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Photos depict large gathering, N.B. top doctor warns of becoming COVID ‘complacent’

New Brunswick’s top doctor warned about COVID fatigue
WATCH: Dr. Jennifer Russell warned people about COVID fatigue after a weekend party took place, which is a real concern as case numbers stay low and people become complacent. Callum Smith has more.

Public health concerns are being raised after a large number of people attended an annual beach gathering near Miramichi, N.B., over the holiday weekend. The province’s premier says charges could be possible, and are even “probable” if similar events continue.

People docked boats together on Bay du Vin Island for a weekend party.

The province is still in the yellow phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan which limits outdoor gatherings in “uncontrolled venues” to 50 people with physical distancing.

Photos and video shared to social media show a lack of physical distancing and a crowd of many more than 50.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, says she believes “people quite a bit” from public health measures imposed back in March, so people are craving a return to normal.

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Read more: 4 new coronavirus cases reported in New Brunswick Wednesday

“But I think at the same time, balancing all those types of interactions in terms of the risk that they carry is important to continue to keep in mind,” she tells Global News. “I think people can become a bit complacent and relaxed because we don’t have a large number of cases right now.”

Russell says we only have to look at places such as Melbourne, Australia, which had to reimpose public health measures to deal with a new outbreak.

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When asked about the incident Wednesday, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said charges are possible.

“Could they be charged? Would they be charged in the future?” he told reporters. “Yes, it is definitely possible, it is certainly probable if this continues.

“We need people to realize, yes, it’s hot, and yes I’d like to be with a whole group and all be together,” he added. “But if I don’t normally see this group and they’re not in my bubble, we need to rethink that, can we have that discussion six feet apart?”

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A statement from the Miramichi Recreation Council says: “The Bay du Vin Summer Survival Festival is not associated with the boat gatherings. This is not an event of our festival. The gathering of boats is not organized by anyone, it just happens. The festival was cancelled this year. Therefore we would not be able comment further on this event.”

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A New Brunswick RCMP spokesperson tells Global News they were informed this year’s festival was cancelled, so they focused their patrols elsewhere.

“Further, there were no official complaints made to the police about anything going on in Bay du Vin or anything boat-related going in Bay du Vin over the long weekend,” says Const. Hans Ouellette.

Arika McLean, a Miramichi woman, says seeing photos and videos online were disturbing. Her mother, Peggy, is undergoing treatment for triple-negative breast cancer.

Read more: Melbourne declares disaster, enforces curfew as coronavirus cases spike

 

“It seems like not that long ago that everybody was outraged when they saw all the gatherings in Florida back in March,” she says.

Dr. Russell reiterated that we’re going to be living with the virus for a long time — at least until there’s a vaccine — and she hopes people can be responsible to try to keep the province in the yellow phase of the recovery.

That’s why McLean can’t believe people appear to not be following public health guidelines.

“When business owners are going to this event, I now can’t go to their business because they went to this gathering that puts not just me, but my family at risk,” she says. “It affects my mom because if we have to go into shutdown, her treatment is going to get postponed.”

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McLean says it’s important to think of others, especially seniors and people who are immunocompromised.