How COVID-19 is affecting life and businesses in St. Stephen

courier-business

St. Stephen – Although NB Premier Blaine Higgs has relaxed some of the self-isolation rules in the province, St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern said it doesn’t mean residents should start going about their lives as they once did. The borders are still closed, and many businesses in the Town still have their doors closed to the public. MacEachern said the town is looking at different ways that they can help businesses, including helping with “navigating the waters” for provincial and federal assistance.

“We’re looking at events, businesses, what they can and can’t do,” said MacEachern. “We have some that are doing better than ever. We have some that are not doing so well, and some that are doing okay.”

MacEachern said the town is going to be reaching out to all business owners, and they want business owners to reach out to the town. They want to know how COVID-19 is affecting them without any tourism traffic, how the border closure has impacted them.

“How is it affecting you with no tourism traffic? We want to let you know when things are changing, and how we can all change.”

A new committee, or task force as MacEachern calls it, has been created to look into how the town can still hold many popular events, including Chocolate Fest and International Festival. This group, comprised of members of council, the BIA, Future St. Stephen, and others, is going to be evaluating these and other events in the coming weeks, and they are hoping events can still take place. Of course, things will have to be done differently than in past years, and they are looking for ways that events can be held without people gathering.

“Is there a way we can have something,” he asked. “We have to get our heads around that. There are to be no large events. That was very clear. Is there a way? We’re not going to have a year without Chocolate Fest and International Festival. International festival has been going on for 45 plus years.

“That’s something we’ll have to figure out a way of doing it without gathering people. I was kind of hoping by August that this would all be gone. We’ll have to deal with it as it goes and do what we can. It doesn’t sound like any events until December 31, so we’re going to have to start looking at that.”

MacEachern said green spaces are open again, but there are still restrictions, including not being able to allow children to use playground equipment. He added that there will be no organized sports in the near future, which is something that will greatly affect many in St. Stephen and throughout Charlotte County. He hopes to know more in the next few weeks.

After the announcement Friday, May 8 that the province is moving into phase 2, the Orange stage of recovery, stores can re-open, but have to follow several protocols and guidelines, as well as formulate an operational plan. Restaurants can also re-open but also have protocols to follow, and physical distancing regulations must be followed. MacEachern said the relaxing of regulations is a privilege, and if people don’t follow those guidelines, that privilege will be taken away.

This is going to be a long, slow process, but things will get back to normal eventually, or as it is being referred to as, a new normal. MacEachern is pleased the province has relaxed some of the restrictions, but he also made it very clear that this doesn’t mean that people have to get right out and go back to the things they would normally do every day.

“That’s the guideline,” said MacEachern. “I would say personally, just because the province has relaxed and allowed us to do certain things, it does not mean we have to.

“My advice is if you feel comfortable with the way it was, that can only help us all. That’s less interaction. Just because someone says you can be up and running it doesn’t mean you have to.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca