ST. STEPHEN, N.B. -- While New Brunswick's COVID-19 numbers remain high, provincial health officials are worried about a worsening pandemic situation in the neighbouring U.S. state of Maine.

"Our neighbour's houses are on fire and the hot embers are flying onto our roof," said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer of Health, at a news conference on Thursday. "If we don't take necessary actions to keep this fire at bay it will engulf us as well."

Dr. Russell said there were over 1,000 active cases in Maine's Washington and Aroostook Counties, which both border western New Brunswick. 

On Friday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 823 new COVID-19 cases and 16 additional deaths. Maine's daily COVID-19 case count passed 800 for the first time two days earlier. 

A ban on non-essential travel at Canadian/U.S. land border crossings was extended this week to Feb. 21. Exemptions for travel have been granted to Canadians who work in the U.S., allowing them to bypass the 14-days of self-isolation normally required after returning home.

St. Stephen resident Heather Bridges has a family member who crosses the border for work daily. Bridges said she and her family have been stigmatized in the community because of it.

"We were told we couldn't go into businesses in St. Stephen," said Bridges, referring to a COVID-19 outbreak in October at Woodland Pulp in nearby Baileyville, Maine. "We were told we couldn't get things done like our nails and our hair… grocery shopping, they would prefer somebody else do it for us."

Bridges' brother, two sisters and grandmother live in Maine, minutes from the St. Stephen border. She hasn't seen them in person since the land border closed in March and doesn't expect the situation to change anytime soon.

"It's really triggering now," she said.