Mask mandate returns as N.B. sets new COVID 19 records
By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
RIVER VALLEY SUN
New Brunswick residents who put their masks away when the province returned to the green safety level in July will have to dig them back out by Wednesday.
During a press conference Monday afternoon, New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell and Premier Blaine Higgs said a new mask mandate would be included when stricter measures announced last week go into effect at the end of the day Tuesday.
As new cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, they said, New Brunswickers must don the mask in indoor public spaces. Higgs said people refusing to wear a mask would face fines.
Public Health said the mask mandate would include retailers, malls, service centres, churches, restaurants, bars, organized indoor gatherings, public transportation, sporting and entertainment venues or anywhere the public gathers together indoors.
Last week, the New Brunswick government announced the requirement of proof of complete vaccination to enter most of these same public places.
Russell said the latest steps are part of the province’s efforts to adjust to changing circumstances.
“The virus continues to change, mutating into new and more contagious forms, and each turn, we have not hesitated to change with it,” she said.
As they regularly have, Russell and Higgs stressed vaccinations are the only means to put COVID-19 behind us.
Those with less than two doses of the vaccine continue to make up the majority of those testing positive for the virus, Russell said, noting they accounted for 76 per cent of the record number of new cases over the weekend.
While there are breakthrough cases, she added, the fully vaccinated experienced a significantly reduced impact from the virus.
Higgs cited hospitalization stats for pushing the importance of the vaccine.
Of the 32 hospitalizations over the past month, he said, three were fully vaccinated, two partially vaccinated and 27 were not vaccinated.
Russell reported 199 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, pushing the number of active cases to 484, close to the number of active cases at the height of the third wave in January.
She said the 75 new cases reported on Saturday are the most the province reported in a single day since the pandemic began.
Russell said 57 of the weekend’s 199 cases were under 19, and 152 were not fully vaccinated.
Zone 3, Fredericton and the Upper River Valley, again reported the most cases over the weekend, with 69 new infections.
Zone 1, the Moncton region, reported 63 new cases, with 35 in Zone 5, the Campbellton region; 29 in Zone 4, the Edumundston region; 13 in Zone 6, the Bathurst region; Six in Zone 2, the Saint John Region; and one in Zone 7, the Miramichi region.
Russell said 23 people are now in hospital in New Brunswick, with 14 in intensive care.
She said the growing hospitalizations are placing an incredible strain on nurses and other health-care providers. She said COVID’s negative impact threatens health-care delivery across the board.
Russell broke down hospitalizations by zone, with Zone 4 reporting the most in hospital with 7. Six people are in hospital in Zone 3, five in Zone 1, three in Zone 5, and two in Zones 2 and 6.
Zone 7 is the only one without anyone in the hospital.
Higgs stressed the unfair pressure on nurses and other health-care staff.
He called it “appalling” that nurses must face protests from the anti-vax and anti-mask crowd as they head to work to treat people in hospital because they didn’t get vaccinated or refused to wear a mask.
“It’s kind of shocking, really,” Higgs said.
The premier called on New Brunswick to show patience as businesses begin checking for proof of vaccination and enforce the mask mandate on Wednesday. He said staff are only doing what is legally required and should not face harassment for doing their job.
Higgs said staff should call the police if customers refuse to abide by the rules or harass workers.
The premier said he could not predict how long the new rules would be in place or whether stricter rules would be needed. He cited hitting the 90 per cent level of eligible people fully vaccinated as the most likely scenario allowing restrictions to be relaxed.
Russell expects current numbers to continue climbing over the next few weeks as restrictions lag before they effectively reduce numbers. She said projections continue to indicate the province will be facing 100 cases per day before they start to decline.
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2021.