New Brunswick

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Despite official record, someone could still have disease

New Brunswick might not have any reported cases of COVID-19, but that doesn't mean there aren't undiagnosed case lurking somewhere in the province.

It's been almost 2 weeks since Public Health reported an active case of COVID-19 in New Brunswick

Public Health hasn't reported any confirmed cases of COVID-19 for 12 days. (Ingrid Blakey/Submitted)

Latest

  • No coronavirus briefing Tuesday
  • Protection from eviction for non-payment of rent ends May 31
  • Not as many homes being sold during COVID-19 outbreak
  • Some businesses bounce back while others continue to see cancellations
  • Teachers return to school in June 
  • Daycares reopen Tuesday
  • What to do if you have symptoms

New Brunswick might not have any reported cases of COVID-19, but that doesn't mean there aren't undiagnosed cases lurking somewhere in New Brunswick.

It's been almost two weeks since Public Health has reported any new active cases of COVID-19 in the province. 

"With people coming across the border, which is where we would likely see cases coming in — if those people are self-isolating at home — if they happen to infect somebody in their household and that person is asymptomatic, and that person is out in the community, then yes, we could see asymptomatic transmission," Dr. Jennifer Russell said Tuesday.

In an interview with Information Morning Fredericton, Russell said the province is consulting federal guidelines about the pandemic to determine when the province should proceed with the next stage of reopening. Under the state of emergency declared March 19 and renewed since then, many non-essential businesses had to close.

The province eased restrictions on May 8, with the idea that if the number of COVID-19 cases remained low, the province would move into the next recovery phase in two to four weeks.

The current phase, also known has the orange phase, allows sit-down restaurants to reopen if they can maintain physical distancing of two metres. It also includes the reopening of retail businesses and daycares, and it permits outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people. 

The next phase would see the two-household bubble allowed in the orange phase expanded to "friends and family" and would allow gatherings of up to 50 people with physical distancing.

A homemade sign between Plaster Rock and Perth-Andover thanks essential workers and reminds New Brunswickers to keep their distance from each other. (Elizabeth Fraser/CBC News)

Russell said the next phase could also include loosening restrictions to allow some visits to special care homes. 

This Friday will mark two weeks since the last easing of restrictions, but Russell was non-committal about whether the province will move to the next stage then. 

This is to be discussed at cabinet, she said.

Residents line up outside Costco in Fredericton in this May 2020 file photo. Several people in the Saint John area said on social media Friday that there were large crowds at many stores as the province announced it would be rolled back to the orange phase. (Ingrid Blakey/Submitted)

Russell also wouldn't express an opinion on whether New Brunswick should reopen its borders with neighbouring provinces but said Public Health would want to look at the number of active cases in each province.

She said COVID-19 and Public Health's response to the outbreak have been a learning experience.

"I think early on it was a lot of running on ice in terms of really trying to keep up with everything that needed to be done," said Russell.

"As we evolve through the next phase, we have learned so much. And I think we've gained a lot of experience in terms of what we need to do to move forward."

No coronavirus briefing Tuesday

Premier Blaine Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell will hold their next virus news briefing on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.

The last briefing for the public was Friday, and no briefing was scheduled for Tuesday.

Shoppers waited in line outside Lawtons in Fredericton last week. (Ingrid Blakey/Submitted)

It's been 13 days since the province saw a new active case of COVID-19.

There are now 120 recovered cases and no active cases.

As of today, 20,791 tests have been conducted for the respiratory illness.

Evictions for non-payment of rent ends May 31

The province is reminding landlords and tenants that the section of the province's state of emergency that prevented evictions for non-payment of rent will end on May 31.

After that date, landlords will be authorized to serve tenants with a notice to vacate for non-payment of rent. The Residential Tenancies Tribunal is encouraging landlords and tenants to work together to come up with a payment plan.

"Throughout the state of emergency, the Residential Tenancies Tribunal has made extensive efforts to communicate to tenants that rent continues to be due and tenants financially impacted due to job losses must work with their landlords to come up with a payment plan," said Service New Brunswick Minister Sherry Wilson in a news release.

The tribunal will consider the details of each individual case, including the amount of rent owing; the active engagement of both the landlord and tenant to come up with a payment plan; and the availability and accessibility of financial support through provincial and federal government programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tenants who claim they have been unable to pay rent because of financial issues related to COVID-19 will be required to provide evidence to support this claim.

"If a tenant has provided satisfactory evidence, he or she must then reach and follow through on a mediated payment plan agreement with their landlord if full payment is not possible," the news release said.

Tenants who haven't paid rent for reasons that aren't related to the pandemic are required to pay full rent or face possible eviction.

Not as many homes being sold during COVID-19 outbreak

After years of solid growth in the real estate market, Greater Moncton Realtors, a real estate agency, said the market probably only saw about half the number of homes sold during a typical April. 

Chris MacDonald, a realtor in Moncton, said his sales were actually a bit higher during March and April, but he said these were due to transactions from earlier in the year finally closing, not necessarily new homes being sold.

"I personally lost several clients that were intending to move here to the province of New Brunswick or greater Moncton in particular, or making the transition into larger or smaller homes," MacDonald said.

A red for sale sign is pictured in front of a property in the background.
Realtors in New Brunswick have been adjusting to the new normal under COVID-19 with a greater emphasis on virtual tours of homes. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Realtors have been adjusting to the new normal under COVID-19 with a greater emphasis on virtual tours of homes and, if an in–person viewing is required, increased cleaning and physical distancing precautions

But there is a silver lining.

"People being quarantined … in their homes, they're going to realize, 'Hey this home is a little bit too small for their family of four," he said.

"In some more negative cases you're going to see where partnerships or relationships are dissolving."

MacDonald expects the market to rebound, but he said there will be people who come out of the pandemic unable to afford their homes.

Some Fredericton-area tourism businesses reviving, others see cancellations 

Now that the May long weekend has come and gone, New Brunswick tourism operators are evaluating what the COVID-19 pandemic has meant for business so far.

After a slow start to the season, Larry Jewett, owner of the Mactaquac Marina, said bookings have started to pick up for houseboat rentals. 

The marina posted about the rentals on their Facebook page, and it didn't take long to get responses.

"We opened up the computer the next morning and we were blown up with email, it was just unbelievable," said Jewett.

"The first day we did 330 email responses."

But it's not all business as usual.

Caution tape surrounds a swing set in Fredericton. (Ingrid Blakey/Submitted)

Jewett had to call about 50 people who live outside the province to say they may have to cancel because of quarantine requirements.

Jewett said he's already planning for the next phase of reopening, which could come as early as Friday.

"That's what we're waiting for."

John Brennan, co-owner of Brennan's Bed and Breakfast in downtown Fredericton with his wife Norreen, said his bookings have taken a hit and he's not sure if they will come back.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said there could be undiagnosed cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick. (Government of New Brunswick/Submitted)

Most of his business is based on university graduation events and summer business conferences, two events that aren't going to happen this year.

"The only phone calls we've been getting really have been cancellations," said Brennan.

"We've had cancellations into October."

After a slow start, Bruce McCormack, general manager for Downtown Fredericton Inc., said a lot of businesses saw an uptick in visitors over the weekend.

"After a week or two of reopening some of our restaurants had a great weekend," said McCormack. "They did exceptional compared to what they really thought they were going to do."

But the loss of revenue will be felt come festival season, including in September when the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival would've taken place.

Premier Blaine Higgs will speak at a news briefing Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in Fredericton. (Government of New Brunswick/Submitted)

McCormack hopes the province can implement a "bubble" situation with neighbouring provinces like Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

"Hopefully, we'd be able to travel to those provinces and enjoy what they have, as well they can come to our province and see some of the great things we have to offer."

Teachers return to school in June 

New Brunswick Teachers will gradually return to school between June 1 and June 5 to finish school work from this year and start planning for fall.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said school will resume in September, but he doesn't know what that will look like yet. Classes could resume inside the schools, but they could also be taught online.

"We don't know whether classes will be back or online because we don't decide what happens to the coronavirus," he said. 

Daycares reopen Tuesday

Daycares across New Brunswick are reopening 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.

Under 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 is to be designated for dropoff and pickup, and there will be strict cleaning protocols.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said Tuesday that he hasn't received any complaints from parents about the reopening of daycares.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy announced earlier this month that daycares could reopen Tuesday. (File photo submitted by New Brunswick government)

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.

What to do if you have symptoms

People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment on the government website at gnb.ca. 

Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: a fever above 38 C, a new cough or worsening chronic cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, new onset of fatigue, new onset of muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell, and difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.

People with two of those symptoms are asked to:

  • Stay at home.

  • Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.

  • Describe symptoms and travel history.

  • Follow instructions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

With files from Jordan Gill

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