Nfld. & Labrador

Another day, another zero: N.L. marks 14th day this month with no new COVID-19 cases

It's a day of zeroes in Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, as the province reported no new cases of COVID-19 and no new recoveries, with one person in hospital due to the virus.

Province has 5 active cases

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said reporting another day of new cases is a welcome trend. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

It's a day of zeroes in Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, as the province reported no new cases of COVID-19 and no new recoveries, with one person in hospital remaining in hospital because of the virus.

The province has five active cases.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald — who is delivering the update without the usual complement of Health Minister John Haggie and Premier Andrew Furey, who are both campaigning in the Feb. 13 election — said announcing no new cases is a welcome trend, especially as vaccines continue to be administered. 

"Each day this happens is a small victory in the fight against this virus," she said. 

It's the 14th time so far this month that Newfoundland and Labrador has not reported a case of COVID-19. On the remaining six days, the province recorded a single case each time. 

Fitzgerald said as of Tuesday the province had received 13,575 doses of vaccine, of which 8,549 have been administered so far, or approximately 63 per cent of deliveries to date.

Watch the full Jan. 20 update:

Regional health authorities already have a plan in place ahead of each shipment of vaccines, Fitzgerald said. The province's four authorities are continuing to work through what are called Phase 1 priority groups. Currently, they are long-term care homes and communities along Labrador's north coast.

Delay for eight trays of vaccine

Last week, Pfizer-BioNTech, a manufacturer of one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines, announced there will be delays on shipping its product to Canada as the company plans to expand its plant in Belgium to allow greater output. 

Fitzgerald said Newfoundland and Labrador is expecting a delay in eight trays of the vaccine, or about 7,800 doses, but those doses will be made up for in a later shipment.

Fitzgerald said Pfizer-BioNTech has provided details on safe redistribution of their vaccine within the province. She said that means there is more flexibility for the province in how it moves vaccine to long-term care and personal-care homes.

"Older individuals have a greater risk of complications due to COVID and must remain a priority," she said. 

"If we could give everyone in our province a vaccine today, we would. But we only have a limited supply for now. Therefore we will base our decisions on evidence as we determine who is next in line."

Newfoundland and Labrador will face a delay for eight trays of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but Fitzgerald says those will be made up in a later shipment. (Sven Hoppe/DPA/Picture Alliance/Getty Images)

Fitzgerald also said there is no expected delay in the delivery of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. 

"We anticipate we will be able to offer a vaccine to everybody who wishes to have it certainly before the end of the year, likely by early to mid-fall," she said. 

"But, of course, all of these things are fluid."

In total, 76,969 people have been tested as of Wednesday's update, including 229 people in the past day. 

Hiccup at Central Health has been addressed: Fitzgerald

A day ago the province once again reported no new cases of COVID-19 as details were revealed of a vaccine rollout hiccup in Central Health. 

In a statement the health authority said a shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, on its way to Grand Falls-Windsor, reached a temperature that would not allow it to be refrozen, and had to be administered within six hours. 

The health authority said the batch made up 160 doses that were allotted for a clinic the next day, and it suspects the issue was with the placement of the temperature monitor. Central Health said all the doses were safely administered.

"Pfizer has advised that the vaccine is stable at room temperature for up to six hours, but out of an abundance of caution, of course, we wanted to make sure that we treated this as if it had been left at room temperature," Fitzgerald said.

"So we wanted to administer that vaccine within that six-hour period, which Central Health was able to do and worked quite diligently to make sure that happened without any wasted doses."

Fitzgerald said Central Health investigated the "cold-chain break," and safeguards are in place to make sure it doesn't happen again.

For at least the duration of the election campaign, Fitzgerald will make weekly appearances on Wednesdays on her own. 

Daily updates from the Department of Health will still be issued through media releases around 2 p.m. NT on days when there is not a live briefing. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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