Travel continues to drive new COVID-19 cases in N.L.; risk of outbreak deemed 'high'
The province has 58 active cases
Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as travel continues to be the dominant force behind a recent increase of new cases in the province.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the epidemiology outside of the province remains grim, "and our risk of an outbreak is still very high." She added importation of the virus is the main concern right now.
Parts of Canada are currently struggling with catastrophically high infection rates in a third wave of COVID-19. Over the last eight days, Newfoundland and Labrador has sent two teams of health-care workers to Ontario to help replace exhausted medical professionals in that province.
Fitzgerald said she doesn't believe it is inevitable that a third wave will hit Newfoundland and Labrador — but, she said, the province is not immune.
"I think we will continue to see cases, and we'll probably see more cases over the coming weeks. I think how people adhere to public health measures, that will certainly make the difference as to how we see a wave out of this," she said.
"We've certainly put in some really good measures to help reduce the risk of importation. However, as I've said many times before, these are just layers of protection. So there's always the chance that the holes in the Swiss cheese can line up so that a case can get through."
On Wednesday Nova Scotia reported a new high of 175 daily cases, and has 1,203 active cases. New Brunswick reported 11 new cases, with 145 active. It also reported a death from a blood clot linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Prince Edward Island's active case count stands at seven.
Cases trickle in as vaccines roll out
Three of Wednesday's cases are in Eastern Health, all related to travel. Two of those are between 20 and 39, while one person is in their 40s. The two cases in Western Health are people in their 50s. One of those cases is related to travel, while the other is a contact of a previously known case. The single case in Central Health is a person in their 40s, a contact of a previous case.
The province also marked four new recoveries, and two people are in hospital due to the virus. There are now 58 active cases.
One recovery was in the Eastern Health region, one was in the Central Health region and two were in the Western Health region.
A case reported Tuesday in the Eastern Health region that was under investigation has been determined to be related to international travel.
A blip over the weekend caused delays for people seeking COVID-19 testing, with some having to wait up to three days to schedule an appointment. Fitzgerald said the regional health authorities told her the problem has been fixed, and the timeline has returned to 24 hours between booking an appointment and receiving a test.
To date, 134,737 people have been tested.
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Of the 42 cases reported in the last week, 39 are related to travel, said Fitzgerald.
"Thankfully there has been no indication of onward spread of COVID-19 outside of affected households," she said.
"This tells us that returning travellers and their families are doing the right things by adhering to self-isolation and testing requirements."
Fitzgerald said the vaccine effort continues to ramp up, with more than 185,000 doses administered to date, an increase of almost 20,000 in the past week.
On Wednesday, all regional health authorities issued an open call to the remaining priority groups in Phase 2 of the provincial rollout plan, which includes essential workers, such as teachers.
More than 175,000 people have now received their first dose. Premier Andrew Furey said that number should pass 200,000 by Sunday.
Health Minister John Haggie said the only slowdown is waiting for vaccines to arrive. Haggie said the province will start receiving 28,000 doses a week starting next week, rising to 32,000 a week and then hitting 34,000 doses a week by June.
"As these increases come, so too we will increase our delivery," he said.
People in Phase 3 will begin getting vaccinated by no later than the weekend of May 24, according to Fitzgerald, and will include those who are 16 years old and older who were not included in priority groups in previous phases.