MADAWASKA, Maine — New Brunswick should never have lifted COVID-19 public safety measures, one of the province’s top infectious disease specialists said in a news conference Friday.

Two months after provincial officials eased mask mandates and other pandemic safety restrictions in New Brunswick on July 30, the province re-established a state of emergency at 11:59 p.m. on Friday.

Looking back, lifting safety measures at all was a mistake, Horizon Health infectious disease expert Dr. Gordon Dow said.

“With the evidence of this rapid increase in delta virus in the province, [health experts] would all agree that was not the right decision to make. But that’s in retrospect,” Dow said. “Many other jurisdictions made the very same mistake. Alberta made the mistake … Saskatchewan made the mistake. The United States made the mistake. The UK made the mistake.”

In the past several weeks, COVID-19 cases have soared to all-time highs in New Brunswick. Despite a vaccination rate nearing 80 percent, on Friday there were 573 active cases and 31 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

The increased safety protocols that were implemented are in addition to an existing mask mandate on all indoor spaces, and vaccination requirements to access certain businesses and events.

The measures place a 20-person limit on private indoor gatherings and require churches and other houses of worship either to mandate vaccination or operate at 50 percent capacity. Businesses where people gather — for example, museums, gyms and live entertainment venues — are now required to prove that all employees are vaccinated and masked at all times during work.

The surge of the COVID-19 delta variant shocked the U.S. as well. Maine saw a record 224 COVID-19 hospitalizations Tuesday, and an all-time high of  88 COVID-19 patients in critical care on Wednesday. In Aroostook County, on the border of New Brunswick, COVID-19 case counts were higher than ever last month.

So far the U.S.-Canadian land border remains open for vaccinated U.S. citizens, but closed to travelers from Canada after the U.S. extended the closure of its land borders on Monday.

While U.S. travelers can still cross into Canada with a negative COVID-19 test and proof of vaccination, New Brunswick announced earlier this week that all travelers coming into the province from across the U.S. or provincial borders will need to register their travel ahead of time via email.

Hannah Catlin

Hannah Catlin is a reporter at the St. John Valley Times/Fiddlehead Focus in Madawaska, Maine.