Nfld. & Labrador

COVID-19 cases almost double as N.L. ramps up punishment

The premier says driver's licences will be yanked from those who flout public health emergency orders.

Driver's licences to be yanked from those who flout public health emergency orders

Latest

  • There are 32 new presumptive cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the province's total to 67
  • Western Health region has first presumptive case of COVID-19
  • As of Wednesday, 1,336 people have been tested, with 1,269 confirmed negative
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald speaks at a provincial briefing on COVID-19 on March 21. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

The number of COVID-19 cases in Newfoundland and Labrador has jumped again, with 32 new presumptive cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the province's total to 67.

One case has been found in the Western Health region of the province, making it the first for the area, said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, at Wednesday's daily COVID-19 briefing.

Fitzgerald said the Western Health cases appears to be travel-related. An investigation is ongoing.

The other 31 new presumptive cases are within the Eastern Health region. Fitzgerald said contact tracing is being done.

The province's cases now number 67, ranging in age from eight to 78 years old.

As of Wednesday, 1,336 people have been tested, with 1,269 confirmed negative.

Fitzgerald said 44 of the presumptive cases in the Eastern Health region are tied to people who were at a funeral at Caul's Funeral Home in St. John's last week. She said the initial case has not been identified at this point, and it does not appear anyone was in violation of the province's stay-home orders at the time.

At the moment there are still four cases confirmed by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, but Fitzgerald said those numbers will likely change by Thursday.

Watch the full March 25 update:

Fitzgerald said testing will be moving forward for people who are asymptomatic but have had contact with those who have tested positive for COVID-19

"This is to make sure that we find as many positive people as we can and putting in the appropriate measures to reduce spread," she said.

As for when restrictions and regulations will be lifted, provincial Health Minister John Haggie isn't giving a timeline. 

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants his country up and running by Easter.

"Many people in my opinion, more people are going to die if we allow this to continue. We have to go back to work. People want to go back to work," said Trump earlier this week.

Asked if he thought Trump's desired timeline is achievable, Haggie would only say the government would be guided by the recommendations of Fitzgerald and her team.

Further punishment for non-compliance

Premier Dwight Ball announced further measures on Wednesday to prevent the spread of the virus.

Ball said the province will be taking away the driver's licences of people who break a required self-isolation, in addition to fining them.

Premier Dwight Ball said further restrictions are coming for those found to be non-compliant of self-isolation rules. File photo. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"Some of you are simply just not taking this seriously," Ball said.

"We will explore every opportunity we have to put those measures in place from the current legislation we have."

Ball also said the province will permit limited operation of regulated child-care services for children aged 1-13.

He said it's to help support essential workers if there are no other options available to them. The service will be available at no cost.

Infected health-care workers

On Wednesday Haggie said the province is aware of a small number of health-care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19. Haggie said the workers have been advised of their results and are at home in self-isolation.

Haggie said he couldn't give the exact number of health-care workers found positive right now, but did say it's between four and 10, all within the Eastern Health region.

"The staff that may have come into contact with these individuals have all been sent home to self-isolate pending contact tracing," Haggie said.

Patients who were able to go home have gone home to self-isolate with a follow-up coming from public health, Haggie added.

Ball said there are no patients in hospital right now for COVID-19. Eastern Health staff who have been infected contracted the virus from an employee who brought it in from outside the workplace.

Haggie said that particular unit at Eastern Health is is currently being cleaned and once cleaned will be available again for patient care.

Central Health testing people in their home

Meanwhile, in the Central Health region, there are two cases of COVID-19.

The health authority says testing sites have been set up in Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander, and they have two mobile units travelling around the region to test people in their homes.

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