St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern says he's "deeply concerned" after a mill worker at Woodland Pulp in nearby Baileyville, Maine tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday morning.
"Everyone knows someone that goes over and works at the mill and travels home to the St. Stephen area," about a 20-minute drive away, he said.
Seven New Brunswick residents work at the mill, said Scott Beal, environmental and security manager for Woodland.
One of them has been working largely from home during the pandemic, but the rest of them have been working regular shifts, and continue to do so, he said.
All of them are being tested for the virus, along with the roughly 413 other employees at the three sister companies on-site — Woodland Pulp, St. Croix Tissue and St. Croix Chipping, said Beal.
It comes after seven out-of-state contractors who were working on the fibre line during the mill's annual maintenance operation tested positive for COVID-19 over the past two days.
The contractors, in the employment of Miller Mechanical Services, based in Glens Falls, N.Y., had to be tested before they moved onto the next job site, said Beal.
"They left here last Thursday and Friday … We got the results back from Miller Mechanical management Tuesday in the form initially of one employee tested positive, and about an hour later, that number had climbed to five. And as of yesterday morning, they had reported two more for a total of seven."
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has opened an investigation across state lines, said Beal.
Public Health monitoring situation
New Brunswick Public Health has been working "behind the scenes" with several partners since Wednesday "to gather all the information on the potential risks to determine if any actions are required," said spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane.
"At this time we're monitoring," he said. "This is an evolving situation."
The Maine CDC is the lead investigator, he added.
The other partners include: Public Safety, Canadian Border Services Agency, Public Health Canada and the Town of St. Stephen.
Everyone asked to 'do their part'
Meanwhile, Public Health reminds all New Brunswickers "to do their part to keep us in yellow," said Macfarlane.
They should avoid large crowds where physical distancing cannot be maintained, have a mask with them and wear it when physical distancing can't be maintained, and wash their hands frequently or use hand sanitizer, he said.
MacEachern also posted a message on social media urging town residents to follow Public Health's advice.
"There's some of us out there that got quite relaxed on that because we've been feeling pretty comfortable and I've asked them to step up their game," he said.
"It's right on our doorstep right now, so this is the time. We've been practising since March, so let's use what we've been doing and try to curb this until it goes away."