Higgs and Russell offer update, Higgs says mandatory mask use in all public spaces may be forthcoming

New Brunswick – New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell and NB Premier Blaine Higgs announced today, Friday, Oct. 2, guidelines pertaining to Thanksgiving and Halloween, and reminded New Brunswickers that while the Atlantic bubble may be largely COVID-19 free, areas around it are not.

“We have avoided the silent spread of this virus through our communities, so we don’t have community transmission here,” said Russell. “And to date, 94 per cent of the COVID-19 cases reported in New Brunswick have been directly or indirectly linked to travel outside the province.

“COVID-19 has not beaten us, but we have not beaten it either. COVID-19 is still out there, and we must remain vigilant. Our risks are changing. So, what we’re seeing outside of our province, just across the border in Quebec, what we’re seeing in Ontario and other provinces in the country, what we’re seeing in the United States, Maine, our border state next door to us – there are significant risks.

“The sudden rise in new cases in Maine, Quebec, Ontario, and elsewhere in the past month shows how quickly the virus can spread. It’s urgent that we continue to take precautions to prevent this from happening here. All of New Brunswick is in the Yellow Level of recovery, and if we continue to work together, we can keep it there.

“It is so very, very important that we don’t let our guard down now,” Russell added.

Russell’s point is to warn residents that with Thanksgiving and Halloween fast approaching, it’s crucial New Brunswickers remain vigilant and strictly adhere to public health protocols like hand washing and mask wearing where required.

Russell recommends residents have small Thanksgiving gatherings this year and hold them outside if weather permits. Hand sanitizer should be made available and everyone should wash their hands before preparing food or eating.

“Keep your gatherings very small this year – keep yours as low as possible so we can keep having gatherings,” said Russell. “And if the weather permits, have your Thanksgiving outdoors if you can.

“This will be a different Thanksgiving, but with some thought and planning, it can still be special. The same goes for Halloween. If guidelines are followed, everyone should be able to have a Halloween that is both safe and fun.”

Russell said those planning to participate in Halloween activities should keep cleanliness in mind. People who are handing out treats should sanitize their hands between visitors, keep high-touch areas such as door handles and railings clean and consider offering non-food treats such as stickers or coloured pencils or stickers. Those going out trick-or-treating should wash their hands before heading out and upon returning home.

The full recommendations are available online.

“The threat, however, is once again literally at our doorstep,” said Higgs of COVID-19, which is on the rise across the country, along with a recent outbreak in Baileyville, Maine at the Woodland Pulp Mill – where seven locals are employed.

“Our neighbours in Quebec and Maine are tackling outbreaks and seeing increases of the virus while other areas in North America are struggling to flatten the curve,” he added.

“Just over a month ago Quebec was making good progress, but two days ago, that province had 933 new cases in a single day. And as of September 30, there have been more than 75,000 cases in total in Quebec. Twelve deaths occurred in Quebec just between September 24 and September 29. They’ve lost nearly 6,000 people since this pandemic began.”

Higgs said the numbers are indicative of how quickly the virus can spread, and the efficiency with which it can move through more populated regions.

He reminded New Brunswickers the wearing of face masks is currently mandatory if physical distancing (6 feet or 2 metres) isn’t possible as per the current provincial emergency order.

Higgs said while it’s not his goal, he will consider making the wearing of masks mandatory in public spaces if he feels it’s the prudent option.

“Although I prefer not to make mask use mandatory in public spaces, I know that it may be soon necessary – even as early as October 8,” he said. “When you go into a public setting, where physical distance may be a challenge, have a mask with you and please put it on. If we all do that, we are protecting each other, and we can reduce the rate of transmission of the virus.

“Staying in the Yellow phase of recovery is essential to maintaining health, keeping our economy open, and keeping our schools open,” said Higgs.

“We have seen continuous success within the Atlantic bubble. Our border measures will remain in place for travellers from outside Atlantic provinces.” Higgs did say after discussions with other Atlantic bubble premiers, checks for those entering New Brunswick from PEI and Nova Scotia would no longer be necessary.

Russell said of the situation in Baileyville, public health will update New Brunswickers as new information is available.

Russell said information travels from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the public health agency of Canada, and is then disseminated to NB public health.

“As of right now, the information that we have – is that they have done the contact tracing, they are testing people at the mill, and my understanding is any close contacts are self-isolating at the moment,” said Russell.

“And we should be getting the results back for any of the 400 people who have been tested in the next day or so – so when we have more information, we’ll share that, but as of right now, my understanding is the public health folks in Maine are dealing the situation in terms of the contact tracing and self-isolation, so as of this moment in time, what we know about the cases and the close contacts is going to be something that we share when we have more information.”

No new cases

Public Health reported no new cases of COVID-19 today. The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 200 and 193 have recovered. There have been two deaths, and the number of active cases is five. As of today, 78,635 tests have been conducted

State of emergency extended

The state of emergency mandatory order was renewed on Thursday under the authority of the Emergency Measures Act.