'4 months too late': Isolation rules not enough to keep this rotational worker in N.L.

·4 min read
Steve Reid, a rotational worker originally from Massey Drive, decided to sell his home and move to Alberta due to the pandemic and what he says is a lack of opportunity at home. (CBC - image credit)
Steve Reid, a rotational worker originally from Massey Drive, decided to sell his home and move to Alberta due to the pandemic and what he says is a lack of opportunity at home. (CBC - image credit)
Steve Reid, a rotational worker originally from Massey Drive, decided to sell his home and move to Alberta due to the pandemic and what he says is a lack of opportunity at home.
Steve Reid, a rotational worker originally from Massey Drive, decided to sell his home and move to Alberta due to the pandemic and what he says is a lack of opportunity at home.(CBC)

Some rotational workers say they have shouldered some of the hardest burdens under Newfoundland and Labrador's COVID-19 restrictions, and at least one of them says the struggle has left him no choice but to move.

Steve Reid, originally from Massey Drive near Corner Brook, works in British Columbia, and recently sold his Newfoundland home to move to Alberta.

"It's an incredibly tough decision to make. I made a life and had a home in Newfoundland.… It's our home, we want to be there," Reid told Here & Now on Tuesday.

The fact that we've had to isolate, be away from our families, it's taken an incredible toll on everybody's mental stability," he added. "There's no way to work at home, so what's the point of having a life at home?"

Reid said he has heard from many rotational workers who feel they are in the same boat, choosing to leave the province to find work or a better situation that allows them to see their families more often. Under current restrictions, workers can book a COVID-19 test upon arrival in the province, and must isolate themselves from family members until their first negative test result comes back.

"All we look forward to is going home, relaxing, being with our families.… To take that away, it's a feeling that is unexplainable," he said.

"You essentially do not have a life, it's just steady work.… For a lot of people, it's been a year of no life. The only way to get rid of that or defeat is sell your home and move to somewhere where there is a life."

I can't pay for a home at home, and bills at a home that I don't go to. - Steve Reid

While Reid said he's happy that rotational workers can now receive a form of point-of-entry testing through booking a test after arrival, he says the move has come far too late.

"It's great for everybody that we are now, finally, getting our point of entry test. We're also getting our vaccines," he said. "It's streamlining everything, it seems like it's great, but essentially we're going to be out of the works anyway.

"For me, we're four months too late."

WATCH | Steve Reid tells CBC's Peter Cowan why he has decided to move away from N.L.:

In the months before he sold his home, Reid said, not enough work was done by the provincial government to better the province's economy and keep workers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"The [COVID] numbers in Newfoundland and Labrador are terrific. It's wonderful what the government has done … but on the other hand it's awful what they've done to the economy and what they've done to a lot of people in the province," he said. "I can't pay for a home at home, and bills at a home that I don't go to. I left on Jan. 3, and I haven't been home yet.

"It's unfortunate that we've had to come to this point. We all want to be there, and the government at this point is forcing the workers to basically pick up their stuff and move away. To me, it's mind boggling that we have to do this."

Reid says the amount of isolation has affected his mental health, and that of other rotational workers he's spoken to.
Reid says the amount of isolation has affected his mental health, and that of other rotational workers he's spoken to.(Submitted by Steve Reid)

Premier Andrew Furey has said the rules for rotational workers are in place to help with quality of life once they return home.

"The changes show a willingness to support the families of the rotational workers, so they can develop a less stressful — albeit it's still gonna be stressful, and I can appreciate that — time of isolation when they return to the province," Furey said Friday.

"There's no question it's a tough situation for them and their families and I can appreciate that. But we hope they still continue to call Newfoundland and Labrador home."

Reid says the quality of life in places like Alberta are one of the reasons he's deciding to leave the province. While daily case numbers are lower in Newfoundland and Labrador, he said a move will help him be able to spend more time with his family and live a higher quality of life outside isolation.

"For me personally, it's a much better decision to sell my house to move on to better and greener pastures."

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