswick health-care system, obviously we need all of our health-care workers to be providing care to the most vulnerable people right now. We need them to be able to provide care to all of the different parts of the system," she said.
That's different than restrictions announced Tuesday by Education Minister Dominic Cardy, in which anyone who travels internationally — including staff and volunteers — are barred from entering schools for 14 days.
Russell would not say if she thought there should be a standard policy government-wide.
"All I can say is that I am here to give public health advice to government and to businesses and organizations."
Meanwhile, the president of the organization that represents the province's physicians is taking issue with Cardy's restrictions for schools.
Dr. Chris Goodyear of the New Brunswick Medical Society said the restrictions are not rooted in evidence-based public health policy.
"It has caused confusion and concern among parents, students, educators and health-care providers, and risks placing a strain on an already fragile health system. I believe it requires a public health review and reconsideration," Goodyear said Wednesday.
He said the memo issued by the education minister caused a flood of people calling the 811 Tele-Care line seeking clarification.
"When you have different departments of the government acting independently from one another in silos, that's not good. We want the decision making around this to be guided by the experts in public health," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2020.
The Canadian Press