Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. records first COVID-19 death, as 13 new cases bring total to 148

A man has died due to COVID-19, three days after being hospitalized.

Patient's condition deteriorated rapidly after being admitted to hospital

Health Minister John Haggie urged people to shop individually, and not together as a social experience. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador )

Latest

  • First death recorded attributed to COVID-19
  • Funerals, wakes, visitations banned
  • Burials, weddings now limited to no more than 5, including officiant
  • 75 per cent of positive tests linked to single cluster involving St. John's funeral home

Newfoundland and Labrador has 13 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, officials said Monday, with the province recording a grim statistic: the first death from the highly infectious disease. 

The patient — a retired man in the Eastern Health region — died Sunday, about three days after being hospitalized. Sources tell CBC News his condition deteriorated quickly.

His death came 15 days after the province recorded its first case of COVID-19. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Community Services confirmed Monday the death was related to COVID-19.

"We offer our most heartfelt condolences to the family at this difficult time," said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health. 

Fitzgerald said the individual was 78 years old, had underlying health issues and had been admitted to hospital from his home.

Watch the full March 30 update:

She also said that person's case is linked to the Caul's Funeral Home cluster, which now accounts for 111 cases, or 75 per cent of the province's positive tests. 

Fitzgerald said all 13 new cases are within the Eastern Health region.

The government also tightened rules under its public health emergency, including a ban on in-store purchases of lottery tickets, and banning funerals, visitations and wakes. 

Nine people in the province have been admitted to hospital, with two in intensive care as of Monday. Seven of those hospitalized cases are in the Eastern Health region, one is in Central Health and one is in Labrador-Grenfell. 

Fitzgerald said seven people have recovered from the virus.

As of Monday there have been 2,332 tests for the virus across the province. ​​​​​

  • 13 cases are under 20 years old.
  • 22 are between 20 and 39. 
  • 23 are between 40 and 49. 
  • 32 are between 50 and 59. 
  • 29 are between 60 and 69. 
  • 29 are 70 years old and above.

Fitzgerald said the number of new cases has dropped each day since Friday because cases are now further away from the Caul's cluster. She added only time will tell what the virus pattern will be. 

Health Minister John Haggie said now is not a time to be complacent.

"This is the time to stay the course," he said.

"Just because we've seen a dip in numbers doesn't mean to say it's the start of a new trend.… We are not out of the woods yet."

Haggie said between 200 and 300 test samples are submitted to the local public health lab each day, and the testing machine's capacity is at least 600. 

He added the province has not been advised of any bottlenecks by the public health laboratory in Eastern Health but the lab is working on increasing its testing capacity. 

"Those changes could be in place as early as the end of this week," he said.

Haggie also said that after three weeks of the provincial government's physical distancing recommendations and restrictions, he's worried there are still people who are not taking them seriously.

"This is really not a game. You need to stop looking for loopholes, ways to get around the recommendations and orders that our chief medical officer of health has put in place," he said.

This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. (NIAID-RML via Reuters)

The health minister said shopping can no longer be a family activity, and must be kept to essential items only.

"One person, one trip, each week. Don't take your children with you unless there is really no alternative," he said.

"It's not the time to be out test driving cars."

Premier Dwight Ball added travelling should only be done for essential items and out of necessity. 

"Don't just drive around to get out of your house," he said.

75 per cent of cases from funeral home

The Caul's cluster accounts for 75 per cent of the province's caseload, with 111 being traced back to a single wake.

"This is a solemn day for our province," Ball said Monday during the province's daily update. 

"As we see the first death of a resident of our province due to complications of COVID-19 virus, we have a family in our province who is grieving and impacted at the greatest extent of this virus."

Fitzgerald announced new measures to further prevent the spread of the virus. 

Funeral services, visitations and wakes are now prohibited. Burials and weddings are limited to no more than five people, including the officiant.

When asked if there was a way for people to use technology to spend final moments with loved ones, Haggie said he'd be open to the idea.

"I would actually have to check with the with the facilities across the province to see what the various states of readiness is," he said.

Retail stores that remain open to sell essential items have to stop selling lottery tickets, including scratch-offs and break-open tickets.

St. Anthony hospital staff tested

Labrador-Grenfell Health said a patient at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, and a small number of staff identified as having close contact with them.

The health authority said in a news release on Monday staff have been tested for the virus, are in quarantine and being monitored.

Mother Nature continues to hammer parts of the province with wet weather and high winds, adding an extra burden to health-care workers at the drive-thru testing centre in St. John's. However, Eastern Health says changes have been made to the site at St. Teresa's School on Mundy Pond Road in St. John's.

The original tent structure, which was opened March 21, was replaced by a new wooden structure to provide better protection from the weather, with automatic garage doors, said a statement from Eastern Health.

Fitzgerald also said people in self-isolation living in apartment complexes or condominiums are not permitted to use common spaces and must remain on their own property.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the second highest rate of infection per capita in Canada.

The death toll across the country has now risen to 67 nationwide, with the largest concentrations in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

This past weekend saw two significant developments.

The first instances of what's called community transmission were confirmed. On Saturday, Fitzgerald said the cases were in the Central Health region and the Labrador-Grenfell Health region. Community transmission refers to a case that public health staff cannot connect to another proven case.   

Fitzgerald said this development was expected, and stressed staying indoors to limit the spread of the disease.

(CBC News)

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Anthony Germain

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