NEW BRUNSWICK – “As good as this is, it’s not good enough.” Those were the stern words from the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell in a live press briefing from Fredericton on Monday, June 7. Russell had sidekick Premier Blaine Higgs in tow for the announcement.
Monday was meant to mark the beginning of New Brunswick’s three phase plan to shift to the Green phase of recovery, where all restrictions will be lifted.
The first benchmark, which would have seen the first in a series of loosened restrictions, was contingent on the province hitting several marks; all zones remaining in the current Yellow phase, low hospitalizations, and most importantly, 75 per cent of the eligible population had to have at least one dose of a vaccine on board. And while the first two criteria were met, as of Monday’s briefing, only 70.3 per cent of New Brunswickers were vaccinated.
Russell said to loosen restrictions at this juncture could “lead to another wave of illness”.
“We will not settle for good enough,” she added.
Who still needs their first dose? According to the GNB website, vaccination rates for those 40 and older start at 67.2 per cent vaccinated and go up to those over 80 at a rate of 93.6 per cent vaccinated. Where the numbers drop substantially is the younger age groups. Those 12 to 19 are only 44.7 per cent vaccinated, and those 20 to 29 are only 51.1 per cent vaccinated.
Had New Brunswickers met the goals for the first phase of the “road to Green”, Monday at midnight would have seen changes largely to current travel restrictions, allowing for a more broad spectrum for compassionate travel, bubble opening with Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, and cross-border commuters and truckers would have become exempt from mandatory testing and isolation requirements.
In addition, indoor formal gatherings with a 50 per cent capacity with operational plan, including faith gatherings would have been permitted.
“Nothing is going to change at midnight tonight,” said Higgs.
Phase two of the path to Green is set for Thursday July 1, a date Higgs still has in his sites.
But for the second phase of the plan to come to fruition, not only must the caveats of the entire province still being in Yellow, and low hospitalizations apply, but 75 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers must have their first dose and 20 per cent must have received their second dose.
If residents hit that benchmark, big ticket items like the full re-opening of the Atlantic bubble, and the possibility of the border to Calais opening are on the list.
Also, international travellers with two doses will not have to self-isolate, organized sports are permitted with an operational plan, and businesses such as restaurants, gyms, and salons will be permitted to return to regular capacity providing contact lists of patrons are maintained.
Phase three, scheduled for Monday, Aug. 2, also New Brunswick Day, would see the province remove all restrictions and rescind the mandatory emergency order, if the sole benchmark of 75 per cent of all eligible New Brunswickers with two doses of vaccine is met.
And a second dose isn’t far from reach. Russell announced beginning Monday, if you received your first dose of a vaccine prior to April 1, you can now book your appointment for your second dose. Contact your local participating pharmacy, or go to www.gnb.ca/bookavaccine
As of Monday, June 14, all individuals who received their first dose during the month of April are eligible for their second dose.
And finally, beginning Monday, June 21, all eligible New Brunswickers can book their second vaccine providing 28 days have transpired since their first dose.
To receive the second dose, residents are asked to bring a signed consent form, found at www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/eco-bce/Promo/covid-19/COVID-19-consent-form.pdf, their Medicare card, and the record of immunization provided when they received their first dose. Public Health is asking wherever possible, for residents to book their second dose appointment at the same pharmacy or clinic at which they received their first dose.
Appointments will continue to be available for all eligible New Brunswickers who have not yet received their first dose at regional health authority clinics or through participating pharmacies.
Appointments for people who have not yet received their first dose will continue to be available to all New Brunswickers aged 12 and older at regional health authority clinics and through participating pharmacies.
Higgs said while the province still has a distance to go to the 75 per cent vaccine benchmark, New Brunswick currently sits fourth in the nation for vaccinations.
In a recent Angus Reid Institute poll, 76 per cent of Canadians support a vaccine passport for travel to the U.S., and 79 per cent support a vaccine passport for international travel. Also, 48 per cent of respondents would maintain the current Canada/U.S. border closure until September 2021 at the earliest. And finally, 55 per cent support showing proof of vaccination for movie theatres, restaurants, churches etc., and 55 per cent support proof of vaccination at a place of work.
For updates on COVID-19 in New Brunswick, go to www.gnb.ca/coronavirus