Cross-border kids need weekly COVID tests to see Dad

·3 min read

New Brunswickers who share custody with a parent on the other side of a provincial border say they are confused and frustrated since the borders closed and regulations tightened, and that their kids now need weekly COVID tests to see both parents.

“Any person travelling as required to facilitate ... joint custody is permitted to do so as it is considered necessary travel under the Mandatory Order,” said Coreen Enos, communications officer for New Brunswick’s Department of Public Safety, adding that parents must register to cross the border through an online form.

Parents are being told they won’t need to isolate upon return if travelling for this purpose, but say they are also being told they and any children over two years of age who cross the border must undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, a fact the Times & Transcript confirmed with Public Safety.

Crystal Baird, an essential worker in Sackville but who lives in Fort Lawrence, Nova Scotia, shares custody of her son, Alexander, with his father, who lives in Sackville.

“To expect a 10 year old to be tested weekly is unfair,” said Baird.

Baird said getting a clear answer about the details from the province has also been a problem. On one attempt, she was told she would have to go to Moncton, a 40- minute drive from her home, each week to get a COVID-19 test. On another occasion she was told they could have the test done in Amherst, minutes from where she lives.

It is also unclear if her son can continue his usual activities upon return to Sackville, she said.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Baird, adding that she has been trying to get clarity all week and it has yet to come.

Jessica Blakeney, who lives in Sackville and shares custody of four of her children with their dad who lives in Amherst is also frustrated.

She said even talking about the policy with her children has been difficult. Her son said he wanted to see his dad, who he had not seen since Dec. 23, but was alarmed at the thought of having to get a COVID test every week.

“I agree with my son," Blakeney said. "He shouldn’t have something shoved up his nose every week to see his dad.”

Her children are scheduled to see their father on Friday, but the process still feels unclear and unfair, she said.

“I feel confused and frustrated. I can’t answer my kids’ questions,” she said, and she can’t give her ex answers either.

Blakeney said she feels parents should be accountable for following guidelines to protect their children from COVID-19, but this new process feels too hard on everybody.

Parents with joint custody who lived in different provinces haven’t had it easy, Blakeney said. “I had my children for 75 days straight before the border opened to Nova Scotia.”

Information for parents in situations like hers is not being provided in a clear manner, she said.

The Times & Transcript asked the province to clarify if the COVID-19 tests for all parties involved need to be conducted in the province of New Brunswick and if children could continue all usual activities with others upon return, but did not receive a response by press time.

Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal