Province won't say how isolation hotel rules have changed in wake of Fredericton cluster

·4 min read
Andrew Dolan says the room he's isolating in at the Hilton Saint John has windows that can't open, leaving him concerned about the possibility of germs spreading between units. (Submitted by Andrew Dolan - image credit)
Andrew Dolan says the room he's isolating in at the Hilton Saint John has windows that can't open, leaving him concerned about the possibility of germs spreading between units. (Submitted by Andrew Dolan - image credit)

An isolation hotel guest says he's seen restrictions where he's staying tighten in the wake of a "cluster" of COVID cases in Fredericton, but the province won't confirm those changes or share details about what's different for guests staying in the hotels.

When Andrew Dolan checked into the Hilton Saint John on May 15, he was told he'd be allowed to leave his sixth-storey room, escorted by a security guard, to go for smoke breaks outside on the ground floor throughout the day.

He said he'd also arranged to be allowed to spend an hour on the hotel's ground floor patio in the early mornings when it was empty, and in the late evenings when again, no one else would be around.

To him, it felt like a fair trade-off in exchange for his room facing a direction that gets no direct sunlight, and has windows that can't open.

Then on May 17, he said a security guard informed him that the rules had changed, and going forward, all guests would only be allowed an hour a day to leave their rooms, following direction from the provincial government.

Dolan said he was also told that guests can no longer have meals delivered to them by family or restaurants, and must rely on food from the hotel.

"Well, I think it's terrible. I mean, it's bad enough we're in here. There's no ventilation. The ventilation goes from room to room to room — there's no open windows.

"The only thing I had was the opportunity to go out every two or three hours and stand outside and get fresh air."

Andrew Dolan hopes to finish the rest of his isolation at his home on the Kingston Peninsula, granted the results of the COVID-19 test he had Thursday come back negative.
Andrew Dolan hopes to finish the rest of his isolation at his home on the Kingston Peninsula, granted the results of the COVID-19 test he had Thursday come back negative.(Submitted by Andrew Dolan)

CBC News wasn't granted an interview with someone from the provincial government to discuss changes recently implemented for guests staying at isolation hotels.

Geoffrey Downey, spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Public Safety, in an email, said any freedom guests have to take breaks from their room depends on where they're staying.

"Timings, frequency and processes regarding breaks and pet care are dependent on the layout of each facility, the number of clients and the needs of clients, balanced against the priority to keep everyone safe," he said.

"Changes may occur periodically."

The Hilton did not respond to a request for comment.

In April, the province announced it was requiring all non-essential travellers into New Brunswick to isolate at a designated hotel.

The program has since had hiccups, and some have raised concerns that its implementation was rushed.

On May 17 — the same day Dolan learned of the new rules at his hotel — the province announced that the program would be changed so that the hotels would be closed to guests who weren't there solely to isolate.

That followed the emergence of what Public Health says is a "cluster" of COVID-19 cases tied to the Delta Fredericton, which served as an isolation hotel until it pulled out of the program.

As of Thursday, 36 cases have been attributed to exposure at the hotel, and have been confirmed to be the B1617 variant, which was first reported in India.

Dolan, who works as a boilermaker, had travelled to northern Quebec for a contract job, as he said work in his field has become scarce since the pandemic.

He said he's not opposed to the requirement that people self-isolate, but thinks the province should be more up-front about the type of ventilation systems the hotels are equipped with, and the freedoms guests will be afforded in terms of going outside for fresh air.

"I did this [go to an isolation hotel] because it was the right thing to do, and I feel that I basically signed myself up for a jail sentence that I wasn't aware of, and I would have rather stayed in a tent in the woods by myself for the week than have gotten into this situation."

Dolan said he took a COVID-19 test on Thursday, and granted it comes back negative, plans to spend the rest of his 14-day isolation at his off-grid home on the Kingston Peninsula by himself, while his wife and infant daughter spend the week with her parents.

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