Nfld. & Labrador

New COVID-19 cases drop to 4, but far too early to be optimistic, N.L. says

The start of this week marked a sombre milestone, with the death of a 78-year-old man related to COVID-19, the first death associated with the virus in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Lowest daily number of new cases in 9 days

Latest

  • 152: Current cases for Newfoundland and Labrador
  • 4 new cases marks the lowest daily number of new COVID-19 cases in 9 days
  • 2,575 samples have been tested, with 2,423 returning negative
  • 120 cases are related to Caul's Funeral Home — 79 per cent of provincial total
Health Minister John Haggie said Tuesday's low number of new cases doesn't mean the province is out of the woods. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador/YouTube)

There are four new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador in the last 24 hours, marking the lowest number recorded in more than a week. 

But health officials say no one can be complacent about a declining rate of growth in cases, warning that months of fighting the highly infectious disease are ahead. 

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday afternoon all four new cases are in the Eastern Health region of the province, which now has a total caseload of 152.

Watch the full March 31 update:

Fitzgerald said 143 cases are in the Eastern Health region of the province, three are in Central Health, one is in Western Health and five are in Labrador-Grenfell.

She said 2,575 samples have been tested, with 2,423 returning negative for the virus.

As of Tuesday, 120 cases are related to Caul's Funeral Home — 79 per cent of the provincial total.

"I must stress that just because the number of confirmed cases being reported today is lower than they have been in recent days, this does not mean that you can ignore the emergency public health orders currently in place," Fitzgerald said Tuesday during the province's daily update.

"The COVID-19 virus is in our communities and we are still at the beginning of this pandemic."

Eleven people are in hospital as a result of the virus, with two in intensive-care units. Seven have recovered from the virus, Fitzgerald said. Health Minister John Haggie said, of those who have recovered, five are in the Eastern Health Region and two are in Labrador-Grenfell Health. Haggie said those numbers could be completely different by Wednesday.

In a new measure Tuesday, Fitzgerald ordered the closure of campsites at municipal and privately owned parks. And she clarified a new measure announced Monday that prohibited the sale of lottery tickets; Fitzgerald said the measure applies to scratch tickets and break-open tickets. Lotto Max and 6/49 tickets can still be purchased.

Premier Dwight Ball said anyone whose MCP coverage expired in March or will expire in April will have it extended to June 30, including international students and workers whose study and work in N.L. have been extended, as well as people having difficulty getting documentation for post-secondary institutions or employers.

Caul's cluster

Wednesday will mark the final day anyone who was affected by the initial Caul's Funeral Home cluster of COVID-19 cases will be in self-isolation. 

Fitzgerald said anyone who still has symptoms or are being tracked by public health officials are to remain in isolation until given the all-clear. 

Haggie said today's low number of new cases doesn't mean the province is out of the woods.

"We are in general lagging about two weeks behind the rest of mainland Canada. If you want to know the potential for what could come here, look no further than Ontario and Quebec today and see the challenges that they face," he said. 

"It is crucial that Dr. Fitzgerald's orders are followed and respected. These are simply some of the most restrictive changes to everyday life in this province since wartime in Europe. And that is no exaggeration." 

Work being done

Fitzgerald said the province can't simply shut down completely for two weeks to contain and end COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"That's why we don't do it. What we know about this virus is two weeks is the incubation period for one person being exposed to that virus. It's not the incubation for a full population," she said.

"The evidence has been clear that two weeks of shutting everything down has not been effective. This is going to be prolonged. It's going to take several months."

Haggie said dealing with the virus is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

"This is not three days, it's not two weeks, it's at least three months. And we're only at the beginning of week three," he said.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says while the daily number of new COVID-19 cases has been dropping in Newfoundland and Labrador, it's not the time to ignore emergency public health orders. File photo. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Overflow work has begun in the health regions across the province to clear up hospital beds necessary for those with COVID-19 needing emergency care.

Memorial University's Field House facility in St. John's will act as overflow for non-COVID-19 patients if needed, and Haggie said Western Health is considering using its new long-term care facility to do the same. Haggie said he doesn't have specifics for Central Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health yet.

The province has also made a push for virtual care in the last week, where patients needing appointments with physicians can do so over the phone or by video conference. Haggie said 391 practitioners across the province have requested virtual-care access, and the province is looking at ways to make the service widely accessible.

Ball said the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation has produced about 9,000 litres of hand sanitizer, and is currently shipping it to health authorities across the province, at no charge.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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