Nfld. & Labrador

2 new COVID-19 cases reported in N.L, as province braces for variant's arrival

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, both related to travel and located in the Western Health region.

Province will "almost certainly see" new variants, says Fitzgerald

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says she does not feel N.L. is out of the woods yet over the discovery of a small cluster of COVID-19 cases last week in St. John's. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, both related to travel and located in the Western Health region — with the province's chief medical officer of health issuing a plea for people to think twice about Super Bowl-viewing parties. 

The province has also seen one new recovery since Tuesday's update, leaving 14 active cases. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the cluster in the Eastern Health region identified last week has not grown beyond its five cases. 

But the source remains unknown and investigation continues. 

Fitzgerald said more than 200 people have been tested and all have tested negative so far, she added. 

"Individuals who have been exposed to a case will still need to self-isolate for 14 days in case they become symptomatic," she said. 

"And as I indicated last week, a negative test is not a guarantee, and if a swab is done early in the incubation period it may result in a false negative."

Watch the full Feb. 3 update:

When asked Wednesday what it means that no more cases have been identified in that cluster in the last five days, Fitzgerald said it's reassuring — but it doesn't mean there won't be more.

"We've done extensive testing of contacts, as well as testing in three establishments — staff and patrons — so to date we haven't found any of those cases," she said.

"So it may mean that the source was not infectious for long, or is no longer here [or] there wasn't a lot of potential exposures, but we still don't feel we're out of the woods just yet. When we put a little bit more time between us and this cluster, we'll feel a little bit more comfortable."

N.L. still alert for variant strains

With provinces across the country reporting cases of COVID-19 variants, Fitzgerald said only the ones that spread from person to person more easily and faster than the original strain are of concern.

Fitzgerald said Newfoundland and Labrador will "almost certainly see" new variants but the key is to stop them at their initial case.

"We continue to follow the evidence and best practice in our response to these variants of concern, and we are also developing the technology of whole-genome sequencing here at the provincial laboratory so that we can identify these variants more quickly."

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald said that just as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine delay was expected — as the company works to expand production at its plant in Europe — delays in the Moderna vaccine are also expected. 

She said the province has not received a new shipment of vaccine since last week, but is expecting one tray from Pfizer-BioNTech this week. Fitzgerald also reiterated the province has held back enough doses for those who are slated to get their second shot. 

"All health authorities are working diligently to vaccinate those in the Phase 1 priority groups," said Fitzgerald. 

Think long and hard about Super Bowl weekend: Fitzgerald

As Super Bowl weekend approaches, Fitzgerald is urging people to "think long and hard" before organizing or attending a party. Informal indoor gatherings can have up to 20 people, but Fitzgerald said, ask yourself if they are in your regular close contacts. 

"Guys, please be careful for Super Bowl weekend ... I know you all love to party but you really need to think twice about it this year," she said.

Do not share food, such as bowls of chips and dip, either. 

"Do not host or attend a gathering if you have any symptoms, even if mild, even if you think it's just a cold. It may not be so. You should stay home until 24 hours after your symptoms have passed." 

Confirmed case in traveller

Fitzgerald said public health is asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 7480 from Montreal to St. John's on Jan. 22 or Air Canada Flight 7481 from St. John's to Montreal on Jan. 24 to call 811 to arrange for testing.

"Public health is making this ask out of an abundance of caution and because they are aware of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a traveller with the possibility of potential exposure on these flights to and from the province," Fitzgerald said.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald is asking people to think long and hard about parties during the upcoming Super Bowl weekend. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Contact tracing is finished for the case and the person is no longer in this province. This case is not related to any confirmed cases in Newfoundland and Labrador at this time, Fitzgerald said.

In total, 81,060 people have been tested to date, including 313 in the last day.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Moore

Journalist

Mike Moore is a journalist who works with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.

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