With COVID-19 cases climbing again in Moncton, N.B., so are stress levels

With 39 COVID-19 cases announced over the last four reporting days in New Brunswick, businesses are on edge, and some question what the “green phase” really looks like.

As of Tuesday evening, there are 26 different potential public exposure notifications on the province’s website, with most in the Moncton region.

Some of that pressure comes from businesses now having to make some of their own policies, including requiring staff to mask up, despite the provincial mandate being lifted when the mandatory order was not renewed at midnight Friday.

“Every single small business owner in greater Moncton hasn’t slept since Friday, waiting for close contact calls for all of their staff, vaccinated or not,” says Robert Taylor, the owner of The Sandbar in Pointe-Du-Chêne and Five Bridges Bar & Grill in Riverview.

Robert Taylor, the owner of The Sandbar in Pointe-Du-Chêne, checks on customers Tuesday. He is worried about the pressures small businesses are facing, especially with the mandatory order now lifted, but some isolation requirements remaining.

Callum Smith / Global News

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell confirmed to Global News Tuesday close contacts to positive cases still need to isolate for 10 days, until a negative test is produced.

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“We absolutely are continuing with contact tracing,” she says. “And that will be how we will continue to approach COVID-19, we do close-contact isolation.”

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Bruce Macfarlane, a Public Health spokesperson, also told Global News late Tuesday afternoon positive “cases of uncomplicated illness” will require isolation, even if you’ve been fully vaccinated.

“In cases of uncomplicated illness, positive COVID-19 cases will now be asked to isolate for 10 days (previously, it was for 14), regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated,” Macfarlane wrote.

It’s not clear what defines an “uncomplicated illness.”

Jennifer Somers, the general manager of Cheers Beverage Room in Moncton, has been in contact with Public Health officials since a staff member tested positive. She’s proud of how her employees have handled the situation as more negative test results continue to be received.

Callum Smith / Global News

Especially with the provincial mask mandate lifted, Taylor, the restaurateur, is concerned if a staff member gets sick and had close contact with several other workers, that will effectively force them to close.

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“Green means to me, we’re sitting ducks just waiting for cases. It’s not if, it’s when,” he says. “We don’t have backup staff.”

“If you’re at risk, you’re vaccinated. I understand the risk is there, I’m not trying to have no empathy towards that, but the risk is always going to be there forever,” he says. “COVID is not going anywhere. So at what point do we begin to completely move on and go to ‘real green’ or are we in this limbo where we don’t really know where we’re at?”

At Cheers Beverage Room in Moncton, a staff member tested positive Sunday, says general manager Jennifer Somers.

That marked the first time the business was listed as a potential public exposure since the start of the pandemic.

So management closed it for cleaning and asked staff to get tested out of an abundance of caution, despite none of them being contacted by Public Health, she says.

“We morally didn’t want to stay open to infect anybody else, we wanted to keep this a safe space,” Somers tells Global News. “I feel like possibly masks should’ve been still a mandatory item when people are moving around in a space where they’re not familiar with people.”

It was a tough decision to lose revenue, but worth it, she says.

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Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business also acknowledges more on the plate of business owners.

“Now businesses are faced with the reality which is, they have to make up and decide the rules within their establishment,” says Louis-Philippe Gauthier, the senior director of legislative affairs for the Atlantic region.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, speaking with Global News Thursday in Moncton, said we should expect to see COVID-19 case counts rise with restrictions being removed.

Callum Smith / Global News

Gauthier is encouraging businesses to review a new WorkSafeNB document, helping to guide businesses and keep them safe.

He says when restrictions were loosened throughout the pandemic, revenues for businesses “started to bounce back.”

Dr. Russell has said cases will climb when restrictions are removed, but she expects vaccinated cases to not be hospitalized.

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“Unfortunately, the majority of cases since the beginning of July actually have been mostly people who are not fully vaccinated, so that is concerning,” she says. “My concern will increase if we start to see this become a burden on the health-care system.”

Currently, no one is hospitalized with the virus in New Brunswick and there are 44 active cases.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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