New Brunswick

New Brunswick sticking to its mask rules, but not ruling out following N.S.'s lead

In New Brunswick, masks are mandatory in public when physical distancing is not possible. On Friday, Nova Scotia will take it a step farther, making masks mandatory in indoor spaces, regardless of distancing.

New Brunswick already has mandatory mask rules but only if physical distancing is not possible

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, says if there's an outbreak or community transmission, New Brunswick could consider changing its mask rules. (Submitted by Government of New Brunswick)

In New Brunswick, masks are mandatory in public when physical distancing is not possible. On Friday, Nova Scotia will take it a step farther, making masks mandatory in indoor spaces, regardless of distancing.

Will New Brunswick follow suit?

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, says the possibility is on the table, but the province won't immediately be making any changes.

"It's not off the table in terms of what could happen, but it's not what we're planning to do at this moment," she said Monday.

"Basically you have to have one on your person at all times. … If there were a surge in cases, or there were evidence of community transmission, then we could change that guidance at this point in time."

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Friday that people will be expected to wear non-medical masks in most indoor public spaces on July 31. That means masks in spaces such as malls, places of worship, campuses, schools, and restaurants and bars when people aren't eating or drinking. 

"This is how we can protect each other and support our local businesses as we learn to live with COVID-19," McNeil said at a news conference. 

McNeil also said bolstering mask requirements would protect Nova Scotians when the province opens its borders to the rest of the country, though he has not given a date when this will happen.

New Brunswick's borders are open to residents of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. People coming into the province from those provinces don't have to self-isolate, but anyone coming from any other part of the country or internationally is required by law to self-isolate for two weeks. 

I think making it mandatory everywhere simplifies that rule, it takes that [part of the] equation out, like you making that judgment call- Dr. Doug Manuel, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

New Brunswick is also expecting to allow  in residents of the Avignon and Témiscouata regional county municipalities in Quebec around Aug. 1.

Russell said each jurisdiction can make its own rules, even at some municipality level. That's how things should be, because every region has different COVID-19 case counts and considerations, she said.

No new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in New Brunswick in seven days. There are three active cases in the province.

"Masks are an excellent thing to be part of a whole approach," she said. 

Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island recommend, but don't mandate, wearing masks.

Taking out the guesswork

Some doctors and scientists have been calling for a more uniform approach by making masks mandatory everywhere.

Dr. Doug Manuel, senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute,said leaving less in question might help people commit to wearing masks.

He said people have a difficult time figuring out the rules.

"I think making it mandatory everywhere simplifies that rule, it takes that [part of the] equation out, like you making that judgment call," he said.

Dr. Doug Manuel of the Ottawa Hospital says making masks mandatory in most places reduces confusion. (The Ottawa Hospital)

Manuel said that in general, masks are a good idea, especially considering what we do and don't know about the transmission of COVID-19.

It's spread by droplets from the nose and mouth, by symptomatic and asymptomatic people. Manuel said those droplets can "linger" in the air, so physical distancing decreases the risk of transmission, but physical distance and masks together decrease the risk even more.

"Think of cigarette smoke and how you could smell cigarette smoke from a different room or when someone was there a while ago or more than two metres," he said.

Russell said masks and physical distancing are important, but people should also be limiting their circle of close contacts as well, so when there is transmission, it's easier to contain.

"With respect to how we make decisions about who we're going to spend time with and how long we're going to spend time with them and in what setting, whether it's indoor, outdoor et cetera, these are life-and-death decisions that people are making every single day," she said. 

"People cannot become complacent."

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