Almost all COVID-19 tests for self-isolated Health Sciences staff negative, 1 still to come
5th day in a row with zero new cases in Newfoundland and Labrador
For a fifth straight day Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting no new cases of COVID-19.
The province's case total remains at 259. With 244 people having recovered from the virus, and three deaths, the province's active caseload is 12.
"Each passing day with no new cases further reinforces that what we are doing is working," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald during the provincial government's daily briefing Wednesday.
"I know it's not easy and requires great personal sacrifice from us all, but if we remain dedicated and focused on our end goal I can assure you that we will most certainly reap the reward."
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The province's plan to move down one level in its five-stage plan — and relax some of its public health measures — is still a go for Monday, just five days away.
Alert Level 4 will see the reopening of some businesses and child-care expansion since March, when the provincial government began introducing restriction.
Fitzgerald said the province intends to stay the course with a 28-day monitoring period between alert levels, due to the incubation and clinical course of the virus.
"That will not change regardless of how many cases we have in the province," she said.
Fitzgerald said the province would have to see a significant surge in COVID-19 cases — and not be able to trace them — to prevent the move to Level 4 on Monday. She said the province has met its criteria so far for making the shift.
Health Minister John Haggie said since the provincial government shut down elective surgical procedures in March, to free up hospital beds in case of a surge in COVID-19 cases, the backlog has grown to roughly 6,000 procedures.
As of Wednesday 9,296 people have been tested across the province — 157 in the last 24 hours.
Premier Dwight Ball said the tests of dozens of Health Sciences Centre workers who had potentially been exposed to COVID-19 over the weekend have come back negative. John Haggie said of the 99 staff members tested, one's test results is still outstanding.
"This, for all of us, is welcoming news," Ball said.
When asked if hospital protocol will change to prevent another such, Health Minister John Haggie said COVID-19 patients in intensive-care units will not be moved back to a general floor.
Fitzgerald said those staff members can return to work after two weeks of isolation from their last exposure to the virus.
As Mother's Day weekend approaches, Fitzgerald — similar to the Easter weekend — reminded the public to celebrate virtually and said to consider dropping gifts on doorsteps.
Fitzgerald said all long-term care homes and some personal-care homes will be accepting gifts for Mother's Day this weekend to be passed along to residents. Fitzgerald said people should call the facilities before making drop-offs.
Travel restriction enforcement
In another development on the virus and its effect on the province, MHAs passed a bill Tuesday giving sweeping powers to law enforcement to enforce travel restrictions and other measures the government has invoked, citing a public health state of emergency.
The bill allows for inspectors to enter any premises, take photos or video, and conduct tests or inspections. However, when asked if authorities can enter private buildings without a warrant, Haggie said no.
Fitzgerald said inspectors are different from peace officers, and are designated under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act
Foreign temporary workers are still allowed to enter the province.
"They come into our province to support agriculture, to support the fishery, to support health-care and so on," Ball said.
Meanwhile, some people may be granted exemptions to enter the province. Those who aren't travelling for work, or who aren't primary residents, will have to apply through the office of the chief medical officer of health."Exemption requests are being screened and anything that appears to be more urgent is being dealt with first," said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said about 500 applications have been submitted over a two-day period. She added the response time should be about 48 hours.
Tourists will not be granted exemptions, nor will people who are not relocating permanently, such as anyone planning to travel to Newfoundland and Labrador just to spend time at a cottage, cabin or second home, Fitzgerald said.
Ball announced the provincial government will nearly double its vegetable transplant program to assist commercial vegetable producers in the upcoming growing season.
Last year, the provincial government provided 1.7 million vegetable transplants from the Wooddale Centre for Agriculture and Forestry Development. This year, there will be see three million transplants, with the potential for 3.8 million pounds of vegetables.
Ball also said loan and interest payments for the tourism industry will be deferred until September, while government will also step up its contribution to eligible research and development programs for businesses to 75 per cent.