N.B COVID-19 roundup: Premiers will vie for tourists after Atlantic bubble opens up

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N.B COVID-19 roundup: Farmers feeling effects of brief ban on temporary foreign workers

They might've worked together to form an Atlantic travel bubble, but now all four premiers in Atlantic Canada are competing for summer tourists to help boost their economies during COVID-19.

The new Atlantic bubble will start July 3, allowing residents to travel within the region without self-isolating after crossing a provincial boundary.

"Every premier is thinking the same thing. Every premier wants people to come to their place," Premier Blaine Higgs said during a Wednesday news briefing.

Shane Magee/CBC

"We're all getting along, we've started up to move into this bubble. But now of course we're focused on trying to get people to our own province." 

When New Brunswick first closed its borders, Higgs said New Brunswickers would need to find areas within the province to vacation. 

"As you learn more facts, you make more decisions based on the current level of facts available," he said.

Atlantic Canadians will be able to travel to and from New Brunswick without the requirement to self-isolate but will be asked to provide proof of where they live.

CBC News

Anyone travelling through New Brunswick to get to another Atlantic province, will need to verify where they're going and why. 

"We are the first line of defence," he said.

Higgs said the province will be tracking and calling people coming into New Brunswick, which will also assist with any possible contact tracing. 

Visitors from other Canadian provinces and territories, must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival and can then travel within the Maritime provinces.

Government of New Brunswick

Higgs said each Atlantic province will choose its own public health processes to track and monitor people that enter their province.

Each of the Atlantic provinces could also have distinct rules for health-care workers crossing interprovincial borders to enable them to manage their staffing requirements and the pressures within their respective health-care systems.

Residents travelling between the Atlantic provinces won't have to self-isolate starting July 3, but anyone in self-isolation before that date, will still need to continue to do so until their 14-day period.

"If they're in self-isolating mode because of their arrival, they would certainly need to continue that," said Higgs.

New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health says she feels confident about the reopening of the borders between the four Atlantic provinces, and New Brunswickers should too. 

"We are confident we can move freely without self-isolation," Dr. Jennifer Russell said during Wednesday's news briefing.

But Russell said it's important for Atlantic Canadians to travel between these provinces, especially since they've been cooped up since the virus hit the Atlantic region in March.

"Some find it very anxiety-provoking and some people find it very encouraging," she said.

Asked what will happen if an outbreak occurs in one of the four provinces, Russell said the chief medical officers are still working out the details. 

"We do expect there to be small outbreaks in each province moving forward," she said. 

Visitors from other Canadian provinces and territories will still have to adhere to the entry requirements in place in each of the four jurisdictions.

Rules for travelling to other Atlantic provinces 

On July 3, New Brunswickers will be able to to travel to other Atlantic provinces without the need to self-isolate, if they: 

  • Have not travelled outside of the Atlantic provinces for any reason, including work or personal travel, in the past 14 days. However, New Brunswickers returning from work in another Canadian province or territory don't have to self-isolate when they return to New Brunswick. 
  • Have not been advised to self-isolate.
  • Are not awaiting results of a COVID-19 test.

New Brunswickers can also travel to the three other Atlantic provinces, as long as they are not experiencing at least two of these symptoms:

  • Fever above 38°C or signs of fever (such as chills)
  • A new cough or worsening chronic cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • A new onset of fatigue;
  • A new onset of muscle pain
  • Diarrhea;
  • Loss of sense of taste or loss of sense of smell; and
  • In children, purple markings on the fingers or toes.

Atlantic could reopen to the rest of Canada by mid to late-July  

Premier Blaine Higgs said other Canadian visitors to the Maritime provinces who have self-isolated for 14 days may travel within the Maritime region.

He expects the Atlantic provinces to reopen with the rest of Canada by mid to late-July. But right now, Higgs said his main focus is opening up the borders between the Atlantic provinces. 

"We'll gauge the success of this," he said.

Goverment of New Brunswick

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health said it is promising to see the number of cases dropping in Ontario and Quebec, which were most affected by COVID-19.

"As we continue to see those numbers dropping and then being able to control their outbreaks, that is very encouraging and very positive."

No new cases in New Brunswick

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, announced no new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Wednesday. 

There are currently 16 active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick.

Since March, there have been 165 confirmed cases in New Brunswick and 147 people have recovered.

Two patients are hospitalized with one in an intensive care unit. Two New Brunswickers living at a long-term care residence in Atholville have died from COVID-19.

As of today, 41,356 tests have been conducted.

Province sees jump in traffic

More border patrol officers have been added to help improve traffic flow at New Brunswick borders. Premier Blaine Higgs said the borders have seen an increase in traffic..

On Monday, the province saw a 52 per cent jump in personal vehicle traffic since March 25.

Higgs said 3,441 personal vehicles and 3,794 commercial vehicles travelled into the province Monday.

"We have the staff we need to address this increased volume."

Campbellton region moves into yellow phase

The Campbellton region will join the rest of New Brunswick in the yellow phase of the COVID-19 recovery plan.

And all remaining businesses can reopen with appropriate distancing and sanitizing, and operational plans respecting WorkSafeNB and Public Health guidelines.

The province will extend its state of emergency on Thursday, and the mandatory order will be revised Friday. 

Farmers feeling effects of brief ban on temporary foreign workers

A New Brunswick farming group says the province has brought in 21 per cent fewer temporary foreign workers than it did last year. 

The province had instituted a ban on temporary foreign workers from entering the province in April to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in New Brunswick. 

After complaints from farmers and fish plants that couldn't find replacement workers, the province lifted the ban a few weeks later.

But Lisa Ashworth, president of the New Brunswick Agriculture Alliance, said the reversal came too late in the spring for many farmers.

"During the busiest time of the year, when producers should be in the field working and helping to supervise crews, they were actually inside doing paperwork," she said.

And it doesn't help when farmers have to deal with multiple governments, all of whom have extra on their plate because of the pandemic, Ashworth said.

"It's very very difficult to reverse course quickly when you're dealing with the bureaucracy of two levels of Canadian government, and the government of a foreign country, all of whom are dealing with pandemic situations."

When the ban was first announced at the end of April, the province said it expected New Brunswickers to sign up for vacant jobs on farms and in fish plants, which would typically be filled by temporary foreign workers.

Submitted by the Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick

But few people applied for those jobs and she said some of the New Brunswickers who were hired wanted to be paid in cash so they could continue drawing EI and COVID-19 relief benefits.

"The stability of that local labour force seems to be a bit iffy with people coming and going, and that makes it a challenge to make plans for what has to be done," said Ashworth.

She said temporary foreign workers should never have been banned in the first place.

"We shouldn't have the expectation that people were just going to step up because these jobs had already been advertised and gone unfilled."

Mike Heenan/CBC

The province said the ban was partially out of concern that workers could be infected with COVID-19. At least two temporary foreign workers have tested positive for the virus during self-isolation after their arrival in the province.

Ashworth said that's why farmers pushed for self-isolation protocols rather than a ban. 

"I don't think we can say we've had an issue with temporary foreign workers," she said.

"We have evidence that the protocols work, because the positive tests occurred when the temporary foreign workers were in the initial quarantine phase and had not come in contact with a New Brunswick labour force."

Ashworth hopes more foreign workers will be brought in as there will be a need for them well into the fall.

Vitalité allows patient visits, except at Campbellton Regional Hospital

 Vitalité Health Network is allowing visits at all of its hospitals, with the exception of the Campbellton Regional Hospital. Visits can take place between 2 and 8 p.m., except at the Campbellton Regional Hospital.

In a news release Wednesday, Vitalité said it plans to reassess the situation at the Campbellton hospital in "the next few days."

Shane Fowler/CBC

Visitors must observe various measures to help reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19.

  • Only one designated visitor is allowed. An exception is possible if a visitor requires a support person.
  • Visits are limited to one hour.
  • Designated visitors must always wear a fabric face covering or mask during their visit. They must comply with existing Public Health guidelines and observe the facility's infection control policies.
  • Designated visitors must be at least 12 years old.
  • Pets are not allowed.

However, specific exemptions and restrictions apply to patients in the follow sectors: 

  • Palliative Care units: Two designated visitors are allowed at a time and visiting hours may be modified. One additional visitor (pastoral/spiritual care) per patient can enter the facility to bring comfort to the patient, family and loved ones.
  • Long-term care: Patients in long-term care can have two designated visitors but only one designated visitor at a time can visit. If a support person is required for the designated visitor, two visitors will be allowed at the same time. Visits will be scheduled by appointment to limit the number of visitors to the unit.
  • Intensive care units: Only one designated visitor is allowed, and it must necessarily be a close family member. The duration of the visit will be determined by the unit staff based on the patient's condition and on the activity level on the unit.
  • Emergency departments: Only one support person may accompany patients who need assistance.
  • Outpatient services: Only one support person may accompany patients who need assistance.

Vitalité said this information could change.

Earlier this week, Horizon Health Network announced it would allow patients to have visitors in its hospitals. 

Border patrol refuses 2 people on Air Canada's first flight to Saint John

Border security officers refused two passengers entering Saint John on Air Canada's first flight from Montreal, according to Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety.

Air Canada resumed flights from Montreal to the Port City on Monday. 

Downey said there are two peace officers and two screeners at each airport during hours of operation to question travellers arriving at the airport.

Capitol Theatre set to reopen in Moncton

Moncton's Capitol Theatre hopes to reopen its doors to patrons by the end of the week.

Last week the province announced theatres could reopen, as long as certain precautions were put in place.

Kim Rayworth, managing director of the Capitol Theatre, said the theatre had just completed its first livestream production when it heard the news about the loosening of restrictions.

"Until the announcement last Friday we thought, 'Well this might be the way that we're doing business here for a while,'" said Rayworth.

"So we were just thrilled to learn last Friday that hopefully, as of this Friday, we'll be able to welcome people to our hall."

The province did put some rules in place for theatres and other entertainment businesses.

Physical distancing must be maintained and operators must keep detailed visitor information to make contact tracing easier, in the event it's needed.

Rayworth said the theatre is working on a plan for how to sell tickets, which includes selling them by "family bubble" and having a shifting floor plan depending on needs.

"Definitely some things to work out in terms of capacity," she said. 

"It looks like potentially every seat map could change, looking at different attendance numbers for different shows."

Theatres will also need to present an operating plan to the province, which shows they can maintain physical distance and hygiene standards.

"We're fairly confident that with our staff and our understanding of sanitation measures that we can do what we need to do to clean the building between visits," said Rayworth. "And make sure that all surfaces that have been touched by the patrons are taken care of."

Rayworth said the Capitol's first virtual show was a success, with 400 tickets sold.

She said they're y theatre is looking at possibly keeping that option open for patrons who still do not feel comfortable going out during the pandemic.

Campbellton emergency department reopens 

The Campbellton Regional Hospital reopened its emergency department Wednesday morning, which it shut down for a week in another closure related to the COVID-19 outbreak in the region. 

Vitalité Health Network has said elective surgeries and non-urgent outpatient care and services will resume June 29.

If the Campbellton region moves into the next phase of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan, patient visits might also be permitted by early next week.

What to do if you have a symptom

People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptom can take a self-assessment test on the government website at gnb.ca. 

People with one of those symptoms are asked to:

  • Stay at home.

  • Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.

  • Describe symptoms and travel history.

  • Follow instructions.