Nfld. & Labrador

8 new positive COVID-19 tests announced as N.L. surpasses 200 cases

As the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador creeps up, the province’s health minister says a surge in cases is likely within the next few weeks.

7 new cases in Eastern Health, 1 in Labrador-Grenfell Health

Health Minister John Haggie says physical distancing will help to delay the peak of COVID-19 cases in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador/YouTube)

Newfoundland and Labrador has passed 200 cases of COVID-19, as eight new cases were announced Saturday.

According to chief medical officer of health Janice Fitzgerald, seven of the new cases are in the Eastern Health region. One new case is in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region: a person working at the Dr. Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony.

Of the 203 cases, 153 are related to what is called the "Caul's cluster," which involved exposure at Caul's Funeral Home in mid-March. 

Eleven people are in hospital, with three in intensive care, while 18 people have now recovered from the virus.

As of Saturday afternoon, 3,386 people have been tested for COVID-19, with 3,183 testing negative.

Fitzgerald reiterated that there are cases of community transmission in the province. Those cases are still under investigation.

Fitzgerald said the province is expanding COVID-19 testing to include vulnerable people, or those who work with vulnerable people, including health workers.

Premier Dwight Ball stressed that as the province crosses the 200-case mark, the peak of cases has not been seen yet.

"Prepare for a long journey. These are not days or weeks, these are months," Ball said.

Ball guaranteed public servants will not be laid off as as a result of COVID-19, and said laying off workers wouldn't make sense due to the financial crisis that will follow the global pandemic.

"For government to lay off a large number of public sector workers and put them on EI right now, [it] would actually make the financial crisis even worse. That's the estimate of where we are."

Suspending visitation for youth in care 'difficult,' Ball

During Saturday's media briefing, Ball addressed the decision made to suspend visitation for youth in care systems including foster parents. As a result of the suspension, some parents are unsure of when they will see their kids.

Ball said the decision was "difficult to make," but said the move was made for the safety of children and to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Physical distancing key in delaying spike of cases

Health Minister John Haggie says a surge in cases is likely within the next few weeks.

At Friday's briefing, Haggie said that while virus modelling is still at work on the federal and provincial level, the province is lagging behind the rest of mainland Canada.

He said if Newfoundland and Labrador has been successful in its physical distancing measures, the peak of positive cases will be delayed, reducing the strain on health facilities and front-line workers.

"If we haven't, the peak will come sooner, when we've had less time to prepare, and it will be significantly greater in terms of numbers," he said.

Haggie continued to stress the importance of physical distancing, saying a vaccine to prevent the virus is still months away at best.

"Our only option is the prevention of the transmission of this virus between individuals," Haggie said.

"Each day we waste now will cost us.… So for heaven's sake stay in your bubble, stay home."

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