Parents say making isolation arrangements for students stressful and confusing

·5 min read
Melessa Moreau-Perley (right) says she’s spent hours on hold waiting for directions from the Red Cross on where to book her daughter to self-isolate. She was told to call the Rodd Hotel in Miramichi and then was told the hotel was off the list. (Submitted - image credit)
Melessa Moreau-Perley (right) says she’s spent hours on hold waiting for directions from the Red Cross on where to book her daughter to self-isolate. She was told to call the Rodd Hotel in Miramichi and then was told the hotel was off the list. (Submitted - image credit)

Melessa Moreau-Perley says she has spent hours on the phone since Friday's announcement, trying to book her 19-year-old daughter into an isolation hotel and by Tuesday at noon, she still couldn't get the right information.

Cassey Perley is due to arrive at the border Thursday evening, after driving from Bishop's University in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Mother and daughter started making calls as soon as they learned that effective Saturday midnight, students returning from outside Atlantic Canada or the Halifax area would have to isolate in a hotel for up to 14 days.

Moreau-Perley said she and her daughter called the province and the Red Cross and a couple of hotels, but couldn't get through or couldn't get answers.

Tuesday morning, Moreau-Perley waited an hour and 15 minutes on hold and when she finally got through to a Red Cross staffer, they told her to call the Rodd Hotel in Miramichi directly.

She said the Red Cross told her she didn't need a booking number but when she called the Rodd Hotel, they told her she did need a booking number but that they would accept her reservation until it was sorted out.

Hotel staff then called back again to say the hotel was off the list.

Moreau-Perley said she had no choice but to start calling the Red Cross again. As of Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. she still couldn't get through.

"I think they were so quick to react to the variant and the whole panic, that they made decisions without having the proper organization to back it up," said Moreau-Perley from her home in Grand Falls.

"When you're told by the group that is supposed to organize this, that they have no clue, that they haven't heard yet, or when you're told about hotels that are on this list who again, have no clue that they're part of the list, it's so frustrating and so stressful."

18-year-old Freddie Searles is due to arrive at the Moncton airport airport Tuesday night but his family is still uncertain whether their arrangements will be acceptable to the border agents.
18-year-old Freddie Searles is due to arrive at the Moncton airport airport Tuesday night but his family is still uncertain whether their arrangements will be acceptable to the border agents. (Submitted by Shelley Searles)

Shelley Searles said she had similar difficulties getting through to the Red Cross and on Monday decided to book a hotel room herself and put in on her credit card.

Her 18-year-old son Freddie has been studying aerospace engineering at Carleton University and is due to fly from Ottawa into Moncton tonight.

With a feeling that time was running out, Searles decided to call the Saint John Hilton directly and reserve a room for her son.

"I wanted to make sure I have it," she said.

She also booked a town car to bring her son from Moncton to Saint John, since the new restrictions prevent her from picking him up.

"I booked it all myself. I paid it myself," said Searles.

Shelley Searles and her teen children, Freddie and Georgia. Searles says she’s very concerned about what will happen to Freddie when he gets to the Moncton airport tonight.
Shelley Searles and her teen children, Freddie and Georgia. Searles says she’s very concerned about what will happen to Freddie when he gets to the Moncton airport tonight.(Submitted)

Tuesday, she said her son would be arriving with his travel registration documents and proof of his hotel reservation but she still fears he'll run into trouble when his flight touches down around 9:30 p.m.

"I'm hearing that they have to isolate someplace close to their arrival," she said. "Not close to their destination."

Saint John-Rothesay member of Parliament Wayne Long contacted Searles on Facebook to see if he could help, but the rules were set up by the province.

He said his office has been getting about 20 inquiries per day from confused families since Friday's news conference.

Adding capacity for calls

The Red Cross said it's doubling its call centre capacity to handle the volume of calls that have resulted from the policy changes announced on Friday.

Provincial director Bill Lawlor said a high influx of calls on Monday night exceeded their technical capacity.

He also said that the list of hotels has been evolving and that may have caused some confusion.

In some cases, hotels that were on the list decided to rescind their offers to participate for various reasons. Also, when chosen hotels reach capacity, others have to be added.

"We understand that and greatly appreciate some of the challenges and stress this has caused, particularly for university students and their families so we're trying to do everything we can to mitigate and alleviate that," Lawlord said.

Families need to be sure that students register for travel on the provincial website. That's step number one, he said.

Documents a must

"Once they receive that approval, they will be notified by GNB about how to reach the Red Cross and they'll get some other information such as testing requirements for COVID-19.

"From there, they will contact the Canadian Red Cross. Then we will work with them to identify the hotel that will be closest to the point of entry, not their hometown necessarily because, of course, the whole intention of this is to minimize travel in the province."

Lawlor said border agents at the airport or land borders, who are authorized by the Department of Public Safety, will be looking for the travel registry documentation and a hotel reservation. Those are the critical documents, he said.

Calling for help

If someone arrives at the airport and there's still an issue, that person can call the Red Cross call centre at 1-800-863-6582, which is supposed to be accessible around the clock.

However, it's not clear when the call volume problems will have eased.

The full sequence after calling that toll free number is to Press 1 for English or 2 for French, and then Press 1 for Disaster or Emergency then Press 5 to select New Brunswick, then Press 1 to select Affected by COVID-19, then Press 2 to select Support for non-essential travel staying in a New Brunswick isolation hotel.