N.B. COVID-19 roundup: New policy will allow palliative care patients up to 2 visitors
Public health announces no new cases of disease as province lets businesses reopen
- Province moves to Phase 2 of recovery plan
- Masks are to be worn if physical distancing is not possible
- 188 New Brunswickers register with province's job matching website
- Unemployment rate jumps to 13.2% last month
- Ottawa and New Brunswick to top up payments for low-wage essential workers
- Firm puts New Brunswick's long-term debt rating at A (high)
- What to do if you have symptoms
New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health said the province will introduce a new policy that's independent of the phase two recovery stage announced Friday.
The policy will allow two people to visit a palliative care patient, whether it's in a hospital or nursing home setting.
"For compassionate reasons we will be allowing visitation to palliative care patients," said Dr. Jennifer Russell at Friday's news briefing.
If a person has travelled outside the province, they must self-isolate before visiting a palliative care patient. And the two visitors cannot interchange.
Phase 2 of the recovery plan
Russell also announced no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday as the province announced a lot of businesses, museums, campgrounds and other operations can reopen if they can provide physical distancing.
The decision to go to the next phase of recovery comes after only two new cases of the respiratory illness were found in the province in more than two weeks.
One case is travel-related and the other is still under investigation. The province has recorded 118 other cases, but those people have recovered.
"New Brunswick is moving forward and we are continuing on our road to recovery," Dr. Jennifer Russell said in a coronavirus briefing.
Under the new phase of the recovery plan, the two-household bubble still applies. The list of things that can reopen, restart or happen again includes:
- Elective surgeries and non-emergency health services
- Outdoor gatherings of up to 10, with physical distancing
- Religious services, weddings, funerals for up to 10, with physical distancing
- In-person programs at post-secondary institutions
- Museums, galleries and libraries
- Offices not deemed essential during initial emergency phase
- Retail establishments, including malls
- Campgrounds and outdoor recreational activities
- Licensed early learning and child care centres, starting May 19
- Unlicensed child-care providers
- Day camps
- ATV trails
As businesses open up, Russell said there are still risks of the virus.
"We are on this adventure together. I get that it's nerve-wracking and can cause some anxiety," she said.
Parks, golf courses and drive-in church services were allowed to operate in the first recovery stage.
Masks are to be worn if physical distancing is not possible
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said anyone who cannot physically distance themselves from others should wear a mask, with the exception of children under two, people who can't wear a mask because of trouble breathing, or can't move a mask without assistance.
Masks should not be made out of plastic or other "non-breathable materials," or paper tissues that can easily fall apart.
"Masks should not be secured with tape and must not impair your vision. And under no circumstances are you to share your mask with any other person," she said.
Residents who can't find or purchase a mask, can make masks out of cloth such as cotton bandanas or T-shirts. They can be secured with the help of elastics, string, rubber bands or hair ties.
188 New Brunswickers register with province's job matching website
Premier Blaine Higgs reiterated that a number of jobs are still available in New Brunswick's aquaculture and agriculture sectors.
Instead of his usual suit and tie, Higgs was sporting a navy T-shirt Friday that read: Stepping up for my New Brunswick — a phrase Higgs has been saying over the past two weeks.
"We all need to do our part during this difficult time to ensure our various sectors have the workers they require," he said.
He said employees and employers are being connected for those jobs. As of Thursday, there have been 188 who registered on the province's job matching website. Each of them will receive a matching T-shirt to wear.
"We're all proud of living and working in New Brunswick. And we're all proud to do our part."
Fifty-four employers have also registered for the job site and a virtual job fair is scheduled next week.
Unemployment rate jumps to 13.2% last month
New Brunswick's unemployment rate jumped to 13.2 per cent in April as the economic effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt across the province.
Labour force data was released by Statistics Canada on Friday, just as the province is expected to further loosen restrictions on business imposed because of COVID-19.
The next phase of the New Brunswick recovery plan includes allowing some businesses and restaurants to reopen as long as they adopt physical-distancing measures.
New Brunswick's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose 4.4 percentage points from March to April, after the province lost 27,900 full-time jobs and 6,400 part-time jobs in one month. The rate for Canada as a whole climbed to 13 per cent.
"Certainly reopening businesses will reduce that number," Premier Blaine Higgs said Friday.
Canada lost almost two million jobs during the month of April, a record high, as the impact of COVID-19 on the economy made itself known.
The labour force survey brings the total number of jobs lost during the crisis to more than three million.
The closure of non-essential services to slow the spread of COVID-19 has devastated the economy and forced businesses to close temporarily.
Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate rose to 13 per cent as the full force of the pandemic hit, compared with 7.8 per cent in March.
In New Brunswick, the Campbellton-Miramichi region had the highest unemployment rate at 16.8 per cent, and Moncton-Richibucto had the lowest at 9.2 per cent.
Seasonal adjustments are made by Statistics Canada to "remove the effect of regular, calendar-related patterns."
The unadjusted unemployment rate for New Brunswick is 11.2 per cent.
"We had two excellent weeks," Higgs told Information Morning Fredericton.
"We had a couple of new cases over the last four days, but nothing that wasn't expected. … We are at that phase two."
Ottawa and New Brunswick to top up payments for low-wage essential workers
Ottawa announced Thursday it has reached a $4 billion agreement with all the provinces and territories and is finalizing the details. The federal government will kick in $3 billion while the provinces will contribute the rest.
Last month, after talks with the premiers, the federal government announced that a plan was in the works to boost the salaries of essential workers who make less than $2,500 a month — including those working in long-term care facilities for the elderly, front-line workers in hospitals and people working in the food industry.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office said the $2,500 rule has been dropped, to better reflect the wide range of wages paid to essential workers.
Premier Blaine Higgs said the province has been going through its categories and looking at which essential workers would qualify.
He said the province will bring a plan forward over the next couple of weeks.
Firm puts New Brunswick's long-term debt rating at A (high)
DBRS Ltd., has confirmed New Brunswick's issuer rating and long-term debt rating at A (high) and its short-term debt rating at R-1 (middle).
"This reflects New Brunswick's progress in recent years to restore fiscal balance and reduce debt, leaving the province in a much better position entering the pandemic," the credit rating agency said in a news release.
New Brunswick's 2020 budget was passed on March 13. Since then, DBRS has said the province's fiscal and economic outlook have deteriorated markedly, though the full extent of the deterioration is still uncertain.
"While considerable downside risk remains, New Brunswick's economy is expected to be less affected than Canada as a whole, reflective of a greater reliance on the public sector, and at the time of writing, the coronavirus pandemic appears to have been less severe in New Brunswick relative to other provinces."
What to do if you have symptoms
Stay at home.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:
Immediately call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor
Describe symptoms and travel history.
With files from Information Morning Fredericton, Jordan Gill