COVID-19 spike left students travelling for Thanksgiving in fear

    HoJin Jung, far left, said he was scared to be in the orange phase, so he isolated himself inside his house. (Submitted/HoJin Jung)

    HoJin Jung, a fourth-year St. Thomas University student, and his roommates were heading home to Moncton for Thanksgiving break when they thought about turning around.

    “We were following on CBC News and they were saying the outbreak was getting worse,” said Jung.

    He and roommates made the decision to keep driving to Moncton because of how important family is to them.

    “With all the schoolwork and remote learning, it’s a lot of stress on our mental health and I think being with family really helped us get through,” said Jung.

    He said he was scared to be in the orange phase, so he isolated himself inside his house since he knew he’d be returning to Fredericton after the break.

    The Moncton outbreak began at a special care home on Oct. 6. Campbellton reported the first school-related case on Oct. 9 since schools opened in September. The cases all happened before the weekend of family and food — Thanksgiving.

    Jeffrey Carleton, associate vice-president communications, said STU received word from the government that any student entering an orange zone for Thanksgiving would have to follow the guidelines of the orange zone.

    “With regards to the Thanksgiving weekend, it was driven primarily by the situations in Campbellton and Moncton and what potential impact it could have on our campus community,” said Carleton.

    Students returning from Campbellton or Moncton to residence had to self-monitor, not self-isolate, and follow public health guidelines, including mask-wearing.

    Both Zones 1 and 5 returned to the orange phase of the COVID-19 recovery plan on the Friday night of Thanksgiving weekend.

    As of Oct. 25, the total number of active cases in the province is 65, according to CBC.

    Hilary Foster, another fourth-year STU student, is from Riverview, New Brunswick. Foster said Riverview is right across the river from Moncton, so it also went back to the orange phase.

    She said going back to the orange phase was a disappointment.

    “We were used to being able to see mostly everyone we wanted and to move back to the two-household bubble was a little bit frustrating,” said Foster.

    She said she wasn’t afraid while in Riverview, but she was scared of possibly having to go to Moncton.

    Foster said she didn’t realize Moncton was going back to the orange phase until she was in Salisbury, 15 minutes from the city.

    She said if she knew about the orange phase, she wouldn’t have made the trip home. Foster works as a tutor in downtown Fredericton so after returning from Thanksgiving break, she had to put work on hold for two weeks.

    “I don’t get paid for two weeks when I’m relying on that money for rent and everything. It sucks in that way,” she said.

    Carleton said STU is concerned about events in the academic year like reading break in November followed by winter break.

    But those breaks aren’t first on STU’s radar.

    “Our first concern is going to be Halloween,” said Carleton.

    He said public health and the provincial government are concerned about parties and large gatherings during the festivities. Carleton said STU will be communicating to students early this week explaining the expectations for students during Halloween.

    “Things that they can do to keep themselves safe, keep their classmates safe and clean [and] keep their fellow citizens safe.”