COVID-19 round-up for Friday, April 24 – the phasing in the new normal edition

New Brunswick – Once again there were no new cases of COVID-19 to announce in the province today. Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer for New Brunswick said of the 118 identified cases, only 11 remain active, with four people currently in hospital, and one in the ICU.

In even more exciting news, Russell and NB Premier Blaine Higgs today announced the first round of restrictions that are being lifted in the province.

But Russell was very clear most restrictions remain in place.

“Even as we begin to remove restrictions, New Brunswickers will be required to continue to practice physical distancing and good hand hygiene,” said Russell. “And I will not hesitate to recommend the re-imposition of the restrictions being loosened today if the outbreak worsens,” she added.

Russell said if there is a spike of cases a new round of restrictions will be triggered.

“If we see three outbreaks of COVID-19 not related to one another within a six day period, or cases linked to a mass gathering that cannot be fully traced, we will immediately move back to the restriction that are in place today.”

“Together we’ve been able to manage a very difficult situation,” said Higgs.

He said he knows New Brunswickers are looking for life to get back to “some sense of normalcy”, and then announced New Brunswick’s new four phase recovery plan.

“To be successful, we will define our new normal,” he said.

Higgs said the plan to re-open businesses, educational facilities, the health-care system, recreational activities, and cultural events will be guided by four distinct public health alert levels:

  • Red: This is the present phase aimed at flattening the curve and containing the virus as quickly as possible.
  • Orange: The goal of this phase is to balance the reopening of social and economic settings while preventing a resurgence of transmission.
  • Yellow: The goal of this phase is to further increase the reopening of social and economic settings after the ability to control transmission has been demonstrated.
  • Green: This phase will likely come after a vaccine is available or more is learned about how to protect people from the virus.

“At each phase, public health will monitor what’s happening closely,” said Higgs. “We expect new cases will result.

“We are currently in the red – but ready to take steps to orange,” said Higgs.

Higgs said the following changes are effective immediately:

  • Two-household bubbles: Households may now choose to spend time with one other household, if both households agree. The selection made is not interchangeable.
  • Golf courses and driving ranges: If all physical distancing and safety measures are in place, golf courses and driving ranges can now open.
  • Recreational fishing and hunting: The delay on springs seasons has been lifted.
  • Outdoor spaces: With physical distancing, people can now enjoy the outdoors including parks and beaches.
  • Carpooling: Co-workers or neighbours can carpool if physical distancing measures are maintained by transporting the passenger in the backseat.
  • Post-secondary education: Students requiring access to campus to fulfill their course requirements will be able to do so.
  • Outdoor religious services: As an alternative to online worship, religious organizations can hold outdoor services if parishioners stay in their vehicles that are two metres apart.

A guidance document of the public health measures during the recovery phases is being developed and will be available soon.

Higgs made clear large gatherings such as festivals and concerts are prohibited through December 31, 2020, subject to re-evaluation as time goes by.

He also made clear ATV trails are still closed, as concerns about public gathering remains, but he looks forward to when he can announce a change in that protocol.

“These are the first steps,” he said, adding physical distancing is still very much required.

Higgs said this portion of the orange phase will remain in place for at least the next two to four weeks before the government considers implementing the next part of the orange phase, citing that New Brunswickers following current rules as the deciding factor when choosing if they should move forward.

The latest version of New Brunswick’s State of Emergency mandatory order is available online.

New Brunswick’s other party leaders, Kris Austin, David Coon, and Kevin Vickers were also on hand for the press conference, and all tipped their hats to residents of the province for following public health regulations as well as they did, and all three stated they are proud of New Brunswickers.

The province is leading the country with the lowest number of cases per capita.

Up-to-date information about COVID-19, including the latest data on confirmed cases and laboratory testing in New Brunswick is available online.

From outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced help for those who are paying commercial rent in the country in the form of the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance plan.

Trudeau said the federal government reached an agreement with the provinces and territories to lower rent by 75 per cent for April, May and June for those businesses “strongly effected” by COVID-19. He said this fund applies to businesses who pay less than $50,000 per month in commercial rent, and also applies to non-profits and charitable organizations, adding help for larger businesses would be announced next week.

Trudeau also talked about how the pandemic has highlighted poor conditions at nursing homes across the country.

“… what we’re witnessing in long-term care facilities across the country is extremely troubling,” said Trudeau. “It’s unacceptable and our government will be there to help the provinces.

“Members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed after the minister of Public Safety received and approved two formal request from Ontario and Quebec. Reconnaissance work is underway in both provinces. We’re identifying what needs to be done and mapping out next steps.

“As I’ve said many times before, we will be there for Quebecers, Ontarians and all Canadians during this crisis. We’re deploying the military to provide emergency support to help provinces regain control of the situation,” he added.

“But we all know that this is only a short term solution. We’re also offering billions of dollars to provinces to top up the pay of essential workers and make sure that elderly Canadians get the support they deserve.”

Trudeau said first ministers would also be discussing the re-opening of the Canadian economy, as some regions had been hit harder than others. “We’re a federation, so we have to adapt our response to the realities and challenges of each province and territory,” he said.

“But I want to be clear that getting back to normal will not happen overnight. It’s going to take time. It won’t be as simple or as easy as flipping a switch,” he added. “It will require a lot of coordination at the national level and our government will be there to do that work.

“For now, these instructions are the same for all Canadians. No matter where you live, you should be staying home as much as you possibly can. You should be washing your hands regularly and you should always keep a safe distance of two metres from others.”

At 11 a.m. on Friday, April 24, there were 42,750 cases of COVID-19 in Canada.

Quebec has 21,838, with Ontario lagging behind with 13,519.

For more information on available funding, application portals, and more information on COVID-19 in Canada, go to www.canada.ca

editor@stcroixcourier.ca