New Brunswick

Rotational workers say new isolation rules leave them separated from family

Some people are considering leaving New Brunswick after rules around rotational workers were tightened on Friday.

Workers are now required to self-isolate for 14 days away from household

Karine Boudreau and Christian Goguen live in Moncton with their three children. With tighter isolation rules, Goguen may not able to go home between shifts as a rotational worker. (Submitted by Karine Boudreau)

Karine Boudreau is considering moving west after New Brunswick rolled out tighter restrictions for rotational workers.

Boudreau lives in Moncton with three young children, while her husband, Christian Goguen, travels back and forth to his job as a civil engineer at a Saskatchewan wind farm. 

The family is unsure when they will be able to reunite next now that rotational workers are required to self-isolate for 14 days. 

"It's hard because we're not being heard," said Boudreau. "They won't give us any statistics on infecting anyone."

Goguen typically works 21 days at a time and is off for seven, so he's been working rotations as long as two months to be able to spend time with his family after isolating.

Longer isolation period

Before the changes announced on Friday, workers could leave isolation early with a negative test. Under the new rules, they must self-isolate for 14 days away from others, and the province is encouraging staying in a hotel or separate accommodation.

If family members are present, the entire household must self-isolate. That's something Boudreau has considered, but it would mean keeping her six-year-old out of class for two weeks.

"We can't pull our kids out of school because they won't send home any work," she said. "For now we're kind of [at] a standstill. He's just staying down there. I'm here with the kids."

Before the changes, rotational workers could end isolation early with negative tests. They could also stay at home. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Boudreau is sad her husband will miss out on sharing important family milestones. Her children are six, four and her youngest daughter is 14 months.

"He's going to miss out on her starting to walk, starting to talk, and we do FaceTime, but it's not the same thing," she said.

The tighter rules took effect at midnight on Saturday.

Alysha Elliott, a spokesperson for Public Health, said the number of travel-related cases in New Brunswick was rising and resulted in outbreaks.

She said this impact, along with the threat of new variants, made it necessary to eliminate work-isolation, which could be shortened with negative tests on the seventh day and days 10-12.

"We understand that this is a difficult situation for families and those impacted. Your sacrifice, for the safety of others, is greatly appreciated," Elliott wrote in an email.

'Tough to accept'

Gregory Thomas lives in Moncton and works as a technician in a lab at a diamond mine in northern Quebec. He does 14-day rotations at the remote site about 1,000 kilometres north of Montreal.

Thomas said the restrictions have gradually increased throughout the fall.

"Up until this point it's always been a level of acceptance," he said. "You want to do whatever you can do when you get hope to have some kind of freedom. That seems to have been taken completely away from us."

Thomas drives directly to a charter flight in Longueuil, Que., to head to work. He said all the employees are regularly tested starting upon their arrival.

Employees practise physical distancing, wear masks and are divided by Plexiglas barriers. 

Gregory Thomas lives in Moncton and is a rotational worker at a diamond mine in northern Quebec. (Submitted by Gregory Thomas)

The environment feels safer than visiting large stores or a busy public place, he said.

With the new restrictions, Thomas won't be able to see his eight-year old daughter when he returns home unless she leaves school to isolate. Unless the rules change before his expected return in early February, that's what he's planning to do.

"The people around me being impacted, that's what's tough to accept," he said.

"If you can't spend the time with your family, then a lot of thoughts go through your head about relocating from New Brunswick, quitting your job — these are all stressful questions to have going on in your head."

'We're doing our part'

Blaine Doucette lives in Quispamsis and works in civil maintenance in Alberta oil fields. He works a week on and a week off.

He has been isolating at home since the initial restrictions went into effect and said the frequent changes have been confusing.

Doucette said the new rules put him at risk of placing his family in perpetual isolation until the pandemic is over. He has two daughters, ages four and 22.

"The options are just limited," he said. "You can isolate in a tent in the backyard perhaps. You can isolate in a hotel if they'll have you. You can just stay in Alberta and isolate out there.

"We're doing our part and we're trying our best, but the New Brunswick government doesn't seem to be helping us out much here."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandre Silberman is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. He can be reached at alexandre.silberman@cbc.ca

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