N.B. top doc expects coronavirus ‘risk will be higher’ in the fall

File - Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, says we need to remain vigilant with COVID-19 despite low case numbers. Callum Smith / Global News

With borders still open to essential travel, the risk from the coronavirus will always be with us, at least until there’s a vaccine, says New Brunswick’s top doctor.

Essential travellers, such as truckers and people working in border communities, have been required to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, but not self-isolate.

“Because that is happening right now, the risk will always be there,” says Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health. “I think the risk will be higher as we move into the fall with respect to if there are changes in our borders with the rest of Canada, kids going back to school, youth going back to university.”

“I can understand if our numbers are low, then people have less of a fear about the negative impacts of another wave,” she says in an interview with Global News.

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But Russell says we need to be very cautious about how we respond to eased measures.

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

She points to Melbourne, Australia, which had to reimpose lockdown measures, even a nighttime curfew, due to a resurgence of the virus.

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Russell says that while it’s challenging, keeping your number of close contacts to a minimum — meaning people you’re with indoors, within six feet, without a mask — is extremely important.

“It is difficult, I’m not saying this is easy,” she says.

“Even our family and friends bubbles, when we expanded our bubble outside of two family households, the intent was for people to sort of choose a group of people that they would interact with exclusively, which is hard to do, there’s no question.”

Modelling and behind-the-scenes work is always ongoing, and the ideal scenario, Russell says, is to have small outbreaks that are short-lived and contained as much as possible. That’s because she says the ultimate goal is to stay in the “yellow” phase of reopening, but that’s up to New Brunswickers.

Read more: Young adults given new warnings as coronavirus cases spike across Canada

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“To be able to keep society open to prevent people from having negative impacts from the mental health effects from the isolation and not being able to be in touch with family and friends in person, and also keeping the economy open,” she says. “We know that balance will be critical until we get a vaccine.”

Russell says New Brunswickers need to do a better job of wearing masks in public spaces and during private events or gatherings.

On the streets in Moncton, some people Global News spoke to agree the caution needs to be there, despite the tendency to “let your guard down.”

“That’s just human nature to be complacent after a while. It’s a comfort zone, so day after day, week after week, obviously you’re going to let your guard down a little tiny bit,” says Chris Trueman. “I mean, for the most part, I still see people in the grocery store following the lines on the floor and being respectful that way.”

“It’s a pretty good idea to think that there will be a second wave,” says local Bernard Fournier. “I think we just need to be prepared for it.”

“We’re kind of gerbils in this because of our circumstances, whether it’s luck or whether it’s out diligence in planning,” says resident Jonathan Chin.

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