HALIFAX -- The loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in the Maritimes means more and more businesses are able to reopen. However, the new reality brings with it challenges and complications in ensuring worker and customer safety. For some companies in New Brunswick, the so-called 'new normal' is taking its toll on service industry workers.

Darren Lavigne, the owner of a Pete's Frootique location at the Saint John City Market, wears a mask for eight to ten hours a day when he's on the job. His new routine of face covering, sanitizing, and physical distancing has become second nature.

"The government recommended that we have shields in place for the cashiers, so we put some shields up; we do a lot of sanitizing the PIN pads and the basket after use," says Lavigne. "We don't do the bulk nuts anymore, just to make sure everything is really clean."

And others in the customer service industry agree.

At Pomodori Pizza in Rothesay, like many other establishments, cleaning protocols have been amped up during the pandemic; however, when things get busy, it can be challenging.

"We have nine staff on, and they're all working with masks – in tremendous heat, in our case," says Pomodori Pizza co-founder, Janice MacPherson. "We cook at 1,000 degrees. So, wearing a mask in that environment is pretty tough, and then trying to maintain all of that cleanliness."

As other Canadian cities continue to grapple with making protective masks mandatory for people in public spaces, residents in Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton are required to wear masks to ride busses.

"I think it's a good idea because of what's going on," says bus user, Louise Boucher, who is in support of the mask requirements. "So, I think it's pretty good."

Every zone in New Brunswick is currently in the 'yellow level' of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan, which has seen many businesses reopen. Additionally, the 'Atlantic bubble,' which begins on Friday, will allow for interprovincial travel within the Maritimes – which means more visitor dollars for many establishments. However, the pandemic's impact is still being felt.

"When everyone took a break because they were closed, they had that time off," says MacPherson, who notes the pandemic hasn't been easy. "We never had that time off."

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 situation in N.B. continues to improve with no new cases being announced since Tuesday and five active cases remaining.