Nfld. & Labrador

3 new COVID-19 cases in N.L, bringing total to 9

At Sunday's media briefing, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald implored the public to take social distancing rules seriously.

Patient with COVID-19 visited Caul's Funeral Home in St. John's

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald speaks at a provincial briefing on COVID-19 on March 21. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador Sunday.

All three new cases are in the Eastern Health region. Two of the cases are related to international travel.

That brings the total number of cases in the province to nine, with five cases presumed positive in the last two days.

Some 970 people have now been tested in the province, with 961 of those cases being negative.

Fitzgerald said she expects to see more cases of COVID-19 soon, adding "[I] wouldn't be surprised if it's double digits in near future."

"We are at the beginning of this in Newfoundland and Labrador," Fitzgerald said.

Health Minister John Haggie said rules surrounding COVID-19 could continue into the coming months, saying some rules could stay in effect until July.

According to Premier Dwight Ball, the House of Assembly will meet next Thursday to bring forward a loan bill to ask for financial assistance from the federal government.

Ball added the province will "not hesitate" to escalate the public health emergency currently in place, if necessary.

Individual with COVID-19 attended funerals

Caul's Funeral Home says it was contacted by the department of health and told that a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 attended two funerals at its Lemarchant Road location between March 15 and March 17. (Google Maps)

Caul's Funeral Home is asking those who attended two events at their LeMarchant Road location in St. John's to self-isolate.

Manager John Anderson says he heard rumours that an infected person may have attended a funeral. Anderson reached out to Eastern Health for more information. 

The funeral home said in a statement it was contacted by the department of health at around 1:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon, saying an individual who attended visitations and/or funerals for Shannon Fleming and Edward Tobin had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Specific details of the individual's visit is unknown at this time, although the visit was at some point between March 15 and March 17. Anderson said he's decided to close the funeral home for 36 to 48 hours as a precaution to make sure staff are healthy and will reassess from there. 

John Anderson, the manager of Caul's Funeral Home in St. John's, says his funeral homes haven't closed like this before, even during January's historic blizzard. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Many visitors to the home haven't been practicing social distancing, Anderson said, despite signs posted through the building.

"People are emotional … people are upset and they're going to be hugging and kissing and consoling each other," he said.

"Even if you know you're not supposed to do it, next thing you know, you're doing it."

Anderson said there will be no public visitations or public funerals for the time being, with the possibility of no funerals at all.

"It's a hard pill to swallow," he said.

Cut out the house parties: Fitzgerald

A cornerstone of Newfoundland and Labrador culture is in the sights of the province's health authorities, with pleas made this week to cancel house parties. 

Bars were ordered to close March 18 during the declaration of a public health emergency. 

But despite warnings to maintain social distancing and avoid crowded situations where one person might cough or sneeze on someone else, there have been plenty of anecdotal reports of house parties continuing. 

I implore everyone to take these rules seriously.- Dr. Janice Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald was blunt in a warning during a briefing on Saturday at Confederation Building. 

"I implore everyone to take these rules seriously," Fitzgerald said.

"Please do not have guests to your home, do not have dinner parties, please minimize your running around to do errands, please work from home if you can."

On Wednesday, Haggie said the province will levy penalties, if necessary, as part of the provincial public health emergency. 

Individuals face a fine between $500 to $2,500 or a prison sentence of less than six months, or a combination of the two.

Corporations can face fines of $5,000 and $50,000 and directors would be held personally liable and susceptible to individual fines. Fines and penalties will multiply after the first instance.

No state of emergency for Howley

Yesterday, Wayne Bennett, mayor of Howley in western Newfoundland, called an emergency meeting between himself and the town's three person emergency council committee in response to the disregard for COVID-19 precautions he's seen from some of the town's inhabitants.

Howley Mayor Wayne Bennett says the town has delayed declaring a state of emergency in the community after seeing new rules around COVID-19 from the provincial government. (CBC)

Prior to the meeting, Bennett was strongly advocating for declaring the state of emergency.

However, after seeing the provincial government's new measures for reporting on individuals not following public health recommendations, the committee decided to delay the decision and did not declare a state of emergency.

"There was an agreement that we try that process first, file that application and if nothing changes, behaviour continues … we would then have to seriously consider a state of emergency, " Bennett said.

Support for child care sector announced

In a release Sunday morning, the provincial government announced financial support for child care centres impacted by COVID-19.

Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Warr said the government will provide funding for regulated and family child care centres at child care subsidy program rates. The assistance will be in place until April 30, and will be reassessed if businesses are still closed by the end of April.

"We understand this past week has been a difficult one for families, early childhood educators and child care service providers," the minister said in the release.

"We have been listening and these measures will provide financial support that is needed as we all continue to work through this rapidly changing and unprecedented situation."

Education Minister Brian Warr says there will be funding for regulated and family child care centres. (House of Assembly)

Warr also said a process to identify the needs of parents and child care providers is also underway and more details about funding will be released in the coming days.

In the daily briefing Sunday, Premier Ball also announced support for those paying student loans in the province. Effective March 30, the province will suspend the provincial portion of student loan payments. The suspension will be in effect until September 30.

Public access to provincial courts will be restricted, effective Monday. The main doors of courthouses will be locked, with local contact information posted, and urgent matters will be processed as possible.

Service NL announced changes to motor registration in the province as a result of COVID-19. As of Sunday, counter service at all government service centres is suspended across the province.

All written and practical driving exams have also been suspended until further notice.

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