N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Public health announces no new cases
The province says there are still 2 active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick
- Restaurants take slow, steady approach to reopening
- Keeping New Brunswick borders closed
- Too early to say when international students will be allowed back
- Virtual court offered to protect people against COVID-19
- Province hosts virtual job fair
- Wearing a mask 'prevents the spread of infection'
- What to do if you have symptoms
It's been one full week since the last case of COVID-19 was reported in New Brunswick.
There are currently two active cases of the virus in the province, both of which are travel–related. Since March, the province has seen a total of 120 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick.
"Caution is still required," said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health at a Wednesday news briefing.
"As we continue along the road to recovery we must protect those who are at great risk."
Russell urged New Brunswickers to be mindful of the impact that COVID-19 can have on vulnerable members of society, including seniors, the homeless, people living with addiction, and those with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure. She said complications are also possible in those with weakened immune systems.
Restaurants take slow, steady approach to reopening
Eating out is going to look a little bit different during the COVID-19 era.
Last week, the province loosened restrictions on some non-essential businesses as part of its COVID-19 recovery plan. That included allowing restaurants to reopen — as long as they maintain proper physical distancing and follow Public Health guidelines.
"Gloves and masks are mandatory for all the staff … they're also going to be temperature checked everyday before their shift starts," said Steve Gallagher, owner of The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse in Moncton.
He said there will be some other changes to the pub experience, including reducing the number of seats from 160 to 75.
"We're also doing one-way traffic so patrons and servers don't cross paths."
He said his staff worked hard to prepare for their grand re-opening Wednesday after being closed for eight weeks.
The pub will also set up hand sanitizing stations and removing stools from the bar.
"I just want to get the customers when they walk in to not be angst-filled or feel we're not following protocols," said Gallagher.
Luc Doucet, owner of Black Rabbit in Moncton, which specializes in fine dining, is adopting similar protocols.
He, too, is reducing his seat count — from 32 to 18 — and only allowing one seating a night.
"We're taking it really, really slowly," said Doucet.
"With 18 I think we should be ok."
Gallagher said downtown businesses are hurting right now and he hopes the city will do something to help them.
One possibility is closing down Main Street over the summer months to allow for patio dining.
"If we're going to close down Main Street, this is the year to do it," Gallagher said.
"It'll save a lot of the businesses."
Before the province moved into phase two of its COVID-19 recovery plan last week, Premier Blaine Higgs said the Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a suvey showing only 21 per cent of New Brunswick businesses fully opened. That number increased to 26 per cent this week.
"We are grateful businesses are taking this seriously and ensuring that they do it right," he said. "We want to help New Brunswick businesses reopen and we want to put New Brunswickers back to work."
Keeping New Brunswick borders closed
Earlier this week, Education Minister Dominic Cardy told Radio-Canada he doesn't expect the border to reopen over the summer months.
"We need to restart our economy, but things like vacations, we need to take a pause for everyone's well-being," Cardy told Radio-Canada in French.
During Wednesday's news briefing, Premier Blaine Higgs said the reopening of New Brunswick borders "depends greatly" on the situation of other provinces.
"To make any precise timeline on when something might open or not is based on our activity in relation to the pandemic and our success to continuing," he said.
New Brunswick's public safety minister says he's "comfortable" with the restrictions put in place at provincial borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Both residents and travellers have expressed concerns about complications at New Brunswick's border crossing. And at least one group is looking to challenge the constitutionality of government's decision to close provincial borders.
"I, like many people, wish [the restrictions] weren't there," said Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart.
"When you're in a state of emergency, and you need to protect the health of our citizens, it's something that had to be done."
The minister said he understands why people are concerned and upset about the restrictions, but a decision was made to keep New Brunswickers healthy.
Once the state of emergency is put into place, the protection of society falls under a different set of eyes than it did prior.- Carl Urquhart, public safety minister
The decision to restrict access at provincial borders was made when the province declared a state of emergency at the end of March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This barred all non-essential travel to the province.
Delivering goods, moving to or travelling through New Brunswick to get to other provinces is allowed.
But entering the province to shop or visit friends and family is still prohibited.
Urquhart said the province sees as many as 4,500 people daily trying to get into New Brunswick, with an average of 39 people being turned away each day.
He said a lot of people have been calling the department before travelling to the province to make sure they can enter, or to change their plans if they can't.
Last week, the Canadian Constitution Foundation said they were seeking a test case in order to challenge the constitutionality of New Brunswick's border restrictions.
A Dalhousie law professor said while the result of that case would come down to the court's interpretation of the Constitution Act, that the province has a good chance of winning that case.
Urquhart said he's glad people are keeping an eye out and holding the province accountable, but believes the state of emergency declaration shields the province.
"Under normal conditions, probably in January or February it probably would've been a violation of the charter," said Urquhart.
"Once the state of emergency is put into place, the protection of society falls under a different set of eyes than it did prior."
Since March, the province has seen a total of 120 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick.
There are currently two active cases of the virus in the province, both of which are travel related.
Too early to say when international students will be allowed back
Although Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart says international students would be allowed into the province, Premier Blaine Higgs said it's still too early to say when that will be.
Higgs said he's looking to help universities to plan for the coming year, however "conditions will be the overriding factor."
"We're optimistic that coming into the new year we'll be able to resume activities in post-secondary education," he said.
Last month, the New Brunswick government announced it would ban any new temporary foreign workers from entering the province as a way of reducing the risk of COVID-19.
The federal government is fast-tracking approvals for temporary foreign workers already in Canada, to make them available to fill labour gaps in critical sectors such as agriculture.
"This is good news for temporary foreign workers currently in the province who are looking for work," he said."And it's good news for New Brunswick industries looking for workers."
Virtual court offered to protect people against COVID-19
Premier Blaine Higgs said courtrooms are setting up the same as any other service under the requirement from public health. He said virtual hearings are also taking place.
"There's some innovative ways being put forward on how we manage courtrooms," he said.
He said this also expedites hearings in New Brunswick, which will allow for a better performing system in the future.
Province hosts virtual job fair
Over the past two days, the provincial government hosted a virtual job fair to help connect New Brunswickers looking for jobs with employers.
More than 50 employers ranging from the seafood industry to the IT sector were represented, along with government departments. As of Wednesday morning, more than 1,800 job-seekers participated in the event.
"We need New Brunswickers to step up for our province and for the industries that have jobs available, especially in the seafood processing and agriculture sectors," said Premier Blaine Higgs.
"We must continue to work together, to support New Brunswick businesses and industries, to take care of one another, and to contain the spread of COVID-19."
Wearing a mask 'prevents the spread of infection'
At Wednesday's news conference, Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, spoke about the importance of wearing a mask to protect others.
She said a mask is most effective when it's worn for a short-period of time when two metres of physical distance can't be maintained.
"The germs that you are preventing from being launched into the air around you will be trapped in the mask and can be re-inhaled and that can have unintended consequences," she said.
If you are required to wear a mask to work, they should be changed or cleaned regularly in hot soapy water.
"A mask is a tool to prevent the spread of infection."
She said it does not replace physical distancing, hand washing, avoiding touching the face or staying home when a person feels unwell.
"These are all part of our new normal."
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, Kathleen Harris