Nfld. & Labrador

Stay home for Easter weekend, Haggie urges as N.L. COVID-19 caseload rises slightly

Newfoundland and Labrador has two new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours — the smallest single-day increase since March 21 — bringing the province's total to 228.
Janice Fitzgerald, the chief medical officer of health, speaks Tuesday at a media briefing at Confederation Building. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Newfoundland and Labrador has two new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours — the smallest single-day increase since March 21 — bringing the province's total to 228.

Chief medical officer of health Janice Fitzgerald said at Tuesday's daily update the new cases are in the Eastern Health and Central Health regions of the province. Tuesday marks the fifth time in eight days the number of new cases was fewer than 10.

Fitzgerald urged the public not to read anything into the slight increase.

"This is a sign that we've had two cases in the last 24 hours, or since the last media advisory, and that is all. There are going to be days like this that we only have a few cases and then there are going to be days where we have more," she said.

Health Minister John Haggie warned the province is on the edge of a surge, and Wednesday's briefing will be held at 6 p.m., rather than — as has been the norm — earlier in the afternoon, to share new information about what the future of COVID-19 looks like for the province.

Watch the full April 7 update:

"Our predictive analytics group will talk about what the future may hold," he said. "These are possibilities, these are probabilities, and they are looking at the future through a fuzzy telescope, through a fuzzy crystal ball."

With Easter weekend only days away, Haggie also urged people to maintain physical distancing and not gather with family and friends to celebrate.

"Hope is a girl's name not a strategy. ... We need to get this right. This weekend you won't notice the difference. Next week you'll notice it in 10 to 14 days time," Haggie said.

"These gatherings are now dangerous. There are other ways of doing them."

Fitzgerald said more is being learned about transmission of the virus before a person develops symptoms — referred to as presymptomatic transmission.

She said there is also evidence that shows the virus can be transmitted by people who never develop symptoms, called asymptomatic transmission. 

By region, 217 cases have been found in the Eastern Health region of the province, four in Central Health, one in Western Health and six in Labrador-Grenfell.

  • 20 cases are under 20 years old.
  • 34 are between 20 and 39 years old.
  • 33 are between 40 and 49 years old.
  • 50 are between 50 and 59 years old.
  • 48 are between 60 and 69 years old. 
  • 43 are 70 years old or older.

Fitzgerald said seven people are in hospital as a result of the virus, with two in intensive care. She said 49 people have recovered. As of Tuesday afternoon 3,958 samples have been tested in the province.

Haggie said of those who have recovered from COVID-19, 44 are in Eastern Health, one is in Central Health, one in Western Health and three in Labrador-Grenfell.

While health officials have begun to say it can be beneficial to wear homemade masks in public, Fitzgerald said Tuesday homemade masks should be used to protect others around the wearer from their own respiratory droplets, which spread the virus, and will not protect the wearer themselves.

"The use of medical masks must be reserved for health care. Homemade masks can be an additional measure to prevent your own respiratory droplets from contaminating others even if you don't have symptoms," she said.

"In keeping with the latest evidence we know that wearing a non-medical mask such as the homemade cloth mask in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it."

Fitzgerald added homemade masks are not a replacement for public health measures such as handwashing, as the masks can still become contaminated on the outside.

Meanwhile Eastern Health said it will begin issuing a procedure mask, similar to a surgical mask, to be worn by anyone stepping inside its facilities. 

In a news release on Tuesday evening the health authority said, "although there is no evidence to support the use of procedure masks as a protective measure in the public forum, health-care settings are unique environments where the risk of transmission can be higher."

The public will continue to be screened, through a series of questions, as they enter Eastern Health facilities.

Asked Tuesday why he isn't working from home, Premier Dwight Ball said he would if he had symptoms of the virus, but for now wants to be as available as he can. Ball said he hasn't been home to Deer Lake in about five weeks, opting to stay in St. John's during the pandemic instead.

"I've been able to do so practising safe physical distancing, proper hygiene, of course, which is all readily available to me where we work, with a very limited number of people that would work within government," he said. "We work together in what is a very safe environment."

Dozens of deaths in long-term care homes across country

Tuesday's briefing followed a sombre Monday.

A second person had died of the highly infectious disease, and coronavirus had found its way for the first time into a long-term care setting.   

The 61-year-old woman who died was admitted to hospital from her home, and had underlying medical conditions.

A resident at U.S. Memorial Health Centre in St. Lawrence had also tested positive for COVID-19.

Residents in long-term care homes, and the potential of spread for COVID-19, is one of the most urgent issues facing public health departments across the country.

In British Columbia, the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver is where the first COVID-19-related death in Canada occurred. Since then, 11 other residents have died from the virus.

A more recent outbreak at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., about 150 kilometres northeast of Toronto, resulted in the death of 12 residents, and a volunteer whose husband is a resident also died.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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