New Brunswick's MLAs hit with viral infections, like everyone else

Green MLA Megan Mitton, who was already wearing a mask almost all the time this session, decided this week to don one when speaking to reporters, as well. (Jacques Poitras/CBC - image credit)
Green MLA Megan Mitton, who was already wearing a mask almost all the time this session, decided this week to don one when speaking to reporters, as well. (Jacques Poitras/CBC - image credit)

The coughing and hacking are coming from inside the house.

The legislative assembly, to be specific.

Reflecting the virus-wracked communities they represent, several MLAs were audibly coughing, clearing their throats and speaking with decidedly scratchy voices during Friday's sitting of the legislature.

"If they're anything like the general population, we know there's been a serious uptick in the number of viruses," said Green MLA Megan Mitton.

"For the last two and a half weeks, it's been very tough," said Shediac-Beaubassin-Cap-Pelé Liberal MLA Jacques LeBlanc, describing his long bout with the flu.

Legislative Assembly livestream
Legislative Assembly livestream

LeBlanc said about half a dozen MLAs were wearing masks Friday morning, the most he saw all week.

"Concerning. Very concerning," he said of the health status of his 45 colleagues. "I know that the premier also was under the weather for the last few days."

Premier Blaine Higgs was in the legislature Friday for the first time all week. —

Health Minister Bruce Fitch said several Progressive Conservative ministers and MLAs stayed home during the week rather than risk infecting their colleagues.

He said that choice — and the decision to wear masks was up to individual members, with no edict delivered to the caucus as a whole.

"It's a personal choice," he said. "I've worn masks this week. Some days I have, some days I haven't. But when other people are wearing masks, that does create a certain level of protection that I'm comfortable with."

Mitton, who was already wearing a mask almost all the time this session, decided this week to don one when speaking to reporters as well.

"There have been short periods of time when cases were lower when I would take my mask off briefly to be on camera," she said. "It's a little easier to speak to people face to face. But I saw that cases were on the rise."

A health department spokesperson said earlier this week cases of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are all expected to rise in the coming weeks.

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

COVID cases have started increasing again, while there have already been more flu deaths and hospitalizations than in all of last season. RSV infections are up 800 per cent compared to last year.

On Thursday LeBlanc criticized the government for holding a news conference on crime statistics rather than on how New Brunswickers can protect themselves from COVID-19 and other viruses spreading in the population.

He repeated the point Friday.

"We should be more concerned about protecting ourselves and protecting others, the community, the most vulnerable. We need to be sensitive right now," he said.

"I think there is a major concern. Public Health needs to take control, needs to educate people. We need to come back on a temporary basis to wearing masks in public settings."

The last public health media briefing was Nov. 18.

LeBlanc said given all the Christmas gatherings in the coming weeks, "I think we need to come back down to a very controlled setting for the next few weeks."

That said, the Liberal MLA wasn't wearing a mask Friday after having worn one earlier in the week. He said he felt a lot better.