New Brunswick

'There are risks' to going to rural areas and cottages, chief medical officer says

Hospital facilities, ambulance wait times and possibly spreading COVID-19 are a few things Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health says people should consider before deciding to open up their cottages or travelling to rural areas.

Local businesses bracing for a slow summer season

The Kingston Peninsula general store is preparing to see a lot less traffic in the coming months. (Courtesy of Kingston Peninsula Heritage Inc.)

Hospital facilities, ambulance wait times and possibly spreading COVID-19 are a few things Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health says people should consider before deciding to open up their cottages or travelling to rural areas.

"We are a small province, in terms of trying to maximize our resources to help get us through this pandemic," she said. "There are risks for people to move around in that way and to go to those rural areas."

Russell's national counterpart Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said last week people who live in urban areas should not travel to their camps or cottages or summer homes.

"Urban dwellers should avoid heading to rural properties, as these places have less capacity to manage COVID-19," Tam said.

Health experts agree the best way to battle COVID-19 is to stay put, and that might mean keeping away from camps and summer homes.

Expecting a lower turnout

Kingston Peninsula store manager Ed Larsen says he was already concerned about cottage owners bringing the infection. He says this is a good recommendation, if it will help shorten the lifespan of this pandemic.

"We just want to do whatever the health department is recommending and try to do more if we can," he said. "We gotta flatten this curve and make it go away."

"Would it affect us? It would, because a lot of folks come out here in the summer" he said. "But what we want to do is look after our folks that are out here, to keep everybody safe."

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said Friday people should think about the risks before heading to their cottage or any rural area. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Larsen's store is open every month of the year to serve locals who live on the peninsula year-round. He said some people aren't even getting on the ferry to the mainland out of fear of spreading the virus when they come back. 

Larsen said inter-provincial and international travel restrictions meant he was already preparing for a large decrease in the number of people he sees.

Christine Burt runs a grocery store, restaurant and gas station in Jemseg near Grand Lake, where many people travel to spend their summers.

She said the possibility of cottagers and tourists bringing the virus is "in the back of your mind" for sure, even before they land in the province.

"I make sure I keep my distance … step back while the customer pays their bill," she said.

She said  it's going to be tough for anyone to be travelling for leisure if the restrictions don't get loosened by the summer. And if they do come, there might not be much to do.

"What are you going to do? Parks are closed, any amusement or entertainment, there's nothing going on," she said.

She said she's already had to lay off some staff, and she's hoping this doesn't go on for much longer. 

"It's something we've never been through before and hopefully never have to go through again."

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