N.L. reports 11 new cases of COVID-19 as province grapples with increased testing demand
There are 296 active cases, 287 in Eastern Health region
- Reduction in non-urgent and elective medical procedures
- Classes to begin online around the province in the coming days
- 'Triage system' in place to meet testing demand
Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, as the province grapples with increased testing demand brought on by the large spike in infections this week.
Ten of Sunday's cases are in the Eastern Health region, while one is in Western Health and is related to travel within Canada. This case is not connected to the outbreak in the St. John's metro area, a Department of Health spokesperson told CBC News.
There have been no new recoveries, leaving 296 active cases across the province, 287 of them in the Eastern Health region.
In total, 91,045 people have been tested, an increase of 1,980 since Saturday's update.
On Sunday, the Health Department advised rotational workers of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Brucejack gold mine in British Columbia. The Department of Health said it was notified of the outbreak by the Public Health Agency of Canada because people from Newfoundland and Labrador work at the mine.
Rotational workers with the mine who have returned to Newfoundland and Labrador in the last 14 days must self-isolate, distance themselves from household members and complete the online self-assessment form or call 811 to arrange testing.
These workers must also complete the full 14-day self-isolation period, regardless of their test result.
Reduction in medical services
Eastern Health, Western Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health announced reductions in elective and non-urgent services and procedures, effective Monday.
Cancer services across the province will continue, along with urgent and emergency surgeries and procedures.
Where possible, appointments may be done virtually or over the phone.
The health authorities said patients will be contacted regarding their appointments. Patients in Eastern Health can also call 709-752-4500 for more information on their appointment. People in the Labrador-Grenfell Health or Western Health areas should contact the appropriate department.
Online classes begin through next week
In a letter to teachers, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said the start of online instruction will be staggered across the province through the next week.
In the St. John's metro area, high school and junior high school students have already started classes online, while primary and elementary grades will begin classes on Monday.
Intermediate and high school students elsewhere on the Avalon Peninsula will start classes Monday, and primary and elementary students begin Tuesday.
On Wednesday, junior high and high school students in the central, western and Labrador regions will begin online instruction. Lastly, primary and elementary students in those regions will start class on Thursday.
School buildings will be open to staff on Monday to collect resources for online classes. School administrations will allow only the retrieval of technology required by students or items required for health and safety, like medications.
The heavy increase in COVID-19 cases has created delays in testing for those looking to get one.
During Saturday's COVID-19 briefing, Health Minister John Haggie said he's looking into the source of the "bottleneck."
"I think one of the challenges is we spread the net very wide, in terms of asking people [to get tested] on a location basis for example, that's generated quite the demand," Haggie said.
"I know there are discussions about using alternate methods of testing, such as the rapid test kits and the outbreak equipment that we have available."
Haggie said there is a "triage system" in place based on public health guidelines that identifies priority individuals or those who are more likely to be a carrier of COVID-19.
"Those are fairly clear. If you're someone who's symptomatic and has been in contact with an individual who is positive, you're not going to wait very long for your test," he said.
'There's a lot of worry'
Meanwhile, Mount Pearl Mayor Dave Aker said the mood in his community is anxious as eyes are still on Mount Pearl Senior High, which is connected to many of the new cases this week.
"There's a lot of worry going around as uncertainty prevails through the community. But we're very confident in the leadership we have in public health and as of last night I think we had swabs being done until 2:30 in the morning," Aker said.
The high school is also the site of a busy COVID-19 testing location as hundreds of vehicles line up in wait.
But the worry is for the aging population, said Aker, because many of the cases found in young people have been mild or asymptomatic.
"I think restricting ourselves to our bubble is the only way we're going to stop the transmission and ideally that reduces the number of hospitalizations, and I hope coming out of this there are no deaths," he said.