FREDERICTON — The first person in New Brunswick to die from COVID-19 is being remembered as a hard-working man whose top concern was taking care of his family.
Daniel Ouellette, 84, died Thursday morning after contracting the novel coronavirus in the long-term care home where he lived.
Michel Ouellette said his father had Alzheimer’s disease and had been living in the Manoir de la Vallee in Atholville, N.B., before being taken to hospital by ambulance on Sunday, unconscious and having trouble breathing.
“He went downhill since then. This morning he left us,” Ouellette said in an interview.
“He was the No. 1 father that everyone would want in their life. He took care of his family for all his life,” he said.
The residence in Atholville had been linked to nine COVID-19 cases among staff and residents. The latest case, reported Thursday, is a person in their 20s who worked at the Manoir de la Vallee.
The cases are part of a cluster that has emerged in northern New Brunswick that infected 16 people in the province and one across the border in Quebec. The outbreak is believed to have begun after a doctor travelled to Quebec and did not self-isolate upon return to New Brunswick.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said it was a matter of time before the province recorded its first COVID-19 related death.
“That unfortunate day has arrived,” she said at a news conference Thursday. “It is a very sad day for all New Brunswickers.”
Russell said more than 300 people are self-isolating as a result of the contact tracing for the positive cases, and almost all are within Health Zone 5, which is in and around Campbellton.
That zone was pushed back to the “orange” level of the province’s reopening plan last week, while the next step of the “yellow” phase for the remainder of the province was delayed until Friday.
“We are grieving today, but also moving forward,” Russell said.
Premier Blaine Higgs said that starting Friday, outside of Zone 5, indoor gatherings in homes of up to 10 people are allowed, while there can be outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people with physical distancing.
Religious services, including weddings and funerals, can be held indoors with up to 50 people.
Outdoor visits with up to two visitors for residents of long-term care homes will be permitted, and low-contact team sports will also be allowed.
“I thank New Brunswickers for their patience and their continued willingness to put health and safety first in our fight to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Higgs said.
The province is planning to ease some restrictions at the provincial border starting June 19. Canadian residents who own property in New Brunswick or have immediate family in the province will be permitted to enter provided they self-isolate for 14 days.
Higgs said premiers in the region are still discussing the possibility of some kind of Maritime bubble to allow travel within the region. He said it wouldn’t happen until later in the summer, and would likely be with New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island first.
Michel Ouellette said his father worked at a variety of manual labour jobs during his career, including for the parks and recreation department in Campbellton, for a paving company and for a construction company.
He had five children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Ouellette said his father was always happy, joking and lively.
“Even at 84, when they had music at the Manoir de la Vallee, he was dancing with everyone,” Ouellette said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2020.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press