Nfld. & Labrador

15 new COVID-19 cases, as health minister warns orders may last through June

All of the new cases are within the Eastern Health region, with all patients involved recovering at home.

All new cases within Eastern Health region

Latest

  • Newfoundland and Labrador's new total is 82
  • 1,491 people have been tested, 1,409 have come back negative
  • Health Minister John Haggie says province likely won't be back to normal by Victoria Day weekend
Health Minister John Haggie, Premier Dwight Ball and chief medical officer of health Janice Fitzgerald spoke in St. John's Thursday. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador/YouTube)

Newfoundland and Labrador has 15 new cases of COVID-19 since Wednesday, bringing the province's total to 82, said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health on Thursday.

All new cases are within the Eastern Health region, said Fitzgerald.

The Eastern Health region accounts for 76 cases, two are in Central Health, one is in Western Health, and three are in Labrador-Grenfell Health. Everyone is recovering at home, said Fitzgerald.

To date, 1,491 people have been tested for the virus across the province, and 1,409 have come back negative.

Fitzgerald said the ages of patients range from eight to 80, with a median age of 55.

Fitzgerald broke down the cases by age:

  • Seven patients are under 19 years old.
  • Nine are between 20 and 39 years old.
  • 12 are between 40 and 49 years old.
  • 21 are between 50 and 59 years old. 
  • 15 are between 60 and 69 years old.
  • 18 are older than 70.

"How we act now affects how this will unfold in our province," Fitzgerald said. "This is our new reality and it won't be over by Easter."

Watch the full March 26 update:

Health Minister John Haggie provided further detail on health-care workers who have been affected by the virus.

Haggie said 60 people at Eastern Health, in a variety of occupations, are currently at home in isolation. Nine of them have tested positive.

The health minister said most of those cases are connected to a funeral at Caul's Funeral Home in St. John's.

"These staff are currently well or experiencing mild symptoms if symptomatic. They are being managed at home and are being followed by public health [officials]," he said.

Among those in isolation at this time are four teams of paramedics. Haggie said they were unaware of a patient's potential exposure to COVID-19.

Haggie said it's important for an ambulance dispatcher to be told when a person has been in contact with the virus, so paramedics will be able to use personal protective equipment, which is stored in every ambulance in the province.

"Rest assured that will not stop an ambulance coming if you need it," said Haggie.

"It is important, however, that you repeat whenever possible the fact that you may have been exposed to allow our first responders to take the appropriate precautions to protect themselves as well as you."

Premier Dwight Ball said the Canada Post facility on Kenmount Road remains shut down until further notice after one employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Ball said provisional cheques, such as for pension and income support, will be delivered to post offices outside St. John's.

"We'll make provisions to make sure we get those cheques in your hands," Ball said.

Getting back to normal

When asked how long the province's public health emergency might continue, Haggie said he suspects the province won't be back to normal by the Victoria Day weekend.

"I am pretty sure that it's going to be some time in June," he said. "Whether or not we make a Canada Day celebration, time will tell."

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald speaks at a provincial briefing on COVID-19 on March 21. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Ball reiterated again Thursday the importance of following government's restrictions and guidelines, but said many people are doing their part.

"I also want to say that the majority of you, you're at home, you're safe and you're doing the right things. So I want to compliment you on doing what is the appropriate thing protecting you and your family," Ball said. 

"You are setting a good example of what it takes to be leaders in your community and leaders in your home."

Across the province

There are now cases in all four of the province's health authority regions. As of Thursday, none of the cases has required hospitalization.

However, Newfoundland and Labrador has, per capita, among the most cases of COVID-19.

"I think it's difficult on the basis of the numbers at the moment to draw any hard conclusions," Haggie said.

"There's certainly absolutely no room for complacency. We have pulled every lever that the other provinces have pulled. And in actual fact, a lot of them, we have led the way."

Haggie noted the bulk of province's cases stem from one location, Caul's Funeral Home, over a three-day period that boosted the number of confimed cases in the Eastern Health region.

"If you look, the numbers in the other health authorities are small and are not particularly growing at any great rate," he said.

On Wednesday, Fitzgerald said 44 of the cases in the Eastern Health region are tied to people who were at a wake at Caul's Funeral Home in St. John's last week.

She said the initial case has not been identified at this point, and it does not appear anyone was in violation of the province's stay-home orders at the time.

An official with Caul's said no employees have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, but the results for some people are still pending.

The funeral home remains closed. 

On Thursday, Fitzgerald said Eastern Health's lab has now been accredited to confirm presumptive cases. That means test samples will no longer need to be sent to the national lab in Winnipeg for confirmation. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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