N.B. schools to remain closed until at least April 10 amid COVID-19 concerns
HALIFAX -- The New Brunswick Government has announced schools will be closed until at least early April.
On Friday, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, and Premier Blaine Higgs announced new developments concerning the province’s COVID-19 situation and strategy, which includes closing the province's K-12 school system.
In an email to CTV, Higgs' director of communications, Nicolle Carlin, confirmed schools will be closed until April 10 – a decision that will be reassessed regularly. Furthermore, Deputy Minister George Daley issued a release concerning the closure, which is in collaboration with Public Health.
"They're looking at alternate ways to have education materials available to students at home,” said Higgs, who notes officials are working to deliver education outside of school. “I know they're working on those programs."
Case numbers remain the same
New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, also announced that New Brunswick’s number of COVID-19 cases, both confirmed and presumptive, remains at 11.
Blood donation needed
Russell encouraged New Brunswickers to continue to donate blood, stressing it is even more critical during a pandemic. Russell said provisions would be made for residents to donate blood safely.
“We can get through this by looking out for each other, but we must remember to look after ourselves,” said Russell. “I know we are all learning.”
However, Russell said the situation is only in its beginning stages.
“We are in this for the long-haul – we are in this together,” she said.
Russell announced more resources are being added to 811 to help relieve the stressed-out system.
Russell added 13 COVID-19 testing clinics are being opened in New Brunswick, noting she believes the number of the positive tests in the province will most likely increase with increased testing.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs was present at the conference and spoke on matters concerning workers and services in the province. He thanked essential service workers who continue to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also urged residents to continue social distancing.
“Right now, across this province, people are working hard to ensure that our lives function in as normal a manner as is possible,” said Higgs. “I want to take a moment to thank all of these dedicated workers on behalf of all New Brunswickers. It is not easy to go to work when many are being told to stay home. I appreciate that you continue to do so.”
Higgs made multiple announcements concerning services in the province, including NB Liquor and Cannabis NB outlets, which will reduce hours beginning Monday and operate from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m to allow cleaning staff time to properly clean stores.
A government release says employers and employees have responsibilities under the state of emergency, highlighting the importance of health and safety at work during the pandemic.
- Take precautionary measures to reduce the level of exposure
- Practice good workplace hygiene
- Allow workers to work remotely if possible.
In addition to the recommendations put in place, Public Health is preparing a questionnaire employers can use to screen workers, customers and other members of the public before they enter. Anyone with questions or concerns about employers who are not complying with these recommendations can contact WorkSafeNB.
WorkSafeNB is also waiving premiums for businesses for three months.
Business property taxes
Higgs made mention that business property taxes must be paid by May 31. Late penalties will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they can be waived due to undue financial challenges, such as having to close a business due to COVID-19.
In a press release, the New Brunswick government says it will be providing an interest-free moratorium in addition to the federal government's six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada student loans.
Residents returning from other countries are still being urged to self-isolate for 14 days. If returning by air, they:
- Should arrange to have a family member drop off a vehicle at the airport if possible.
- Should not go to the grocery store when they return, but instead arrange to have someone pick up groceries before they arrive home – and continue to do so during the 14 days of isolation.
“Declaring a state of emergency in our province wasn’t a decision we took lightly, but it was a necessary step to ensure all New Brunswickers understood just how serious this situation is,” said Higgs. “
Meanwhile, as restrictions become tighter along the international border, Higgs addressed the issue of travel across provincial boundaries.
"We will restrict that if we sit that necessary,” said Higgs. “But I would encourage that to be a country-wide imposition on citizens, so we collectively agree we need to maintain the situation and control it within our own borders.”