Nfld. & Labrador

No new cases of COVID-19 in N.L., 1 of 3 has been confirmed by national lab

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald would not speak on specifics when it comes to the establishment of testing or swabbing centres, saying the regional health authorities are working on those plans.

684 people have been tested in the province

Provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health Janice Fitzgerald says one of the three cases of COVID-19 in N.L. has been confirmed by the national lab in Winnipeg. The other two are presumptive. (CBC)

Latest

  • No new cases of COVID-19 in N.L. 1 confirmed positive by National Microbiology Lab
  • All K-9 students will pass for the year and advance to next grade
  • If self-isolating with no symptoms, you can go out for a walk
  • Vital for entire population to practice social distancing

There are no new cases of COVID-19 reported in Newfoundland and Labrador as of Thursday afternoon. 

One of the three presumptive positive cases has been confirmed by the national lab in Winnipeg, said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald in an update Thursday afternoon. 

So far, 684 people have been tested in the province, and 276 are in self-isolation. 

Fitzgerald told reporters that even with there being only three cases so far in the province — while many more are being treated for the common flu — the real concern with COVID-19 is that it's a new virus with no vaccine, no treatment and nobody is immune.

"The number of people who get severe disease from it is higher than the flu, and the number of people who die from it is significantly higher than the flu," she said.

"We want to avoid those two categories as much as possible, obviously."

Fitzgerald was asked multiple times about separate testing/swabbing centres. 

"Drive-thru models have been used in other jurisdictions and everything is under consideration at this time," she said.

When pressed specifically by a reporter that construction was already underway on at least one of these centres on Newfoundland's west coast, Fitzgerald said: "As soon as the regulatory health authorities are ready to go ahead with any type of assessment centre, I am confident the public will know."

She, once again, urged people to practise social distancing.

"We need to think about socializing in a new way," Fitzgerald said. Use social media and Skype loved ones, she suggested. 

Watch N.L.'s chief medical officer of health deliver Mar. 19 update

She added parents should try and lead by example navigating these new changes. 

"Many children may be feeling anxious and worried. We need to support them," Fitzgerald said. 

No play dates and no sleep overs, she cautioned.

Fitzgerald explained why it's urgent that people take COVID-19 seriously. Namely, because the virus is brand new. 

"None of us are immune to it. There is no vaccine for it. There is no treatment for it. And the number of people who get severe disease from it is higher than the flu and the number of people who die from it is significantly higher than the flu," she said Thursday.  

"That is why we are concerned about this and that is what we're trying to to get out ahead."

Act like it's already in your town, city: Haggie

While most things with COVID-19 are fluid and changing hour after hour, the province's health minister remains steadfast on one thing — he will not say where the presumptive cases of the pandemic virus are located.

John Haggie said he is not willing, and not permitted by law, to give any more information than has already been released.

A woman in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region was the first case, and then two members of her household were infected after she returned from a Caribbean cruise.

"If you then add a location and a community that may or may not have a population the size of Happy Valley, or it could be as small as Cartwright," Haggie said. "You know perfectly well that people are going to be identified and that is not permissible under the legislation I am bound by."

Instead of asking where the cases are, Haggie said people should act like it is already in their community and take precautions.

The Department of Health and Community Services has spoken about tuberculosis outbreaks before in Labrador communities and identified the location of the cases.

Haggie said that was only because the information was public knowledge, and they were repeating what was already known.

During an interview with CBC Newfoundland Morning on Thursday, Haggie was also asked about extending midwifery services to keep pregnant women out of hospitals.

The Department of Health and Community Services revived a midwifery program in the Gander region earlier in the winter, but Haggie said there are no plans to expand it beyond that region as of now. He said a pandemic is a time to focus resources where they are needed most, not expand new programs.

Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie says the government will not speak more about the location of presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 cases. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

He also addressed concerns over how the province will enforce regulations under the Public Health and Protection and Promotion Act, saying the decision to declare a health emergency doesn't mean they are going to round up those in violation of quarantine recommendations.

"Essentially at this stage, it was really meant to act as an exclamation point," Haggie said.

He said the provincial government has received many tips about people violating self-isolation recommendations, but many of them have amounted to gossip.

"A lot of these calls and emails are, 'I've seen two people with a suntan walking down a street in X community.' And really and honestly, that's not terribly helpful."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

now