Anti-Mask Premier Continues to Harm New Brunswickers
This Monday, March 14th most workers in New Brunswick will lose one of the most effective mechanisms they have had to keep themselves and their families safe: mask mandates.
For the second time in less than a year, our anti-mask Premier, Blaine Higgs, is lifting mask mandates prematurely, leaving thousands of New Brunswick workers and their families vulnerable, just as another wave of Coronavirus begins to spread.
The NB NDP does not take as inevitable that all New Brunswickers will ‘eventually’ get COVID-19. It is premature to think we can “live with COVID” the way we lived in 2019. COVID is not the flu. It is far more transmissible and remains far more severe.
There are still far too many things about COVID-19 that we do not know. But one thing we do know is that in addition to the risks of death and hospitalization, which vaccination has helped to reduce substantially, COVID-19 also leads to long-term symptoms that reduce the daily quality of life and ability to work of about 10% of cases.
While vaccines do reduce the risks of long-term symptoms, those risks remain very high. Even people with mild infections still develop Long-COVID.
In addition to the impact Long-COVID has on the lives of those affected, already numbering at least 356 people in New Brunswick and very likely to climb, the NB NDP is also aware of the risks this poses to our public health system over the long-term, as well as our labour force.
Our health care system is already underfunded, and our health care workers overworked. As a province with a severe doctor shortage that this government has singularly failed to address, we believe our government should be taking measures that reduce the number of new patients with multiple complications consistent with those associated with Long-COVID.
We are also concerned about our workforce, which we need to care for our elderly and sick, and to build new housing, which we desperately need. Our province’s continued growth will depend on its workers. Rather than exposing them to unnecessary risks, the province should be taking measures to protect their health and safety—goals that this government also has consistently not taken seriously.
New Brunswick has just passed through the deadliest two months of the pandemic—as have many other Canadian provinces. Premier Higgs’s decision last August to ignore New Brunswick’s public health advice on masking and to throw caution to the wind badly damaged New Brunswickers’ confidence in public health and the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
We need a government that will restore trust and tell New Brunswickers the truth about the risks we face. We are badly divided about the pandemic—in large part as the result of political decisions. Masking in indoor public areas is not a public health measure that should be politicized in the way it has been. Masking is an inexpensive, and effective way of protecting others. Why would we remove this measure at this time?
While there is reason for optimism and hope that we may be able to return to something like normal sooner rather than later, we are not yet at a phase where we can rely on self-responsibility alone to manage the risks of COVID transmission. We also need collective, public health measures.
In addition to leaving the mask mandate in place, we call on the provincial government to maintain and expand access to PCR testing, and improve daily reporting of new cases, so that individuals in our province’s 7 health zones can make informed decisions about the risk levels in their areas.
Like all New Brunswickers, we hope that this ordeal is coming to an end. But we urge caution as we continue to deal with Omicron outbreaks and uncertainty about Long COVID. We will get through this by looking out for one another.
Contact: Chris Thompson, NB NDP Communications Director
Tel: (506) 458-5828
Contact: Jennifer Stairs, NB NDP Executive Director
Tel: (506) 458-5828 Mob: (506) 326-9077
his together, by looking out for one another.