N.L.’s chief medical officer of health says the province is not ready to make the kind of changes announced in Alberta, where almost all COVID-19 restrictions will be relaxed in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced that as of mid-August, residents who test positive for COVID will no longer have to isolate.
Many testing and contact tracing requirements will also be eased, with contact tracers no longer notifying close contacts of a COVID-19 exposure and concluding testing for minor cases.
In N.L. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said that whereas she is not surprised some other regions are making changes, the territory is not ready to follow suit.
“We’ve certainly been talking about how we move from pandemic COVID to what we call ‘endemic COVID’, so COVID that’s with us all the time [and] that’s living with us,” Fitzgerald said Thursday. “But, you know, we have our own case and contact management, which we’re following for right now.”
With several rotational workers often traveling between Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, the chief medical officer said she believes the changes will not change the risk of permitting travelers from Alberta to enter N.L.
“For us at the moment, we’re still testing anyone who is partially vaccinated before they come in here, and we’re also testing anyone who is unvaccinated. So we feel that those safeguards are still in place,” Fitzgerald said.
She said more N.L. residents will need to be inoculated before the region will ease restrictions like Alberta is doing.
“We’re looking for a little higher vaccination rate, but definitely those conversations have to happen and that transition has to happen,” Fitzgerald added. “There is going to come a point when we have to deal with COVID as it comes. “We will be looking at things like that as time goes on. It’s evolving, and we will be looking at the science.”
Due to the changes in Alberta, that region’s COVID-19 protocols will be same to protocol surrounding the flu or other communicable diseases.
Low case numbers since reopening a good sign, Fitzgerald
With no new cases reported in the region since July 18, she said public health is still aiming for the middle of August as a time to review the compulsory mask mandate, but are still watching the rest of Canada closely.
The drop in provincial case numbers is additionally a welcome surprise, as per Fitzgerald, who says vaccination rates are higher than expected, and case numbers following reopening are lower than expected.
“We didn’t anticipate being able to get people vaccinated as quickly as they have, which is wonderful. I’m really happy to be able to say that,” she said. “I think we’re all quite pleasantly surprised to date with the number of cases associated with travel.”
Asked about how the region can help calm people’s anxieties moving through the next phase of the reopening plan, Fitzgerald reiterated the importance of making the choice to be inoculated.
“If we can get 80 per cent of our [eligible] population doubly vaccinated, that’s a really good protective measure,” Fitzgerald said. “Ideally we’d like to have even higher than that. We’d like to have 80 per cent of the total population.”
As per a news release Thursday afternoon, she will speak to the media at 2 p.m. Friday
“to discuss the move to step two of the reopening plan.”