NB Imposes Strict Thanksgiving Restrictions In COVID Battle
Many New Brunswickers will have fewer people around the Thanksgiving dinner table this weekend as the province restricts contact and travel over the holiday weekend.
For some New Brunswick residents in the Upper River Valley, Moncton and Edmundston areas, these strict restrictions will be in place for at least two weeks.
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference October 5, Premier Blaine Higgs and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell announced tough new measures to control the spread of the COVID virus.
In addition to limiting travel and visits for all New Brunswickers over the Thanksgiving weekend, they announced strict cut-out measures targeting areas most at risk.
The breaker zones include the upper valley of Zone 3, north of Deerville; all of zone 4, the Edmundston region; and Zone 1, including Moncton and as far north as Ste. Anne of Kent.
Public health then clarified which part of zone 3 to include in the circuit breaker region as “north of Florenceville-Bristol and including”.
The restrictions will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, October 8 and will continue for at least 14 days.
As part of the cut-out measures, residents of these areas should limit contact to their household only, as well as to any family member outside the family who needs support.
Higgs explained that the restrictions would not allow gatherings indoors or outdoors, except in public places requiring proof of vaccination.
The Prime Minister said rules prohibit travel to or from breaker areas unless travel is essential for work, health services, child care, child care or post-secondary education .
Although all schools will remain open, he said, sports and extracurricular activities would be suspended for those 12 and under. Higgs added that no spectators would be allowed to participate in school activities in the breaker areas.
Although limited to single-family gatherings at home or elsewhere, Higgs said businesses and event venues could continue to operate as long as they demand proof of vaccination and government-issued ID from anyone entering. .
Higgs explained the contradictory nature of the rules, which do not allow gatherings of friends and family at people’s homes, but allow them to meet in restaurants and other public places.
“It is safe for people to get there,” he said, “because these are controlled environments where they check their immunization status.”
Russell also defended the decision to allow non-essential businesses to remain open, explaining that while fully vaccinated people can catch and spread the virus, the risk is “very low” compared to those who are not vaccinated.
She said unvaccinated people are 16 times more likely to catch the virus than fully vaccinated.
The province will extend the same restrictions affecting residents of circuit breaker communities province-wide over Thanksgiving weekend, starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, October 8 and ending on Thanksgiving Day, Monday, October 11 at 11 p.m. 59.
Higgs and Russell stressed that the new rules are vital in stopping the spread of the virus, noting that public health has reported another COVID-19-related death and 90 new infections in the past 24 hours.
She said the province now has 50 people in hospital, including 23 in intensive care. The death involved an 80-year-old in Zone 4, bringing the death toll from COVID in New Brunswick to 69.
Higgs noted that Tuesday’s death announcement marks eight consecutive days with at least one death.
Russell said the number of COVID in New Brunswick will continue to grow and put its entire healthcare delivery at risk unless he can stop the spread of the virus.
“Vaccines continue to be one of our most effective tools in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” said Russell.
Higgs pointed to current hospitalizations as an indication of the importance of vaccination, noting that 41 of the 50 currently hospitalized are vaccinated. In contrast, only seven are fully vaccinated, two having received only one injection.
The Prime Minister once again urged everyone to roll up their sleeves for two blows while announcing that the government is pushing the issue of vaccinating civil servants.
Higgs said all government employees in the public service, education and health systems, and crown corporations, as well as staff and volunteers in long-term care facilities and licensed day care centers, should be fully vaccinated by November 19. After this date, any employee without a valid medical exemption and not fully vaccinated would be sent home without pay.
Higgs added that licensed healthcare facilities that did not comply with the mandatory vaccination mandate risked losing their licenses.
Higgs added that public safety officers would focus surveillance over the next few weeks in the breaker area to ensure compliance.
“And there will be fines for enforcing what we have put in place,” he said.
Higgs said surveillance will focus on hot spots, especially events that spread the virus. He noted that the significant events in the spread of the virus are not well-organized gatherings that take precautions, but random events.
Higgs cited home gatherings as a major source of the virus’ spread.
The prime minister acknowledges that those who refuse to get vaccinated are often the same people who ignore government security mandates, noting that some people have blatantly broken the rules since the start of the pandemic.
“They have a negative impact on all of society, and if you don’t care about yourself then please take care of others,” he said.
Higgs said schools would remain open, even in hot spots, suggesting children are safer under the strict controls employed by Department of Education and Early Learning guidelines.
However, he added that schools would start rolling out rapid test kits to distribute to the families of any student identified as potentially exposed to the virus.
With increased risks for residents of long-term care homes and homes for the aged at higher risk, Higgs and Russell said public health would start giving booster shots of the mRNA vaccines this week.
“Residents of long-term care facilities and the elderly living in community settings generally have a good immune response to COVID-19 vaccines,” Russell said. “But there are signs that protection against the Delta variant may decrease in these people, and a booster dose may improve their immune response.”
Tuesday’s COVID update showed Zone 1 reported the highest number of new infections, with 45 of the province’s 90 new cases. Public health said 42 of those infections were under investigation for one source.
Here is the number of new confirmed cases by area:
Zone 1: 45
Zone 2: 4
Zone 3: 25
Zone 4: 7
Zone 5: 1
Zone 6: 5
Zone 7: 3