Mayors, epidemiologist react to 'circuit breaker' coming to parts of N.B.

·3 min read
'Circuit breaker' restrictions are coming to New Brunswick this Thanksgiving, banning gatherings outside of single households across the province, and adding restrictions that will last at least two weeks in three zones.  (Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia - image credit)
'Circuit breaker' restrictions are coming to New Brunswick this Thanksgiving, banning gatherings outside of single households across the province, and adding restrictions that will last at least two weeks in three zones. (Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia - image credit)

Mayors in regions headed for a restrictive two-week 'circuit breaker' are hearing disappointment, concern and acceptance from community members.

"With all the work that has been done, to know that Friday we'll go backwards is quite disappointing," said Eric Marquis, mayor of Edmundston, which is part of a region, Zone 4, that had 175 active cases as of Tuesday.

"People are starting to get their lives back."

New restrictions announced on Tuesday will prohibit gatherings outside of a single household throughout Thanksgiving weekend. Regions in zones 1, 3, and 4 will be subject to these measures as well as travel restrictions for at least two weeks.

Premier Blaine Higgs said too many people, especially under the age of 40, are choosing not to get fully vaccinated. In zones 3, 4, 5, he said, vaccination rates for people in that age group are as low as 57 per cent.

But Marquis said he still hopes to hear from the province about how a circuit breaker can be avoided in the future.

"Let's hope it won't go too long," said the mayor.

Of all seven health zones in New Brunswick, Zone 4 has the lowest rate — 73.7 per cent — of eligible people who are fully vaccinated.

Sackville Mayor Shawn Mesheau said he's hearing from some members of his community, which is in Zone 1, that more stringent measures may be necessary.

"I think we really have to buckle down here and understand that this pandemic isn't going anywhere any time soon," he said. "Our province is seeing what's happening across the country and saying 'Listen, we don't want that happening here.'"

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

Mesheau said Sackville residents are experiencing a level of anxiety over rising cases and the recent outbreak at the Drew Nursing Home. Mesheau's advice to people facing the restrictions is to stay close to members of their household during this time.

"Hold on tight and do what you need to do, so we can get through this pandemic."

Zone 1, which is only partially covered by the two-week circuit breaker, has one of the highest full vaccination rates in the province, at 80.4 per cent. Zone 7, the Miramichi region, has the highest rate, at 82.5 per cent.

Rapid tests better approach, says epidemiologist

Epidemiologist Colin Furness said targeting the Thanksgiving holiday may be a good approach to curbing spread.

"I actually think there's merit in focusing specifically on the holiday weekend," said Furness, who has been criticl of the circuit-breaker tool in COVID management. "A tighter regime now may let us have a better holiday season in December."

But Furness suggested the upcoming restrictions are still "harsh medicine," which will aff.ect those who have been following the rules the most and might be ignored by those following them the least.

"Unfortunately, the situation we tend to have with harsh restrictions is the people who are most careful, they follow them piously," he said. "They suffer privation and loss because of it. And then there's a segment of the population that does not see COVID as a serious issue and will do as they wish."

CBC
CBC

Furness expects there to be a bump in cases after Thanksgiving despite the restrictions.

Instead of the circuit-breaker, his recommendation to the province would be to implement widespread rapid testing, similar to Nova Scotia's strategy.

"This is a very good tool for disrupting transmissions and can be used as a screening tool," he said.

The province will be implementing rapid tests in schools starting Oct. 12 to test unvaccinated students who are a close contact of a positive case. Over 500,000 rapid tests have also been distributed to workplaces as part of the Point of Care Testing Program.

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