New Brunswick

2 men face assault charges after self-isolation dispute in Rothesay

Two Rothesay men are facing assault charges for allegedly deliberately coughing on someone who accused them of improper self-isolation following international travel, say Kennebecasis Regional Police.

Accused allegedly purposely coughed on someone after being confronted, say police

Kennebecasis Regional Police Force Insp. Anika Becker said citizens aren't used to seeing officers respond to calls wearing protective equipment, but it's going to be the 'new norm' during the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)

Two men are facing assault charges in connection with a dispute at a household in Rothesay on Thursday over their alleged improper self-isolation following international travel, say Kennebecasis Regional Police.

Both men — one of whom was reportedly feeling ill — are accused of deliberately coughing on a housemate who confronted them, said Insp. Anika Becker.

The "bizarre" incident caused alarm among area residents, put extra stress on first responders and resulted in the local post office being shut down for the day, said Becker.

"Hopefully we don't encounter any more situations like this," she said. "It just puts everyone at risk.

"So I really hope that people just pay attention to what their actions may cause."

It has not been confirmed if either of the accused has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

Officers responded to a "threats call" at a home on Hampton Road shortly before 11:30 a.m., donning surgical masks and gloves, said Becker.

The residents had been having a dispute over the two men, who recently returned from an international trip and were allegedly not properly self-isolating, she said.

Anyone who has returned from international or interprovincial travel is required to self-isolate for 14 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

One man, "who hadn't been feeling well," then allegedly "coughed in another person's face," said Becker.

The situation escalated and police were called.

The Kennebecasis Regional Police Force says anyone with concerns about non-compliance should not take matters into their own hands. Instead, they should call the government's toll-free line. (Kennebecasis Regional Police Force)

"Wondering if it could be related to COVID — although that has not been confirmed  — it certainly is a concern for us," said Becker.

That's why the responding officers wore protective gear," she said.

"You don't [normally] see police officers dressed like that at calls. But that's going to be the new norm for us, for a while anyway.

"It can be a bit alarming for people, and it obviously is for the front-line responders as well."

Public Safety notified

The man was arrested at the scene for assault and uttering threats.

The second man was later served with a promise to appear in court on a charge of assault, also for allegedly purposefully coughing on someone, she said.

No date has been set for court appearances for the two men.

The police force has notified the provincial Department of Public Safety about the incident, said Becker.

She expects the department will conduct its own investigation and determine if additional charges will be laid in connection with the alleged self-isolation non-compliance.

1st possible case of community transmission

There are now 45 cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, with 12 new confirmed cases announced on Friday, all travel-related, except one that could be the province's first case of community transmission, according to chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell.

Until now, all of the confirmed cases were people who had travelled or could be traced back to someone who had travelled, she said.

With this case, a link could not be determined.

As a result, testing is being expanded to include any health-care workers with symptoms who have not travelled, she said.

Post office closed for cleaning

During the police investigation Thursday, officers learned one of the men who should have been self–isolating had visited the nearby post office earlier in the day.

The building, at 2 Church Ave., on the Rothesay Common, was closed for the remainder of the day while a thorough cleaning was conducted. It reopened Friday morning.

Rothesay is one of several dozen slower-growing New Brunswick communities that benefited from the province's use of old data to divide up COVID relief funding. The town received $8,500 more than it would have received if updated 2020 estimates were used. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 105 president Kevin Suttie told CBC News two employees reported hearing an individual coughing at length near the post office boxes in the front early Thursday.

Suttie said anxiety is already quite high for postal workers who are performing under difficult conditions, with members of the public who sometimes don't fully grasp the need for physical distancing.

"Postal workers all across the country are working under a whole bunch of stress and anxiety," he said.

Call non-compliance line

Anyone who has concerns that someone is not properly self-isolating should not take matters in their own hands, said Becker.

Citizens are encouraged to call the COVID-19 non-compliance line at 1-844-462-8387 before 4:30 p.m., or email after hours at helpaide@gnb.ca.

"During these difficult times, we ask everyone to respect the health and safety of all individuals, including first responders and health care professionals by refraining from irresponsible and needless behaviours such as this," the force said in a statement.

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