Nfld. & Labrador

Community spread confirmed as N.L. COVID-19 cases rise to 120

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says a second person who tested positive for COVID-19 has been hospitalized.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says 18 new cases have been confirmed

Premier Dwight Ball, left, and Dr. Janice Fitzgerald speaking during a COVID-19 briefing on March 21. The province is again stressing the importance of physical and social distancing. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

There are 18 new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to Dr. Janice Fitzgerald on Saturday, bringing the total number to 120 positive cases.

Of the new cases, 16 are in the Eastern Health region of the province. There is also one new case in the Central Health region, and one new case in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region.

In all, 1,927 people have been tested for the virus, with 1,807 testing negative. Four people in the province have recovered from the virus.

A second person who tested positive for COVID-19 has been hospitalized. Fitzgerald said one of those patients is being hospitalized at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony, but could not disclose whether either patient requires a ventilator.

Fitzgerald said most of those infected are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms.

'A significant development'

Fitzgerald said there are also now two known cases of community transmission: one in the Central Health region and one in Labrador-Grenfell Health. She said this is not a surprise, and she stressed staying indoors to limit the spread of the disease.

"This is a significant development," Fitzgerald said.

Health Minister John Haggie said the province has not considered restricting travel within the province as a result of community spread.

According to Premier Dwight Ball, Newfoundland and Labrador now has the second highest number of infiltrated cases per capita in Canada, second only to Quebec.

The province also sent a text message alert province Saturday afternoon, reminding people to stay inside to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The provincial government sent out a text message alert Saturday afternoon, asking travellers returning to Newfoundland and Labrador to self-isolate for 14 days and to not visit family or friends during this time. (Submitted by John Gushue)

"The responsibility is on us to help stop the spread," Ball said.

Ball said those who receive social assistance should expect pay on April 1. There are between 2,000 and 3,000 cheques ready to go into the mail. The province is working with Canada Post to make sure cheques go out.

The Town of Conception Bay South is following Fitzgerald's advice to stay inside, urging youth in the community to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

In a statement Saturday, the town said it has gotten reports that young people are parking cars next to each other in town parks and not following physical distancing measures.

"I'd like to echo what Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said recently, 'we all have the responsibility and the ability to lessen the impact that this virus has on our province by staying at home unless it's essential to go out,'" Mayor Terry French said in the statement.

"Simply put, adolescents should not be hanging out in a time like this — it's going against everything the provincial and federal governments are telling us."

Courthouses closing

In a release Saturday evening, the province's provincial court announced it will not be operating from its courthouses, effective Monday.

The court said judges and most staff will work from home "using technology-based applications and telecommunications." 

Court services may still be accessed by law enforcement and other civilian authorities in some circumstances, including emergency family matters and emergency applications.

All other cases that are not called from March 30 to May 22 will be scheduled eight weeks from the date of the original scheduled appearance, or the next date thereafter.

From spirits to sanitizer

The NLC has shifted its bottling and blending facilities to make hand sanitizer instead. (CBC)

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation will shift its production away from spirits, focusing instead on making hand sanitizer.

Bruce Keating, president and CEO, said the NLC will produce more than 400,000 litres of hand sanitizer in the coming days and weeks to help health-care workers.

"We are repurposing our blending and bottling operations here to produce hand sanitizer for the province, so that we can get that into the medical, into the health-care system here," Keating said.

"And that's been a really interesting exercise. We produced our first hand sanitizer product last weekend."

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