Nfld. & Labrador

2 new cases of COVID-19, 2 more recoveries in N.L.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday — a woman over 70 years old who is a close contact of a case announced Tuesday, and a man in his 40s who returned to the province from work in Alberta. 

Province's caseload is now 307, with 9 active cases

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says there have been growing concerns from the public about the lack of social distancing space inside restaurants and bars. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday — a woman over 70 years old who is a close contact of a case announced Tuesday, and a man in his 40s who returned to the province from work in Alberta. 

In a media release the Department of Health said contact tracing is underway for both cases, which are in the Eastern Health region. The department also confirmed that a case reported Tuesday — the source of which was under investigation — was travel-related. That case is the close contact of the woman whose positive result is being announced today.

It's the fourth time in five days the province has reported two cases in a single day.

The province has also had two more recoveries since Tuesday's update. In total, 294 people have now recovered, with four deaths. The province's total caseload is now 307, with nine active cases.

During Wednesday's weekly COVID-19 briefing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said there have been concerns raised by the public about a lack of physical distancing inside some bars, restaurants and other public spaces.

Fitzgerald said education is the first step in trying to correct COVID-19 measures in establishments, which is the job of environmental health officers and liquor enforcement officers who will be visiting businesses where concerns have been raised.

Watch the full Nov. 18 update:

Fitzgerald also reiterated the province's recommendation against non-essential travel, noting that other provinces are experiencing a second wave of COVID-19.

With Nova Scotia recently reporting an instance of community spread of the virus, said Fitzgerald, people travelling to Newfoundland and Labrador from there should self-monitor for symptoms and call 811 for testing if symptoms develop.

"By now we know with sacrifice and a little creativity we can still find ways to connect with the ones we love during the holiday season," she said. 

"Another wave will only slow our progress and set us back. But if we continue to be mindful and vigilant I believe we can hold it off. We just need to hold on a little bit longer. The end is really in sight."

Since Tuesday, 359 people have been tested for the virus across the province, bringing the total number of people tested since March to 57,510.

Rotational workers have initially tested negative: Haggie

Newfoundland and Labrador relaxed its rules for rotational workers in September, and announced Nov. 2 that the shortened quarantine period did not result in any community transition.

Rotational workers receive a COVID-19 swab on Day 5 of their isolation period. If they receive a negative result, then they may leave isolation on Day 7.

However, Haggie confirmed to CBC's Newfoundland Morning on Wednesday that the province has had cases where a person has initially tested negative for the virus, then developed symptoms and tested positive later in the mandatory two-week isolation period.

Some of those cases include rotational workers, he said.

"My understanding is that there have been a couple who have gone on to develop symptoms and acquire a positive test within that 14-day window," he said Wednesday.

"We've seen people who develop symptoms fairly late, and some of those have had a negative test earlier on."

Fitzgerald said public health officials are examining the process of essential workers and essential health-care workers coming into the province, but recommendations have not been finalized.

Health Minister John Haggie said the province has had cases where a person has initially tested negative for the virus, but later developed symptoms and tested positive during mandatory two-week isolation period. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Asked about point-of-entry testing for workers coming into the province, Fitzgerald said it comes with logistical challenges, and is "not the be all and end all" for coronavirus protection.

"Point-of-entry testing is not something we can use for everybody," she said, adding that if someone tests negative, there's still a risk of them developing symptoms and testing positive later.

"We know that certainly can happen, and jurisdictions that have implemented this process in the past have found that that is indeed the case.

"We want to be sure that any policy we bring in with regard to testing is done based on evidence that will provide us with the best information that it can," she said.

How vaccine distribution will work

Two pharmaceutical companies — Pfizer and Moderna — are working through trial periods of their vaccines, with preliminary data showing over 90 per cent effectiveness in both their products.

Fitzgerald said how many doses Newfoundland and Labrador will get depends on decision-making at the federal level.

"We really can't talk about those numbers at this point," she said. 

Haggie said health ministers in the Atlantic provinces want their share, noting at one point there was a suggestion the federal government channel vaccinations to COVID-19 hot spots around the country. 

"We felt that at least a population allocation had to be made," said Haggie. "Regardless of numbers of cases, we should get that allocation."  

Fitzgerald said there are no finalized plans for distribution yet, but discussions are ongoing at all levels of government, and said the province has a well-established vaccine-distribution to lean on.

"This is the topic of discussion everywhere. When we have more information we'll be able to share that," Fitzgerald said.

Record flu shots

One-third of the province has already received a flu vaccine, Haggie also said Wednesday.

So far 166,689 people, or 32 per cent of the population, have had the shot. Another 50,000 appointments are booked, he said.

If those vaccines are completed in the next 30 days, it'll be a record for the province, with nearly half the population inoculated.

Officials have set a lofty goal this season, aiming for an 80 per cent vaccination rate to keep pressure on hospitals to a minimum.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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