MONCTON, N.B. — Brent Clark says the New Brunswick government should have decided a little earlier to prohibit Thanksgiving Day gatherings.
Clark, a resident of Hartland, N.B., by the border with Quebec, said he had to cancel last minute a party he had planned with his three older daughters, grandchildren and his in-laws.
“This year, it’ll be nobody,” he said Wednesday, a day after Premier Blaine Higgs issued a provincewide health order capping all indoor gatherings to members of a single household for the Thanksgiving long weekend. Higgs said the order was necessary to limit a surge in COVID-19 cases in the province despite the fact more than 80 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated.
“If (the government) wanted to do something, they should’ve given more notice," Clark lamented.
Aside from the Thanksgiving party ban, Higgs issued a series of tough measures for parts of the province with high COVID-19 transmission, including Moncton.
New Brunswick's per capita rate of reported cases in the past 14 days has exceeded every other province, except Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, according to federal data. The figures show that New Brunswick's case rate was 150 infections per 100,000 people. By comparison, the rates in Alberta and Saskatchewan were more than three times higher at 470 and 538, respectively. British Columbia's rate stood at 198 per 100,000, as of Oct. 5.
"We have seen a high number of cases sparked from private gatherings and these are resulting in transmission of the virus across the province, particularly among the unvaccinated,” chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell said in a statement Wednesday.
"I understand this is difficult but, in an effort to reduce the spread, New Brunswickers must not have gatherings at their homes during Thanksgiving weekend."
Clark said he was dealing with disappointment after the announcement; his family hasn't been able to have a large gathering since the pandemic began and they were hoping that Thanksgiving would give them a chance to have everyone together.
The new rules have also affected holiday plans for the province's food centres.
Trish MacDonald, interim manager of the Natoaganeg Community Food Centre in Eel Ground First Nation, said the facility has had to cancel its annual Thanksgiving dinner.
"(We're) going to try and do Thanksgiving dinner, but it might be after Thanksgiving," she said Wednesday. Usually, up to 20 people would be able to dine inside the facility for the holiday, but indoor, in-person festivities have been called off.
"There's still more things we want to do, but we had to slow things down inside the building," MacDonald added.
Meanwhile, health officials Wednesday reported that a person in their 90s died of the disease, bringing the total number of deaths related to COVID-19 in the province to 70. Officials also reported 71 new cases of COVID-19 and 77 more recoveries. The province has 775 active reported cases — more than three times the number in Nova Scotia.
New Brunswick has nearly 81 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated against the disease and 89.9 per cent have received at least one dose.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2021.
— By Danielle Edwards in Halifax.
— With files from Michael MacDonald in Halifax.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press