N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Province allows 2 visitors per palliative care patient
1 case of COVID-19 is still being investigated by New Brunswick public health officials
- No new cases in 5 days
- Some New Brunswickers still aren't following the rules
- 80% less traffic coming into New Brunswick
- Premier defends decision to close New Brunswick borders
- Province should be able to decide how it can spend its federal funds
- Connecting New Brunswickers with available jobs
- Businesses stick with curbside pickup
- Pandemic is one for the history books
- What to do if you have symptoms
The province further eased its restriction by allowing two people to visit a palliative care patient in a hospital or nursing home setting.
New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health said Friday the province planned to introduce the new policy, which is independent of the phase two recovery stage that was also announced last week.
"The elderly, particularly those with underlying health conditions, are at grave risk from the COVID-19 virus," said Dr. Jennifer Russell.
"We will maintain our vigilance on their behalf. But I believe we can provide compassionate access for loved ones while continuing to protect those at greatest risk."
Patients will be permitted to designate two visitors to provide comfort and support. The two individuals selected will be the only visitors permitted and only one visitor is permitted at a time. And no substitutions will be allowed.
If a person has travelled outside the province, they must self-isolate before visiting a palliative care patient. And the two visitors cannot interchange.
No new cases in 5 days
There have been no new cases of COVID-19 for five consecutive days.
There are still two active cases in the province and 118 people who have recovered. The province has said none of the active cases are in hospital.
One is travel-related and the other is still under investigation. As of Monday, more than 18,000 tests have been conducted.
"We cannot afford to lower our guard," said Dr. Jennifer Russell during Monday's news briefing.
"The virus is with us and will be with us for some time to come."
Some New Brunswickers still aren't following the rules
Premier Blaine Higgs said he is concerned that people weren't following the guidelines set out by public health over the weekend.
Higgs said he immediately noticed a pickup in traffic in the Fredericton area on Friday, after the province announced it was moving into phase two of its COVID-19 recovery plan.
"I think people were anxious to get out in the open and exercise some degree of normalcy."
Higgs said he would like to think residents were continuing to observe physical distancing and following the family bubble concept.
"All things in moderation. It's important that through it all, people are recognizing we are only going to be able to continue on this path of recovery if our health requirements continue to be met," he said, "Let's not overdo it."
80% less traffic coming into New Brunswick
Although some workers from outside New Brunswick are coming into the province to work, Premier Blaine Higgs said up to two per cent of travellers are being turned away at the province's land borders.
"In all cases, every car is stopped and evaluated," Higgs said.
Compared to a year ago, Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said there is 80 per cent less traffic cross the border into New Brunswick than a year ago.
The province is going through the analysis of the number of cars and said there will be an increase in traffic because of the number of people coming to work on construction projects throughout the summer.
Higgs said it's important the province knows who these workers are, where they're going and that they're self-isolating as soon as they arrive.
Premier defends decision to close New Brunswick borders
The Canadian Constitution Foundation is looking for a test case it could use to ask the courts to strike down Blaine Higgs's decision to close New Brunswick borders due to COVID-19.
But Higgs said Monday he will defend his decision to close New Brunswick borders.
He said public health is the province's main focus and noted neighbouring provinces like Quebec, which continue to struggle with a high volume of COVID-19 cases.
"If someone wants to put a challenge forward, I would suggest public health is an overriding factor here."
The province has restricted entry to the province as part of its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Provincial enforcement officers are stationed at seven road crossings and two airports and are turning away anyone considered to be travelling for non-essential reasons.
Higgs said people have the right to challenge the constitution if there is a violation.
"We will defend the right we have to protect public health," he said.
Province should be able to decide how it can spend its federal funds
Premier Blaine Higgs is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to give the province more flexibility on how it can spend the $673 million in federal money that will help jump start New Brunswick's economy during COVID-19.
"This funding has to meet the unique needs of our province," Higgs said.
Of the $673 million, Higgs said the province is only allowed to determine 10 per cent, or $67 million, of where those funds will be allocated.
That money will be used to upgrade health centres, schools and other public buildings.
But federal rules say the federal money can't be used on roads and bridges, while some of it must be spent on upgrades to public transit.
Fredericton, Saint John, Moncton and Miramichi are the only cities in the province with public transit.
"My concern is our opportunity is here to put this money toward areas where we need it most," he said.
Higgs said the details are still being worked out and he plans to raise the issue during a premiers call, as well as Trudeau.
Connecting New Brunswickers with available jobs
More than 500 positions have been posted and close to 370 job seeks have active accounts on the JobMatchNB website.
Premier Blaine Higgs said there are still several job opportunities in the seafood processing sector, including fish plant labourers, seafood plant workers and lobster processors.
Job seekers and employers are also invited to take part in a virtual career fair Tuesday and Wednesday at www.WorkingNB.ca. More than 50 employers have registered for the event, and they will have virtual booths for job seekers to explore.
New Brunswickers looking for jobs will be able to speak with WorkingNB employment counsellors about employment and training concerns. They will have access to information on applying for Employment Insurance and other programs.
Employers can use the platform to discuss issues such as recruitment, retention and training with a WorkingNB workforce consultant.
"New Brunswick needs you," Higgs said Monday. "I encourage you to step up to build a stronger New Brunswick."
Businesses stick with curbside pickup
Many local businesses might be allowed to reopen but curbside and online shopping will remain a major part of their bottom line.
On Friday, the province moved into phase two of the COVID-19 recovery. This means a lot of businesses, museums, campgrounds and other operations can reopen if they can provide for physical distancing in their operations.
"It forced us to do something that we hadn't done before and we will continue with it," said Heather Suttie, co-owner of Room 2 Remember in downtown Fredericton.
Suttie's store, which specializes in home decor accessories, reopened Saturday afternoon after being closed since mid-March. She expects a significant online presence going forward.
She said one of her employees has been uploading all of their products to Shopify, which allows businesses to create an online website for their stores.
Suttie said she and other family members worked through the night Friday to get the shop in good shape to reopen.
A lot of that was focused on cleaning up the store.
But it also included installing signs, hand sanitizing stations and closing off two of the store's three entrances to make sure people would enter in an orderly fashion.
"We've limited the number of people in the store to 15," said Suttie, who received around 50 customers over the seven hours they were open.
"[We] have distance markers on the floor, discourage socializing, encourage mask wearing."
Luke Randall, owner of Endeavours and Think Play in Fredericton, said his businesses will remain closed to the public but will continue to focus on curbside and online shopping.
"In this small space, there's no way we can continue to serve customers the way that we have through this shutdown and continue to get as many people served as we've been able to, if we reopened those doors," he said.
Even though in-store shopping has been halted, Randall has been surprised to see how well his business is doing. He said the business has been nearly at full-capacity in sales.
But as businesses open up, Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, has said there are still risks from the virus.
"We are on this adventure together. I get that it's nerve-wracking and can cause some anxiety," she said.
Parks, golf courses and drive-in church services were allowed to operate in the first recovery stage.
Saint John businesses are also navigating the unknown roads of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trent Wheaton had planned to open his new business Riff Raff Skateshop during the first week of April. Instead, he started selling his products online with the help of his wife, Pam Wheaton, owner of Heartbreak Boutique.
Pam said her business already had a small online presence, which had to be ramped up after restrictions were implemented.
"It's a lot more work definitely than just having the store open regular hours," she said.
"But we were super thankful we were able to do it."
Pam said she plans on reopening her retail location soon, a prospect she calls both exciting and intimidating.
"I'm leaning towards doing it by appointment, so I have time between each customer to properly clean everything," said Pam.
She said this would allow her to act like a "personal shopper" minimizing the number of people handling stock.
Premier Blaine Higgs said not all businesses have to open at once.
But they do have to be in compliance with health and safety regulations. He said WorkSafeNB is visiting work sites to make sure employees are also being protected.
"They should take their time to understand they can do it right, but it shouldn't really have been a surprise," Higgs said.
Pandemic is one for the history books
The New Brunswick Museum is asking New Brunswickers to take part in a writing contest, where they can share their personal experience with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Felicity Osepchook, curator of archives and manager of the research library at the New Brunswick Museum, said this gives New Brunswickers a chance to participate in "living history."
"These stories will offer future generations an intimate glimpse into a pivotal time in modern history," said Osepchook.
Osepchook said personal stories are subjective, but can give historians a better understanding into the real lives and emotions of people living through the pandemic.
She said the museum has a lot of documents related to the 1918 pandemic, and most of it is newspapers and government records, not personal stories from people just going about their lives.
She said this was a catalyst for the project, to make sure future historians have more data to work with.
The narratives should be less than 500 words and can be sent in a physical letter or through email.
Everyone that enters will get one free admission to the museum, and the winner of the contest will get a season pass as well as a gift basket from the museum's gift shop.
"I've read all the ones that have come in so far and they're really quite thought provoking," said Osepchook.
"There's been high school students, seniors, people in mid-life."
Osepchook said the documents will be incorporated into the museum collection and will be used for research purposes
"They'll be there for future generations," said Osepchook.
The contest closes on July 1 and a winner will be chosen on July 15.
What to do if you have symptoms
People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment on the government website. People with two of those symptoms are asked to:
Stay at home.
Immediately call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor
Describe symptoms and travel history.
With files from Jordan Gill, Jacques Poitras