Workers face threats both at work – in an area where executives declared a state of emergency last week due to soaring COVID-19 rates – and at home, with a family telling CBC News they’re running out of steam with the stigma. One in 10 tests come back positive across Alberta as the province battles a mix of virus variants and a record number of cases. These same variants are entering Newfoundland and Labrador from hot spots across Canada, largely contained, for now, by two-week isolation requirements on entry.
But as the number of cases in Newfoundland rises, a woman from the Northern Peninsula says the spotlight on her family has turned to severe dazzling.
“It just gets worse and worse over time, because every case that happens in our province is travel related,” the woman told CBC News in a telephone interview.
CBC agreed to protect her identity after the family raised concerns about the potential negative consequences of public speaking.
“There is no peace. All eyes are on us, ”she said. “We are being judged all the time. We are constantly monitored.
“Even walking out our door or driving around in modified isolation” leads to finger pointing, she said.
“A lot of people don’t understand the rules. “
The woman’s husband, who works two weeks in Fort McMurray before returning home, remains in isolation while on leave. Still, the family told CBC News they have been reported twice when the rotary worker was seen in his vehicle dropping his partner off to run errands.
Both times, she said, the family acted under the province’s amended isolation rules for shift workers.
“Even when we can go out in public, we tend to stay home anyway,” she said.
“We don’t even really want to go out in public because that’s where we think the biggest risk is for us right now. “
‘I’m happy to be local’
Adam Janes moved from Newfoundland to Fort McMurray seven years ago. As infection rates soar around him, he is monitoring the situation at home, with a low number of coronavirus cases, wistfully.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘jealous’,” Janes said wistfully.
Despite being homesick, he would not swap places with his rotating colleagues, often forced to separate from loved ones in their free time.
“It’s a tough situation,” Janes said, noting that he was happy to be able to come home every night with his girlfriend and dog, which his colleagues can’t do. “I don’t think I could do what they are doing. “
Janes, a field mechanic for United Rentals, describes a pressure cooker for the spread of the virus in oil sands labor camps – despite the prevalence, he says, of people playing by the rules.
“You have a massive turnover of people coming from all over the country every day,” he said. Residents and workers wear masks and keep their distance, but this is not always possible at work, he said.
“The epidemics have more to do with the camps and the people working there nearby,” he explained, rather than with people breaking the rules when they are not on the clock.
“You can minimize as much as you can. The work still needs to be done. You can’t just shut down the plant. “
As the virus spreads, the pressure increases
Vincent McDermott, editor of Fort McMurray Today, says the region leads Alberta in cases per capita. But as the virus rips through job sites, it becomes harder and harder to track.
More than 2,000 oil sands workers, according to McDermott, have been infected in the latest round of outbreaks.
Isolation was already pushing these workers to their breaking point. “The fear of catching COVID at work only adds to it,” McDermott said.
The family from the Northern Peninsula would agree. Going for a walk, the woman said, seems impossible these days.
“Basic things that make a person healthy [are] “We are becoming more and more mentally unhealthy, as a family, because of all of this. “
She watches her husband withdraw, battered by competing pressures to fend off both the virus and public criticism.
She talks desperately about the deployment and effectiveness of vaccines. It’s not clear these photos will change anything for their household, she said. These days, her husband’s identity as a rotary worker is consuming their lives.
“From the outset, most of the responsibility and accountability for the transmission of COVID has been placed on their backs,” she said.
“Overall, it was difficult to be treated so differently. “
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