Nfld. & Labrador

COVID-19: N.L. puts limits on long-term care workers, as 2 new cases announced

Health Minister John Haggie has tightened restrictions on workers in the long-term care system.

It was a three-day weekend for many, and N.L. added 6 new COVID-19 cases

Health Minister John Haggie has put new limits on long-term care workers, restricting them to one site of work. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Two new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador were announced Monday, as Health Minister John Haggie tightened restrictions on workers in the long-term care system. 

Haggie said long-term care workers can now only work on a single site, and must remain working there to the exclusion of other sites for the duration of the pandemic.

Last week, N.L. reported its first case of COVID-19 in a long-term care setting, with a patient at a facility in St. Lawrence, on the Burin Peninsula. 

Haggie, who said he is not aware of any other subsequent infections in a long-term care facility in the province, indicated that the move will not come as a surprise to health managers. 

Watch the full April 13 update:

"My understanding around long-term care facilities, for example in central [Newfoundland], is the issue is more physician mobility between long-term care facilities than nursing care or other health-care workers, for example," he said.

"So each RHA [regional health authority] will have a different take on it, but they've known it was coming and they have been planning for it." 

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says both of the cases announced Monday were in the Western Health region, and were connected to travel. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador )

The spectre of an outbreak at a long-term care facility has hung over the province for weeks, given deadly incidents in such provinces as British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

Haggie said conversations will happen with privately owned personal care homes to implement a similar strategy.

He said he suspects changes will be made to those businesses later Monday or within the next few days.

2 new cases both connected to travel 

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the new cases were both found in Western Health region, bringing the province's total to 244.

Both cases were related to travel, she said. 

Fitzgerald said the province's criteria for COVID-19 testing are expanding, and can include people who have two or more symptoms of fever, cough, headache, sore throat or runny nose.

"Although the few new cases of COVID-19 over the past number of days in our province is encouraging, it is certainly not an indication that we can relax our efforts," she said.

By region, 227 cases are in Eastern Health, eight are in Central Health, three are in Western Health and six are in Labrador-Grenfell Health.

Nine people are currently in hospital, with three of those in intensive care.As of Monday's briefing,133 people have recovered and 4,907 have been tested province-wide. Three deaths have been recorded. 

Premier Dwight Ball said the province is in the "middle of the pack" in terms of testing numbers per 100,000 people. Ball said 1,175 tests have been done in the Eastern Health region, where the majority of the province's cases have happened. 

Active cases down, but Haggie says guard must stay up

There are now 108 active cases in the province, the lowest it has been since March 27. The number of active cases has been steadily declining since April 6. 

But while the number of active cases has been dropping, Haggie again said it's not time to relax.

"But the facts of the case are we need to rely on social distancing. The only way the virus reproduces is if it spreads and the only way it spreads is if we move," he said.

"So regardless of what the numbers show in the immediate short and medium term we cannot relax physical distancing," he said.

Haggie, in fact, said he wondered whether the government's public health emergency rules "need to be even more strict and more restrictive" than they are,  "bearing in mind the measures that we have in this province at the moment are more restrictive than those that were seen in wartime Europe in the Second World War."

By age, cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador are: 

  • 20 under 20 years old.
  • 37 between 20 and 39 years old.
  • 33 between 40 and 49 years old.
  • 53 between 50 and 59 years old.
  • 54 between 60 and 69 years old.
  • 47 are 70 years old or above.

'We're not doing this for the fun of it'

As the Easter long weekend was drawing to a close, Haggie said he doesn't take comfort in the small number of cases announced during the holiday.

Haggie said he is still hearing about large numbers of vehicles convened around woods access points, for instance. 

"For heaven's sake, what is it that I have to say to get people to understand that looking for loopholes like this may give you a short-term buzz and a feeling of getting away with something, but at the end of the day, you then take back everyone else's viruses to give to your loved ones and your family," he said. 

Haggie also said he has heard from hotel operators telling him they are turning down some reservations to curb any idea from anyone trying to hold a party in one of the rooms.

As for whether or not the number of positive cases will jump by the end of the week, Haggie said it remains to be seen.

"The facts of the case are we are nowhere near out of the woods yet. We have to be graded, as the premier said, on our behaviour for the Easter report card and those grades won't come until next week."

It can take up to two weeks for someone to present with COVID-19 symptoms after they have been infected with the highly contagious virus. 

Some may still be confused on what they can and cannot do while public health emergency orders remain in place. While being around four other people is technically allowed, Haggie was blunt when asked to clarify. 

"Common sense needs to be applied to this and just because it isn't specifically forbidden for you to do something doesn't mean to say you should go out and do it," he said.

"This is kind of an immature, childish way of approaching recommendations and rules. We're not doing this for the fun of it. We're trying to keep people alive here and well."

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