Nfld. & Labrador

No new cases of COVID-19 as N.L. lowers threshold for testing

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, its second day in a row without a new case.

Province now has 4 active cases

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announced public health is lowering the threshold for COVID-19 testing starting Monday. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, its second day in a row without a new case, while the province also cleared the way for easier testing for coronavirus. 

The province now has four active cases, with 283 people having recovered from the virus and four deaths. The province's total caseload since March is 291.

In total, 51,529 people have been tested as of Wednesday's update from the provincial government, including 352 in the last day. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald started Wednesday's live briefing with a warning about fraudulent phone calls that claim to be from her. 

Fitzgerald said she's not behind those calls, and anyone who receives a call from someone claiming to be the chief medical officer of health should not release any personal information but should contact the nearest police detachment to report it. 

Fitzgerald also announced public health is lowering the threshold for COVID-19 testing. Until now, people had to have two or more symptoms of COVID-19 in order to meet testing criteria. Effective Monday, people experiencing even a single symptom of fever, or new or worsening cough, will meet the testing criteria, she said.

For other symptoms — headaches, unusual fatigue, new muscle aches, loss of appetite, loss of taste or smell, vomiting or diarrhea for 24 hours, sore throat or difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, a runny, stuffy or congested nose — people will meet testing criteria if they are experiencing at least two of them.

"If you have only one of these symptoms please stay home until 24 hours after your symptom resolves," said Fitzgerald.

Watch the full Oct. 28 update:

Fitzgerald said public health felt the need to look at testing criteria in a two-tiered system, where cough and fever are more closely associated with COVID-19 than other symptoms. 

"We felt you needed to have two of those [other symptoms] in order to maintain a good threshold for testing as well as making sure we're not overwhelming our testing capacity," she said.

Halloween is still very much a go for Saturday, but Fitzgerald said there are some things people can do to ensure the evening goes ahead safely. 

With November approaching and the annual celebration of Guy Fawkes Night — also known as bonfire night — Fitzgerald gave the green light for events to go ahead, but reminded the public of the 100-person rule for outdoor gatherings and noted there has to be at least six feet of distance between individual bubbles. People must stay home if they are feeling unwell. 

Rotational workers pilot program

Health Minister John Haggie said by week's end the provincial government will be able to announce if there will be any changes to the rotational workers pilot program.

Restrictions loosened on Sept. 9 allowing rotational workers who work outside the Atlantic bubble and return to Newfoundland and Labrador to take a COVID-19 test on Day 5 of their self-isolation. If a worker reaches Day 7 and tests negative, they can end their self-isolation period rather than waiting out the 14-day period. 

Health Minister John Haggie says the province's travel restrictions have proven to have a 92 per cent reduction in new cases of COVID-19. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Haggie said a project report was delivered to his department 30 minutes before the briefing began.

"Certainly over the duration of the pilot, and the analysis period, we haven't seen any concerns that would make us want to reinstate further restrictions for rotational workers in terms of isolation periods or restriction on activities," he said.

"But again, without prejudging the analysis in the report, we'll continue with that until we have those recommendations public."

Haggie said data shows the travel restrictions in place since May have reduced the number of new COVID-19 cases by 92 per cent compared with what province would have seen otherwise. 

"So you can appreciate, with the scattered cases we have seen and the small clusters, if we were to increase that we would be in a really difficult situation by now," he said.

"These are factors that we, and Dr. Fitzgerald's team, discuss on a regular basis in deciding how best to navigate our way through these uncertain times."

Wednesday's live briefing was cut short due to technical issues. Haggie and Fitzgerald will be back on Thursday with another live briefing to make up for time lost on Wednesday. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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