Businesses, municipalities, and government departments are quickly finding out that moving into the green phase of recovery may be complicated.
As the countdown continues to the lifting of pandemic restrictions, the province has left it up to individual businesses and municipalities to decide how to proceed.
While private businesses vary on how they tackle the change — from cautious baby steps to completely returning to pre-COVID conditions — New Brunswick's three largest cities are taking very similar approaches to lifting restrictions.
In most cases, things in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John will return to normal at midnight on Friday — no masks, no capacity limits, no distancing, although some signs, sanitizer and Plexiglas will remain in the short term.
Green means go
In a very brief response sent Wednesday evening, Health Department spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane suggested that life will return to normal on Saturday for all provincial government departments.
"As soon as we go Green when the mandatory order expires, there will be no restrictions," wrote Macfarlane in a one-line response to questions first sent Monday morning.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education says it's still determining what restrictions may remain when the school year starts in September.
A department spokesperson said education officials are working with Public Health "to ensure students and staff are safely welcomed back to schools on Sept. 7. We know it's something lots of people are interested in, and we'll have more to share in the coming weeks."
Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Public Safety, said by email that the department is "working with its partners to understand how the transition to the green phase will impact court operations."
City of Fredericton
Masks will no longer be required in any city facility, including buses.
"The public may choose to wear a mask and the City respects this choice," said a news release from the city.
The city's transit system will return to its regular schedule on Tuesday. Occupancy restrictions will be lifted on buses, but some pandemic-related changes will remain, like the driver's Plexiglas barriers and hand sanitizer at entrances. Extra cleaning will continue until the end of the year, and the use of one-directional entrance and exit doors will remain encouraged, although not required.
At recreational facilities, masking, distancing, contact tracing and hand sanitizing will no longer be required and most will return to normal, pre-COVID operations in the coming days.
All facilities, including parks and green spaces will return to normal capacities and operational plans will not be required for special events.
Masks will no longer be mandatory in municipal facilities.
A letter sent to employees specifies that they can continue to wear masks if they prefer "and the City will continue to support any and all employees wishing to wear them while at work. Wearing a mask will be a personal choice. The City will not tolerate any workplace conduct such as bullying or prohibited behaviour related to mask use."
Physical barriers, like Plexiglas, will remain in place and will be "re-evaluated at the end of each month. Partitions currently installed in city vehicles will also remain in place."
All COVID-19 related signs will be removed, except for hand washing signs in the washrooms.
The frequent cleaning of work areas, vehicles and equipment will no longer be done, but for those who want to continue the practice, cleaning products will still be made available
"If there is one thing we've learned it's that hand washing/sanitizing and increased cleaning have proven to decrease the spread of illness. Individual sanitizer bottles can continue to be refilled in the Human Resources Department," states the letter to employees.
All entrances, exits and stairways "will revert to their pre-COVID-19 use." Similarly, the capacity for all elevators and rooms, including washrooms, will revert to pre-COVID numbers.
While vaccinations are not mandatory, they are encouraged, said the email to employees.
The city will "return to pre-COVID-19 routine but will retain heightened awareness of the very real risks of communicable disease," said Nathalie Logan, a communications officer with the city of Saint John.
"We will continue to make cleaning materials available, avoid overcrowding at all facilities, and we will be prepared to re-impose public health measures as directed."
Mask use will be a "personal choice," said Logan by email, "and some patrons may choose to continue to wear them while in our facilities. The City will support their choice."
Similarly, she said vaccinations are a personal choice.
"We will continue to follow the guidance and direction provided by the Government of New Brunswick and WorkSafeNB as it relates to proof of vaccination requirements."
As for buses, Saint John Transit will follow the same rules as Moncton and Fredericton — masks are optional, limits to riders will be lifted, enhanced cleaning will continue until the end of the year, hand sanitizer and the driver's Plexiglas will remain in place, and one-directional entrances and exits will remain encouraged.
Federal restrictions remain
The end of the mandatory order in New Brunswick will:
Lift all mandatory travel and public health restrictions that have been in place over the course of the pandemic.
Lift all provincial border restrictions; provincial border checks will cease, and registration will no longer be required to enter New Brunswick from anywhere in Canada.
Lift all limits on gatherings and the number of people within facilities. Capacity limits in theatres, restaurants and stores will no longer be required.
End the requirement to wear face masks in public.
Federal border restrictions, however, will remain in effect, as will some COVID-related restrictions in federal buildings in New Brunswick. Post offices, for example, will continue to require masks and physical distancing, and may have to limit the number of people allowed in at one time.
After a long 17 months, life in long-term care facilities will soon return to almost-normal, says a spokesperson for the Department of Social Development.
Although visitors will have to continue to wear masks in most places, there will no longer be restrictions on the number of people allowed to visit long-term care residents.
"Visitors may remove their masks when visiting their loved one in private rooms/spaces provided this is the resident's preference. However, they are encouraged to wear masks at all times if they or the resident are not fully vaccinated," said Robert Duguay by email on Wednesday.
Enhanced cleaning will "continue to be a key requirement for long-term care facilities and will be incorporated into their regular operational practices," said Duguay.
Calls to the executive director of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes and the president of the New Brunswick Special Care Home Association were not returned by publication time.