Nfld. & Labrador

With COVID-19 caseload dropping, N.L. easing some public health restrictions

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. 

4 new cases and 13 new recoveries leaves 22 active cases, lowest total since Aug. 31

Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 and 13 new recoveries. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 and 13 new recoveries, dropping the active caseload to 22, the lowest total since Aug. 31.

Three of the new cases are in central Newfoundland, while one is in eastern Newfoundland. For the first time in the province since Sept. 21, no one is in hospital due to the virus.

As of Wednesday 88.7 per cent of the province's eligible population — 428,618 people — have now received at least two doses of vaccine, and 94.2 per cent have had at least one. 

"I'm incredibly proud to say that our province's vaccination rate is among the highest in North America," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald at a briefing Wednesday afternoon.

On Saturday the province eased some of its public health restrictions, increasing capacity at formal indoor and outdoor formal gatherings where proof of vaccine is required, including at theatres, cinemas and arenas.

For venues with no eating or drinking, full capacity is allowed for spectators in seats with no physical distancing, Fitzgerald said. When not seated, physical distancing still applies. Masks must be worn at all times, and employees must collect contact information for people in attendance for tracing purposes.

Where eating and drinking is occurring, physical distancing is not required when seated. Groups with a maximum of 200 people must be spaced apart by six feet. Masks must be worn at all times unless when eating or drinking. 

Formal gatherings are those organized by a recognized business or organization. Informal gatherings, such as parties at home, are still limited to the number of people who can fit in the space while allowing physical distancing.

Watch the full Nov. 17 update:

With an indication of a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Fitzgerald said the COVID-19 virus is on the path to being endemic rather than a pandemic — i.e. less widespread — adding there's unlikely to be a "big finish" but rather gradual steps until normalcy is reached.

With the province's high vaccination rate — creeping toward the 90 per cent mark, which was a target set at the national level — Fitzgerald said discussions are happening about the easing of restrictions when that mark is reached. She said children under 12 years old remaining unvaccinated is still a concern but hopes that will change soon with Health Canada set to approve Pfizer-BioNTech doses for kids. 

"We haven't come down firm on where that is going to be. I anticipate there will be some changes," said Fitzgerald. 

"It is still very important for us to get those children vaccinated for us to have really good protection in the total population."

Once the Health Canada approval comes, said Fitzgerald, the vaccine rollout for kids under 12 will take about six months.

Vaccine mandate

Provincial government employees are required to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 17, or have an approved medical exemption, and the province is now adding others to that list

Employees of entertainment venues — arenas, gyms, cinemas, bars and restaurants, for example — will also have to meet the Dec. 17 deadline to be vaccinated. If they do not have proof of vaccination or proof of an approved medical exemption by then, they will not be allowed to enter the business, facility or organization for work or volunteer purposes. 

The list is consistent with places where the province's vaccine passport is required, such as most non-essential leisure activities, but also private long-term care facilities, personal-care homes, private schools, and personal service businesses. 

"These [regulations] are to safeguard people who use those services and have access to the facilities," Haggie said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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