Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting 3 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, all in the Eastern Health region and close contacts of former cases.
In total, the province’s tally now stands at 84, as 6 people have recovered in the last 24 hours. N. L’s total number of COVID-19 cases since last March is now 1,009.
Three persons are in hospital, all in ICU.
There have now been 116,238 individuals tested for the coronavirus in N.L, including 760 on the previous day.
This past week, the Department of Health started testing anyone who wants one, whether they have symptoms of the disease or not, to try to find any pockets of the disease that might have been discovered yet. Of the 20,000 plus persons who have been tested since Friday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said around 1,600 tests were of people who were asymptomatic.
Fitzgerlad said whereas public health officials have not been able to determine the origin of a case announced March 2 in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region, they believe there has been no further spread of the coronavirus.
Healthcare staff at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony on the Northern Peninsula tested positive. The Health Department established a drive-thru testing facility, and no additional cases have been discovered in the area.
“Sometimes as hard as we try, we cannot find the answers we are looking for,” she said.
Alert Level announcement coming Friday
Fitzegerald said N.L would be ready to make an announcement Friday about potentially moving out of Alert Level 5 of the region’s tiered system of public health restrictions.
Whereas Fitzgerald moved the province from Level 2 all the way to Level 5 when coronavirus variant B117 was found in February, she said it is unlikely the Health Department will skip levels as it lifts restrictions.
“The whole point of this and what we’ve heard in other areas is that you need to reopen slowly,” she said. “As people move about more, as people are busy doing things, we need to make sure we take it slowly so if we start to see a resurgence, it’s not as intense as what we saw initially.”
With the more contagious B117 variant in N.L, Fitzgerald said it is unlikely the territory will soon be capable of returning to having the same size gatherings or taking part in group sports in the same way before moving back to Level 5 in February.
“We have to consider that sports teams, in particular, are a way that [spread] can happen,” she said. “The risk is different now. The risk is not the same as what it was before. The variants of concern, it’s like dealing with a different virus.”
But, she said there’s hope in the near future.
“I think we just need to hold on for a little bit longer, and we all need to think about things a little bit differently going forward.”
Going back to the bubble?
On the weekend, the premier of Prince Edward Island said he hopes the Atlantic bubble will return in place by April. During Monday’s update, Newfound and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said the region would “evaluate the evidence as it evolves” before making a decision on rejoining a regional bubble.
“Our primary focus right now is containing the outbreak that occurred … and to get our own house in order first before considering looking at expanding our involvement in the Atlantic bubble. But it’s certainly something that we’re interested in pursuing,” he said.
He added that he spoken with premiers from across the region in the last few days but added it’s premature to pledge to a date to restart the bubble.
When asked why while daily case numbers are dropping and voting still going on in the provincial election, Furey and Health Minister John Haggie are still attending the COVID-19 briefings, he said a caretaker leadership has to respond to a crisis, and he said N.L’s circumstances are similar to how things were a few weeks ago.
“This was a crisis in the middle of an election. That’s why I’m still here,” Furey said.
After he called the election in January, Furey, and Haggie, as Liberal candidates in the campaign, stopped attending briefings, they returned on February 8, when the province recorded 11 new cases, at the time, the largest single-day rise in over 10 months.
Sometime last month, N.L’s active total number of cases was 298 and still increasing, with a seven-day average of about 40 new cases per day.
As of Monday, Newfoundland and Labrador’s seven-day average is just below 3 new cases per day, with the caseload steadily declining as recoveries surpass new cases over the last 2 weeks.
The N.L Health Department warned the public on Monday about a scam involving the coronavirus vaccine, with callers asking persons to pay for both pre-registration and their vaccine.
During the Monday briefing, Fitzgerald made it clear that both pre-registration and vaccinations are free and that public health will not make calls or leave messages about vaccines.
“This is a scam,” she said. “Anyone who receives a suspicious telephone call or message should immediately report it to the nearest police detachment.”