N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Premier 'disappointed' more people aren't applying for vacant jobs
So far 119 New Brunswickers have recovered from COVID-19
- 1 active case of COVID-19
- Canada and United States keep border closed
- Court of Queen's Bench moves to Fredericton Convention Centre
- River Watch program ends for the year
- Daycares reopen next week
- Mount Allison University to offer on-campus classes and online delivery
- Fredericton transit goes back to normal — sort of
- More Saint John parks reopening this weekend
- Lobster fishery opens in northern part of the province today
- What to do if you have symptoms
Premier Blaine Higgs said he's disappointed that unemployed New Brunswickers aren't applying for jobs in agriculture and fish processing plants, as employers are scrambling to find workers.
Last month, the New Brunswick government banned any new temporary foreign workers from entering the province as a way of reducing the risk of COVID-19. Since then, Premier Blaine Higgs has been calling on New Brunswickers and foreign workers already in the province to fill vacancies in the agricultural and seafood-processing sectors.
"These jobs are crucial to New Brunswick," said Premier Blaine Higgs during Friday's news briefing.
Over the past two days, the provincial government hosted a virtual job fair to help connect New Brunswickers looking for jobs with employers.
But there are still roughly 70,000 people still out of work across the province and Higgs said there are plenty of "well-paying" jobs left that pay up to $23 an hour.
"If our campaign has not been as effective as it could've been, shame on us," Higgs said.
Higgs said he isn't sure how many vacancies are still available. But earlier this month, he said there were 600 farm and fish plant vacancies in agriculture and fish processing.
"It is concerning that out of 70,000 people we're not able to meet the demands that are a fraction of that."
Higgs said the federal government's decision to pay people unable to work because of COVID-19 $2,000 a month for four months without working, also played a factor in people not applying for jobs.
Nonetheless he plans to work with New Brunswick companies to find the workers they need. And when asked whether he regrets his decision to ban foreign workers, Higgs made reference to the province's lone active case.
"Every decision we've made to this point has been related to public health considerations coming first and foremost."
1 active case of COVID-19 in New Brunswick
New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health has announced that another person has recovered from COVID-19 in the province.
It has been nine days since the province has reported any new cases.
But Dr. Jennifer Russell is reminding the public to protect themselves over the upcoming long weekend by keeping to their respective two family household bubbles and following physical distance guidelines.
"I want everyone to enjoy this holiday weekend but I want everyone to be safe," said Russell at Friday's news briefing.
As residents gear up for the summer months, Premier Blaine Higgs said this Victoria Day long weekend will not look the same as usual.
"We won't be able to visit our friends and family from outside of New Brunswick," he said. "Our borders are still restricted and we can't plan trips to other provinces right now."
There have been 120 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick and 119 of them have recovered from the disease.
There is still one active case remaining in New Brunswick.
"We must act as if the virus is all around us," Russell said.
Canada and United States keep border closed
Premier Blaine Higgs said Friday that the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed past May 21 for an additional 30 days.
Higgs said there was a general consensus from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and fellow premiers to keep the borders closed.
In March, Canada and the United States agreed to restrict non-essential travel across the border as both countries attempted to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
"We need to maintain our commercial activities, there's no doubt about that, but the border security is considered something that is worth protecting at this point in time."
Higgs expects the federal government to make an announcement about the border closure next week.
He said New Brunswick borders could remain closed for the entire summer if needed.
On Thursday, Higgs said the province could reopen border with Quebec as early as July
"All of the discussions that we had were around following the tracks that we're on, understanding we're opening up in the same vein and continuing to work with public health authorities.
Court of Queen's Bench moves to Fredericton Convention Centre
The Department of Justice and Office of the Attorney General announced Friday that the Court of Queen's Bench in the judicial district of Fredericton will be moving to the Fredericton Convention Centre.
In a news release, the province said department officials have finalized an agreement with the City of Fredericton through at least the end of 2020. Details of the agreement will not be disclosed.
"The decision is meant to accommodate spacing requirements to hold jury selections and jury trials. It will also ensure the continuity of all Court of Queen's Bench matters, including family court hearings," the news release said. "The move will allow provincial court matters to continue being held at Fredericton's existing justice building."
The province's judiciary has announced that, as of June 1, all matters currently on the docket of the New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench will proceed on their respective dates as scheduled. However, jury trials will resume as of Aug. 15.
River Watch program ends for the year
After 10 weeks in operation, the River Watch Program for the 2020 freshet season has ended.
Water levels along the St. John River basin continue to decrease and are returning to normal levels.
"The freshet this year looked nothing like 2018 and 2019," said Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart.
"While we are grateful for this, the New Brunswick Emergency Management Organization and its River Watch partners were ready to respond."
The program started March 9 and provided information on the status of rivers and the potential for ice jams and other flood issues throughout the spring freshet season.
Daycares reopen next week
Daycares across New Brunswick will begin reopening on Tuesday, as part of the COVID-19 recovery plan. They've been shut for everyone but essential workers since March. Some daycares laid off workers and closed completely, but others kept their employees and kept charging parents.
As part of the reopening rules, children won't be able to mingle outside their self-contained groups of no more than 15. Children and staff will have their temperatures checked every morning, one adult per family should be designated for drop off and pick up, and there will be strict cleaning protocols.
At Friday's news briefing, Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said maintaining the two-household bubble is vital to the safe operation of daycares and early childhood education centres
"If each child in a daycare has close contact with only one other household, the risk of spreading the virus is greatly reduced," she said.
It is also important that parents and staff do not enter a daycare if they are feeling unwell.
Mount Allison University to offer on-campus classes and online delivery
Over the upcoming fall-term Mount Allison University plans to offer a combination of on-campus classes and online alternate delivery.
In an email to students, the university said classrooms, labs, and studios will undergo a number of adjustments consistent with public health guidelines, and the continuing need for physical distancing. Additional planning around the specifics of course delivery is also underway.
Residences will be open this fall to accommodate students.
"Residences, the dining hall, and food services on campus always operate with a central focus on the well-being of students."
Over the summer months, the university said a number of new health and safety measures will be put in place for fall. The university said new measures are designed to support student health upon arrival and throughout the academic year.
Fredericton transit goes back to normal — sort of
As businesses start to reopen, city transit services in New Brunswick's capital will get somewhat back to normal next week.
Starting Tuesday, Fredericton city transit will run hourly throughout the work week, resembling their Saturday schedule, according to Meredith Gilbert, the city's manager of transit and parking.
Buses have cut back to running every three hours during the pandemic.
"Essentially, it's similar to what we normally run on Saturdays, we just won't be offering our peak time half-hour service Monday through Friday," Gilbert said.
Buses are still limited to a maximum of nine passengers at a time.
Although it's not required, the city is urging passengers to wear a mask while using city transit.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak in March, Fredericton Transit started cleaning city buses twice a day.
Plexiglass shields have also been installed to further protect drivers, as buses will begin accepting fares again.
More Saint John parks reopening this weekend
Several Saint John parks are reopening just in time for the long weekend, said Tim O'Reilly, the city's deputy commissioner of parks and recreation.
Rainbow Park Playground, Station One Skate Park, Rockwood Park Playground, Forest Hills Playground and Dominion Park Playground and Basketball Court will reopen Saturday. Shamrock Park Tennis Courts 1 to 5 and horseshoe pits will also reopen.
"The ones we are all opening are … the larger facilities of higher quality [and] the ones more typically used by the public," O'Reilly said.
Playground equipment will be sanitized with a water-bleach mixture twice daily and hand sanitizer will be provided at each of the locations. Visitors are also required to stay two metres apart.
"It is going to be quite resource-intensive in order to follow those safety guidelines, so we are starting with those few."
If people abuse the hand sanitizer or do not obey the two-metre distancing rule, O'Reilly said the parks will close again.
"It really is a partnership between the city and the public."
Several trails in Rockwood Park will be reduced to one-way traffic beginning Saturday to help encourage physical distancing.
Lily Lake Loop, Clean Air Trail, Fisher Lakes Loop, Harrigan Lake Loop will be marked with signage to indicate which direction visitors are allowed to travel.
Lobster fishery opens in northern part of the province today
The 2020 lobster fishing season for lobster fishing area 23 in northern New Brunswick opened Friday morning after a two-week delay because of COVID-19.
About 665 licensed lobster harvesters in four zones that run from Miramichi Bay to Chaleur Bay in northeastern New Brunswick will be allowed to leave wharves at 6 a.m., weather permitting.
Maritime Fishermen's Union president Gaëtan Robichaud said he, like many fishermen, have been busy getting their traps and boats ready for a season shortened to six weeks.
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 Sarah Morin