N.L. reports 3 new cases of COVID-19 as active caseload drops to 84
Health Department warns of phone vaccination scam
Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, all in the Eastern Health region and close contacts of previous cases.
There are now 84 active cases of the disease in the province, as six people have recovered in the last 24 hours. Newfoundland and Labrador's total number of COVID-19 cases since last March is now 1,009.
Three people are in hospital, all in intensive care.
There have now been 116,238 people tested for the virus in the province, including 760 in the past day.
Last week, the Department of Health opened up testing to anyone who wants one, whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or not, to try to find any pockets of the disease that might have been discovered yet. Of the more than 2,000 people who have been tested since Friday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said between 1,500 and 1,600 tests were of people who were asymptomatic.
Fitzgerald said while public health officials have been unable to determine the source of a case announced March 2 in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region, they are confident there has been no further spread of the virus. A health-care worker at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony on the Northern Peninsula tested positive. The Health Department set up a drive-thru testing clinic, and no further cases have been found in the area.
WATCH | Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says active cases are declining, although the government is concerned about a new vaccination scam:
"Sometimes as hard as we try, we cannot find the answers we are looking for," she said.
Alert Level announcement coming Friday
Fitzgerald said the province will be ready to make an announcement Friday about potentially moving out of Alert Level 5 of the province's tiered system of public health restrictions.
While Fitzgerald moved the province from Level 2 straight into Level 5 when coronavirus variant B117 was found last month, she said it is unlikely the Health Department will skip levels as it loosens restrictions.
"The whole point of this and what we've heard in other areas is that you need to reopen slowly," she said. "As people move about more, as people are busy doing things, we need to make sure we take it slowly so if we start to see a resurgence, it's not as intense as what we saw initially."
Watch Monday's COVID-19 briefing here:
With the more contagious B117 variant in the province, Fitzgerald said, it's unlikely the province will soon be able to return to having the same size gatherings or participating in group sports in the same way before going back to Level 5 last month.
"We have to consider that sports teams in particular are a way that [spread] can happen," she said. "The risk is different now. The risk is not the same as what it was before. The variants of concern, it's like dealing with a different virus."
However, she said the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.
"I think we just need to hold on for a little bit longer, and we all need to think about things a little bit differently going forward."
Returning to the bubble?
On the weekend, the premier of Prince Edward Island said he hopes the Atlantic bubble will be back in place by April. During Monday's briefing, N.L. Premier Andrew Furey said the province will "evaluate the evidence as it evolves" before making a decision on rejoining a regional bubble.
"Our primary focus right now is containing the outbreak that occurred … and to get our own house in order first before considering looking at expanding our involvement in the Atlantic bubble. But it's certainly something that we're interested in pursuing," he said.
Furey said he has spoken with premiers from across the region in recent days but added it's premature to commit to a date to reopen the bubble.
Asked why, with daily case numbers dropping and voting still happening in the provincial election, he and Health Minister John Haggie are still attending the COVID-19 briefings, Furey said a caretaker government needs to respond to a crisis, and he said the province's circumstances are similar to how things were three weeks ago.
"This was a crisis in the middle of an election. That's why I'm still here," he said.
After Furey called the election in January, he and Haggie, as Liberal candidates in the campaign, stopped attending briefings. They returned on Feb. 8, when the province recorded 11 new cases — at the time, the largest single-day increase in more than 10 months.
Three weeks ago, the province's active caseload was 298 and rising, with a seven-day average of nearly 40 new cases a day.
As of Monday, the province's seven-day average is just under three new cases a day, with the caseload steadily dropping as recoveries well outpace new cases over the past two weeks.
On Monday, the provincial Health Department warned the public about a phone scam involving the COVID-19 vaccine, with callers are asking people to pay for both pre-registration and their vaccine.
During Monday's briefing, Fitzgerald was clear that both pre-registration and vaccinations are free and that public health will not make calls or leave messages regarding vaccines.
"This is a scam," she said. "Anyone who receives a suspicious telephone call or message should immediately report it to the nearest police detachment."