No new cases of COVID-19 in N.L., premier urges people to be calm about return to school
Premier, education minister and chief medical officer of health providing coronavirus update at 2 p.m. NT
There are no new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, as the premier and education minister addressed the province at the weekly pandemic briefing.
Premier Andrew Furey used the platform to urge parents and students to remain calm about returning to the classroom in one week.
"We are taking every measure possible to make sure you are safe in school," Furey said, while addressing students in the province. "I know it's scary, I know it's strange and I know it's weird. You've been out of school for a long time. But it's going to be OK."
The province has seen 269 cases in total. There is only one active case in Newfoundland and Labrador as of Wednesday.
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, briefly outlined what will happen if a student develops cold or flu symptoms.
They will be sent home from school and told to call 811. If a COVID-19 test is deemed necessary, they will get one as soon as possible. They will have to stay home until a public health official gives the green light to return to school.
In the last several days, Tom Osborne, the new education minister, has announced changes to the plan as well as new resources, including more custodial staff, guidance counsellors and administrators.
Osborne is expected to announce more details Thursday.
Wednesday's briefing was the shortest in the six months since the pandemic began, running only 25 minutes.
Reporters are now allowed to ask only two questions, cut down from the usual three.
The briefing was largely devoid of new details, but Fitzgerald did address concerns from some people about the children of rotational workers going to school while having a family member at home who has been outside the province.
"There is no zero-risk situation," she said. "[But] the risk for those families if you have an asymptomatic worker is low. And certainly while that worker is asymptomatic our advice is that those children should go to school and we hope that the school community will welcome them and that they'll be treated with the respect that they deserve."
Furey also addressed rotational workers, saying they are working on a solution to allow them more freedom when they are off shift. Fitzgerald said there could be changes by the end of the week, which could see workers exempt from isolation when returning, similar to what is being done in other Atlantic provinces.
Furey also noted the continued absence of Health Minister John Haggie, who is recovering from a medical procedure. More details have not been released, but Furey said Haggie is recovering well and will be back at the table soon.
In response to a question about what it would take to ensure schools have smaller class sizes or the additional space required to keep a metre between students, Osborne said it requires a lot more analysis than what has been done so far.
"It's a complex issue. There are many things that need to be considered when looking at that issue and it's something that obviously won't be solved between now and Sept. 9."
He referenced a quote from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who said it would cost every cent of the federal pandemic funding they've received for schools to address the issue.