At the stroke of midnight, New Brunswick entered what it calls the Green level of COVID alert, the final reopening phase for the province. Starting Friday, July 30, there are simply no more pandemic restrictions in the province.
Going Green means masks are no longer required in public, period. There are no more checkpoints or registration requirements for people entering New Brunswick from anywhere. Physical distancing and gathering limits are over. Restaurants, stores and theatres don’t have capacity caps.
“We have surpassed our goal of 75 percent of the eligible population with their first vaccine and are now at 81 percent,” New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgs said on July 23 when he announced the end of the government’s mandated restrictions. “With our experiences of the past 17 months, low case numbers and climbing vaccination rates, we believe we are safe to take this next step and learn to live with COVID-19 without the mandatory order.”
It must have slipped Higgs’ mind that his province’s “path to opening” plan says the move to Green can happen “as long as 75 per cent of New Brunswickers 12 and older have received their second dose of a vaccine” (emphasis added). This holiday weekend marks New Brunswick Day in Nova Scotia’s neighbour province, however, so Higgs was probably too excited about the celebration to be fussy about whether people have one dose of vaccine or two.
“There is no right way to do this. Everyone must do what feels best for them while remaining safe.”
—NB premier Blaine Higgs
For Nova Scotians who might be fussy about how COVID is being handled on the other side of the border, New Brunswick’s flexible vaccination target is one concern. Another is the whole notion of skewing the statistics by only looking at an “eligible population” of people who can get vaccinated.
On Thursday, NB reported that 66.1 percent of its population aged 12 and up is fully vaccinated with two doses of vaccine. How much of the whole population is that, including children too young for a jab under current Health Canada rules?
According to the latest Statistics Canada Census data, out of New Brunswick’s 2016 population of nearly 750,000 people, more than 110,000 of them are aged 14 or younger. Doing an average on the segment StatsCan reports from age 10 through 14, we can guesstimate that almost 88,000 New Brunswickers are under the age of 12, and therefore left out of the province’s vaccination calculations. If they are included, New Brunswick’s vaccination rate drops to 58.2 percent of its entire population fully vaccinated with two doses.
But hey, it’s New Brunswick Day weekend in New Brunswick, and now there aren't any COVID rules to mess that up. “There is no right way to do this,” Higgs said July 23. “Everyone must do what feels best for them while remaining safe.”
In Nova Scotia, chief medical officer of health Robert Strang took pains months ago to clue people into the difference between the whole population and the eligible population. And he made clear that the vaccination target applies to everyone. “If you focus on just 75 percent of those who are eligible,” Strang said in the middle of May, “that means you’re down to just about 60 percent only of the entire population, which in my mind is not sufficient.”
Nova Scotia’s vaccination numbers released Thursday revealed that 61.3 percent of the entire population is fully vaccinated with two doses, three points higher than New Brunswick, and still NS isn’t budging from Phase 4 of reopening. “At this time, we don’t anticipate any changes to Nova Scotia’s restrictions as a result of New Brunswick lifting its restrictions at the end of July,” said Marla McInnis, media relations advisor for NS, in an email to The Coast.
Strang has repeatedly said that Nova Scotia won’t reach Phase 5 until 75 percent of the entire population is fully vaccinated—likely the end of August or early September. By the way, using the same calculations as above on Nova Scotia’s Census data, right now 74.7 percent of Nova Scotia’s vaccine-eligible population of people aged 12 and up is fully vaccinated with both doses.