Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. moves to 20 days of no new reported cases of COVID-19

Newfoundland and Labrador edges toward three straight weeks of no new cases of COVID-19 as the provincial government announced another day of zero on Wednesday. 
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said government guidelines for businesses reopening under Alert Level 3 are now available on the province's COVID-19 website. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Newfoundland and Labrador marked another 24 hours without a new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, making it 20 straight days of zero.

The province's total caseload stands at 260, with 255 people recovered and three deaths.

In total, 11,617 people have been tested for the virus — 122 in the last 24 hours.

With the province down to two active cases of the highly contagious virus, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald reiterated the importance of following public health measures. 

"Our success in flattening the curve of the first wave of this virus is because we took swift action to control its transmission, and had this virus spread widely it would have most certainly stressed our health-care system and taken more lives as we've seen elsewhere in the world," she said at Wednesday's provincial briefing.

"Experts around the world are predicting a second wave of COVID-19, and we must remain vigilant in following the public health measures in place so that when it happens we will be in the best possible position to respond."

Watch the full May 27 update:

On Thursday government will continue with its new COVID-19 update schedule by issuing a news release with the province's latest numbers and the panel will be back live on Friday.

Premier Dwight Ball said Dr. Proton Rahman — lead of the province's COVID-19 analytics teams — will be joining Friday's briefing to deliver another model presentation. 

When asked if the province should increase its testing now, to give more accurate data for model purposes, Fitzgerald said with the current low number of COVID-19 cases, testing won't necessarily provide that data.

Provinces such as Ontario are looking to ramp up its own testing in the coming days, but Fitzgerald said Newfoundland and Labrador is in a different situation.

"You cannot just apply one blanket testing strategy across the country when you have some areas that have had no cases for many days and other areas that are seeing hundreds of new cases every day," she said.

"It would be foolhardy on our part right now to apply Ontario's testing strategy to Newfoundland and Labrador." 

'The risk is not zero'

Fitzgerald said details of Alert Level 3 — which permits the reopening of campgrounds and personal service businesses such as hair salons, barber shops and spas — are now available through the provincial government's COVID-19 website and its updated daily. 

Fitzgerald also said, even with only two active cases currently, people still need to be careful when considering non-essential travel. 

The more the public moves around the more the virus can move, she noted, and the more contact a person has outside their bubble the greater the chance of disease transmission. 

"So while we think the prevalence is low, we don't think it's zero. We do have people coming into the province on a regular basis still — through essential workers, people returning home. So we do still have that risk of importation," Fitzgerald said. 

"The risk is not zero, and we do have to be careful."

Asked if Newfoundland and Labrador residents could see their household bubbles expand in Alert Level 3, tentatively slated for June 8, Fitzgerald said it's something public health has been looking at "very closely" while using modelling information and evidence from other jurisdictions. 

"We think we're very close to making some recommendations about how that will look in the near future," she said.

Health Minister John Haggie says changes to visitation rules for long-term care facilities could come in Alert Level 3. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Asked about the possibility of reopening long-term care and personal-care facilities to visitation by family members, Heatlh Minister John Haggie said Fitzgerald and the province's regional health authorities are using a 28-day assessment period between phases of the plan to develop a "safe and sensible" way to reopen visitation. 

The health minister also said the province is looking to British Columbia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to learn from their experience. 

"There's always a rush for 'me too,' but sometimes it's worth saying, 'Well, yes, we'll give them a week and we'll see how they do.' Because this is all new, there is no playbook, and the one message I get every day in my inbox on social media is, 'Let's take it slow. Let's not run before we can walk so we don't trip,'" Haggie said. 

Haggie said changes to visitation could come "around Alert Level 3" if the province continues to have a low prevalence of COVID-19 cases. 

The province's COVID-19 cellphone contact tracing app should appear in app stores near the end of June, according to Haggie. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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