Nfld. & Labrador

23 new cases found on Portuguese fishing vessel, as Fitzgerald examines mask mandate in N.L.

Public health officials confirm 31 active cases aboard the Princess Santa Joana, currently anchored in Conception Bay, while the province's top doctor says changes may be coming to rules about wearing masks.

Ship anchored in Conception Bay now has 31 confirmed cases

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, shown here in a file photo, told CBC News that changes may be coming to mask rules in coming weeks. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

There are no new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday, but the Department of Health confirmed 23 new cases aboard the Princess Santa Joana currently anchored in Conception Bay. 

The Princess Santa Joana is a Portuguese fishing vessel with 39 crew members on board, according to Portuguese news outlet SAPO 24.

Today's release brings the total of confirmed positive cases to 31 crew members.

The Department of Health said testing of all crew is ongoing and all are isolating. One crew member is in hospital.

The Iver Ambition also remains anchored in Conception Bay with 14 crew members COVID-19 positive. The Health Department said testing of all crew is completed.

The province reported no new recoveries on Thursday, meaning one active case remains in the department's Newfoundland and Labrador tally, while 45 total cases are related to COVID-19 spread on the two ships.

There is currently one active case of COVID-19 in the province — a person living in the Eastern Health region — while 45 active cases are located on the two ships anchored in Conception Bay. 

To date, 163,675 people have been tested, including 207 since Wednesday's update.

Officials examining mask mandate

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador chief medical officer of health, said public health officials are currently examining research about masks and virus transmission.

Different provinces have approached rules around masks differently, with some, like Prince Edward Island, eliminating mandatory masks. Fitzgerald said each province has to consider their own context.

"Everybody is basing their decisions on their own epidemiology and perhaps other factors ... the public's satisfaction with that order, or dissatisfaction, whatever the case may be," she told the St. John's Morning Show.

Fitzgerald said masks have been helpful in the early stages of the province's reopening plan, as they provide an extra layer of protection against cases of the virus brought in by travellers from other areas.

The chief medical officer of health said there may be more information in the coming weeks on changes to the province's mask mandate.

As of Thursday, according to the latest information provided by the provincial government, 81 per cent of the eligible population of Newfoundland and Labrador has had the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 35 per cent has had the second dose.

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