What the COVID-19 recovery plan means for masks, ATVs, universities and playgrounds
Province received many questions from the public after laying out 1st phase of recovery plan last week
Premier Blaine Higgs used his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday to tackle some confusion surrounding the provincial plan for recovery from the harsh impact of the pandemic.
"Over the weekend we received 758 calls — up from 617 calls during the previous weekend," he said.
"The calls we have receiving were from residents who have a range of questions and concerns."
Here are the areas of confusion the premier and Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical health officer, addressed Monday
Masks: mandatory or not?
In parts of the graphic distributed by the province Friday, the current salmon-coloured phase and the next two, orange and yellow, masks are "required unless unable."
This seemed to be a stricter rule than the red phase of complete shutdown, when masks were "strongly recommended."
But on Monday, Russell addressed this, saying that when physical distancing measures are loosened even further to allow gatherings in two to four weeks, masks could become mandatory in settings where it is impossible to maintain a proper distance.
"Our recommendation for now is to give the public enough time to buy or to make their own masks," Russell said. "It is possible in the coming weeks that it will become mandatory."
The mask provision will be extremely important in businesses or shops once they reopen.
"It's very important that you get used to wearing masks," Russell said.
The "unless unable" stipulation means masks won't be mandatory for children or people who have health issues preventing them from wearing a mask comfortably.
These masks can be homemade from cloth and don't have to be medical masks. Officials previously warned against hoarding medical and surgical masks, because that could cause a shortage for health-care workers.
ATVs, snowmobiles and trails
Last week ATV trails were closed, reopened for two days, then closed again after Higgs said he was "disappointed" with the reopening. Under the new looser restrictions, Higgs clarified Monday, snowmobile and ATV trails are still closed.
But people are permitted to ride their ATVs and snowmobiles.
"I think the point of the trails being officially closed is that people are not taking a large group and they're not going to a cookout somewhere and having a major afternoon event," Higgs said.
"We need to make sure that we just do not get together at a gathering place."
He said the people need to "use their common sense."
Higgs previously said trails would be closed for another two to four weeks, maybe longer. Quad NB president Roger Daigle confirmed the club-managed trails are still closed. But some people could still be riding on wood roads or Crown land, not regulated by his organization
"You can go in with your ATV or dirt bike or truck or car," he said.
"I don't know if we're being ... put under the gun for us to close our trails, but everything else stays open."
Daigle said almost 50 per cent of people who have ATVs don't belong to any clubs, and ride on Crown land or forest trails. Higgs said this is allowed as long as they don't gather.
Ross Antworth, general manager with the New Brunswick Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, said their trails have been closed since late March. He said people can still snowmobile on crown land or forest roads as well, and he has heard of people gathering.
Higgs said the province is willing to ticket people who break social distancing rules.
Are universities open?
Higgs said universities are only open for students who need to have in-person practical classes, and they must maintain a proper distance from each other.
In response to a request for an interview, University of New Brunswick directed CBC to a statement on its website.
The statement said UNB campuses are not reopening for academic purposes and remain closed to the public.
Campuses have been closed for everything but essential services since mid-March.
The statement said the reopening will only apply to academic programs Russell has deemed essential and will be limited to programs that involve a practical or lab component.
The university will develop strict criteria and safety measures before it reopens any classes, the statement said. The university is still working on that plan.
Parks and playgrounds
Higgs said while parks can reopen, all playgrounds are closed, including municipal, provincial and school playgrounds.
The City of Moncton made a social media post reminding people of this and saying people have removed municipal signs.
"We have received reports that individuals have been seen taking down signage and yellow caution tape in our playgrounds," the city said.
"This is not permitted and residents should never take down signage in any municipal facility."