Third day in a row of no new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick
Entire province is now fully yellow and able to fully open
Friday marked day three since Public Health announced any new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, where all businesses everywhere are now allowed to open.
Campbellton region finally joined in the yellow phase of the COVID-19 recovery plan, and across the province, any remaining businesses that had been barred from opening got permission to move forward. Physical distancing and other requirements are attached to all reopenings.
Campbellton area health region, known as Zone 5, had been bumped back to an earlier phase because of an outbreak that started there on May 21 after New Brunswick recorded no new cases for 15 days straight.
The province revised its state of emergency mandatory order on Friday to reflect the fully yellow phase.
In all zones, all remaining businesses may open provided they ensure appropriate distancing and sanitizing under the guidelines of New Brunswick Public Health and WorkSafeNB. Businesses that choose to reopen must prepare an operational plan that can be provided to officials, if requested.
The list of things allowed in the fully yellow phase includes:
- Household bubbles can include close friends and family.
- Non-regulated health professionals and businesses can open, including acupuncturists and naturopaths.
- Personal services businesses can open. This includes barbers, hairstylists, spas, estheticians, manicurists, pedicurists, and tattoo artists.
- Outdoor gatherings in uncontrolled venues are allowed with distancing of 50 or fewer people.
- A cap on the number of people gathering in controlled venues is lifted. Occupancy is based on the ability to maintain physical distancing between participants who are not close friends or family. This includes churches, swimming pools, saunas, water parks, rinks, indoor recreational facilities and organized sports which previously had a gathering limit of 50 people.
- More elective surgeries and other non-emergency health care services will be provided.
- Outdoor and indoor visits with physical distancing and controls in long-term care facilities, if they are able to do so.
- Gyms, yoga and dance studios, pool halls and bowling alleys can operate.
- Organized sports can resume with appropriate distancing and sanitizing.
- Overnight camps can open.
- Casinos and bingo halls, amusement centres and arcades can open.
- Cinemas, large live performance venues, trade shows and conferences can go ahead.
In a news release, Public Health said controlled venues where seating is offered are expected to maintain a record of users' contact information.
This will allow Public Health to perform contact tracing if necessary. This requirement also applies to anyone who hosts, organizes or permits gatherings of more than 50 people.
13 active cases of COVID-19
There are 13 active cases of COVID-19 in the province.
The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 165 and 150 people have recovered.
Two people died from COVID-19 earlier this month, the only deaths from the disease in New Brunswick. Two patients are in hospital, and one is in an intensive care unit.
As of Friday, 42,150 tests have been conducted.
Loosening more restrictions next month
Premier Blaine Higgs expects the province to loosen its border restrictions to the rest of Canada in the middle of next month.
"We have been talking amongst ourselves … about you know some time the mid to later part of July," Higgs said Friday of the Atlantic premiers moving to open up the region to the rest of Canada.
"But it depends if everything stays as it is, and our caseload continues to drop."
The four Atlantic provinces have already decided to form a travel bubble starting July 3. Travellers will be able to move freely without the need to self-isolate from one province to the next.
Border patrols have been monitoring who can come into New Brunswick, and with few exceptions everyone crossing a border from another jurisdiction had to self-isolate for 14 days.
Recently, New Brunswick stopped requiring residents to self-isolate when returning from work in another province or a territory but they are supposed to self-monitor.
Since last weekend, Canadian residents owning property in New Brunswick have been permitted to enter the province provided they self-isolate for 14 days or for the duration of their visit if shorter than that. Canadian residents can visit family members in New Brunswick provided they self-isolate for two weeks.
Keeping Canada-U.S. border closed
Borders to the province have been closed to all non-essential travel for months since the COVID-19 outbreak started in March. This has led to concerns about who gets to decide what defines "non-essential travel."
"I think our initial focus is certainly, let's get Canada back to being a nation, where we can move freely as we value our ability to do so as citizens of Canada," Higgs told Information Morning.
In a weekly conference call with premiers across Canada, Higgs said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn't see the country opening up the border to the United States anytime soon.
While many nations have seen a drop in COVID-19 cases, the U.S. appears to be seeing an increase in confirmed cases.
Premier defends vote on vaccine bill
In the same interview on CBC, Higgs also defended his decision to have a free vote to legislate mandatory vaccinations for public school children, a bill that was brought forward by Education Minister Dominic Cardy.
While the bill was meant to ensure herd immunity among students to protect immunocompromised children, anti-vaccination activists criticized the plan, often citing pseudo-science.
The bill was defeated 22-20 in a free vote among all four parties in the legislature last week.
The two largest parties split on the issue, with six Progressive Conservative MLAs and 12 Liberals voting against it.
The three People's Alliance MLAs all voted no, while the three Green MLAs abstained.
Higgs said there were strong opinions in his caucus, both for and against the bill. But he felt a free vote was necessary.
"I value the diversity within our group. I value people having the opportunity to come forward with their ideas," said Higgs.
"You know I don't value when our teammates, you know, kind of get at odds with each other publicly. And in a way that is not helpful to the overall process."
Ultimately, Higgs said the decision to hold a free vote was made because the vote was a deeply personal one.
"Let's move on from the vaccination bill," said Higgs. "It was voted on. It was defeated."
What to do if you have a symptom
People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptom can take a self-assessment test on the government website at gnb.ca.
People with one of those symptoms are asked to:
Stay at home.
Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.
Describe symptoms and travel history.
With files from Information Morning Fredericton