N.L. reports 1 new case of COVID-19
Chief medical officer of health warns bubble could be rescinded if number of new cases spikes
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case of COVID-19 on Friday, its first in five days.
The new case is in the Eastern Health region, moving the province's total caseload to 259. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the new case was traced to a previously known case.
As of Friday 230 people have recovered from the virus, with 8,552 having been tested — 176 since Thursday.
Four people remain in hospital, with one in intensive care.
"It certainly has not been easy, but we have succeeded in flattening the curve of COVID-19 over the last six weeks in our province," said Fitzgerald during Friday's briefing.
"While this comes with a little reprieve, we cannot yet slow our pace.… If we continue on our current trajectory, in a little over a week's time we will be moving to alert Level 4."
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Under the advice of Fitzgerald, Health Minister John Haggie once again signed an order to continue the public health state of emergency for another two weeks, the maximum time permitted under legislation.
Premier Dwight Ball announced a new COVID-19 assessment service for the hard of hearing community and for those who cannot communicate verbally.
Ball said a new cellphone text line and video service is available as of today. The number for the cellphone line is 709-216-8188. For the video service it's 1-888-834-1252.
"This is exclusively for people who are deaf and hard of hearing or those with communication disabilities that prevent them from speaking to a nurse," Ball said.
The provincial government will not hold COVID-19 briefings over the weekend. The latest numbers will be issued through news releases on Saturday and Sunday. Briefings will resume Monday.
The weather is warming up in Newfoundland and Labrador, allowing more people to get outside as the last of the winter snow melts. But Fitzgerald said campsites are still out of the question due to the risk of larger groups of people interacting. The province plans to allow overnight stays at campsites in alert Level 2, but there's no timeline on when that would occur.
"The concern there is that you would have contacts with people who you might not know, and it would make things difficult for contact tracing," Fitzgerald said. "It's not as simple as, 'I can go and I can stay in my bubble.'"
For anyone looking to get rid of some clutter, Haggie said it's still not time for yard sales either.
"We have not got anywhere near that level of normalcy yet," he said.
The province announced Thursday that households could include one other household within their bubbles.
Asked if there will be a time when households can expand their bubble again, Fitzgerald said it will depend on what the spread of the virus looks like as the province moves from level to level.
"We need to make sure that we don't have spread within our communities. We need to make sure that the prevalence of the disease is low before we can make any determinations like that," she said.
"We felt it was better to not to make predictions about that and to look at it as time went on and as we had more information."
For parents who share joint custody, Haggie said the province is relying on their good judgment for choosing which household to include in their bubble, the challenge being that those cases are generally court-ordered.
"No one actually has to expand or double their bubble this weekend simply because it's allowed," he said.
"But I think ultimately if there ever was an issue over a court-ordered custody arrangement, quite frankly it would have to be down to a court to arbitrate who was right, who was wrong and what the resolution should be."
Testing all could put strain on supplies
While the province has significantly limited summer tourism — not allowing anybody into the province starting Monday, unless it's their primary residence or for work — Fitzgerald was asked why public health officials aren't simply testing everybody who enters.
She said the reason for current testing parameters is to give public health an answer. Fitzgerald added the number of tests needed to be done for everyone entering the province is high.
"That could potentially put a strain on testing supplies, it could put a strain on [personal protective equipment. All of these things are things you have to consider when you talk about testing asymptomatic people," she said.
"And we are asking people who are coming into the province to self-isolate for 14 days. If they were to become symptomatic we can certainly test them then. But we have effectively removed them from the population and from spreading that if they were to be positive."