Models projecting the impact of COVID-19 in New Brunswick estimate there could be between 550 and 1,750 deaths in the province over the full course of the pandemic, depending on the public’s level of compliance with provincial health orders.
For perspective, 1,800 New Brunswickers were killed during the Second World War, Premier Blaine Higgs said Thursday.
Had the province not taken measures to limit the spread of the virus, up to 5,600 people could have died, according to the model.
“It’s easy to look at these numbers and to get overwhelmed,” Higgs said. “It is understandable if these numbers make you feel scared. I urge you not to give into fear because you have the power to make the difference.”
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief Public Health officer, said the province’s actual numbers correspond with the model’s best case scenario, something she credits to early action taken by government.
“What happens next depends on each and every one of us,” Russell said Thursday. “We have the power to continue to slow the spread of the virus and it is up to each of us to continue to use that power.”
New Brunswick has so far recorded zero deaths from COVID-19, but the model projects there could be 15 by the end of the month.
Health Minister Hugh Flemming said he hopes that number is lower, but that will depend, he said, on the public’s level of compliance with self-isolation and physical distancing orders.
“I hope it’s less,” Flemming said. “We need to challenge and implore all New Brunswickers to drive that number down as far as we can drive it. We prepare for the worst and we hope and pray for the best.”
He stressed that the public must be prepared to abide by the regulations for the long haul, noting it could be 12 to 24 months before a vaccine is found.
Associate deputy minister Rene Boudreau said until there is a vaccine, the number of new cases will come in waves.
Flemming said half-measures won’t end the pandemic, adding his government is ready to take additional steps to limit the spread of COVID-19. Officials, however, didn’t say what other measures might be considered.
So far there have been four people treated in intensive care for COVID-19 in the province, but the model suggests that could rise to 13 by the end of the month.
“I want to do everything in my power to make sure we keep those numbers as low as possible,” Higgs said. “In fact, I want to do much better than the best case projection that we’ve seen today. Together I believe we have the ability to do just that.”
The province reported three new cases Thursday, raising the provincial total to 111. Higgs said the three new cases were all in the same family and the result of someone who had travelled to Ontario a week ago.
Health officials said Thursday that even under the worst case scenario projected by the models, New Brunswick has enough available hospital beds and equipment to care for the sick.
Both Flemming and Higgs stressed the need to continue physical distancing, and to avoid any gatherings during the holiday weekend.
“The wrong gathering with the wrong people could blow these numbers apart in less than a week,” Flemming said.
Health officials said the data gathered over the next two weeks will allow them to update their projections.
Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe.