Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. reports 2 new COVID-19 cases as watch for omicron variant begins

Both new cases are in the province's Western Health region, and the source of infection is being investigated.

Both cases are in province's Western Health region, and the source of infection is being investigated

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says Newfoundland and Labrador should expect to see cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant in the future. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 in the province since Monday.

Both cases are in the province's Western Health region, and health officials are investigating the source of the infections.

The cases include a person in their 50s and a person in their 60s.

At Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the cases were found as a result of an advisory from the provincial government Tuesday that noted COVID-19 had been found through wastewater testing in the Deer Lake area.

Fitzgerald is asking anyone in the region with one symptom of the virus to get tested. Anyone who travelled in the region from Nov. 19 to Nov. 22 is also asked to get tested.

Also on Wednesday, Western Health issued a potential exposure advisory asking anyone who visited Riffs at 10 Commerce St. in Deer Lake between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Nov. 20, Nov. 22 or Nov. 23 to book a COVID-19 test.

With one new recovery, the total number of active cases in the province rises to 22. No one is in hospital because of the virus. The number of completed COVID tests remains unavailable due to an IT outage.

Watch the full update here:

Fitzgerald said the province has not yet seen a case of the omicron variant, the newest COVID-19 variant of concern, but — based on the province's experience with the delta variant — it's likely to arrive at some point. Omicron cases have been found in four Canadian provinces this week.

"Until then, it's important to remember that this is still a COVID virus, and we have the tools and the know how to protect ourselves," she said.

Fitzgerald said there is still a lot to learn about the new variant, such as how it will affect virus transmission, disease severity and vaccine effectiveness.

While some countries, including the United States, have pushed for residents to get COVID-19 booster shots to help protect against the variant, she said Newfoundland and Labrador will wait for guidance from Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization as more information emerges.

Fitzgerald saying changes to border testing and isolation rules could be implemented.

"It's very early days, and we're still learning about some of this information, but we're always considering how we can either detect it earlier or protect against it," she said.

Limit indoor gatherings to 25: Fitzgerald

While the province currently has no clusters of COVID-19, Fitzgerald said cases are still being found without a clear source of infection.

Going into the holiday season, the chief medical officer of health recommended limiting indoor gatherings to 25 people, which she said would go a long way to fight spread of the coronavirus.

The recommendation is not like last year, said Fitzgerald, when keeping a tight group of family or friends to gather with over the holidays was part of a special measures order.

Provincial travel restrictions will remain in place over the holiday season, while Fitzgerald also recommended limiting indoor holiday gatherings to 25 people. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Instead, she asked people to keep gathering numbers in mind while also accounting for physical distancing, and provincial travel restrictions will remain in place for the holiday season.

"I know it has been a long haul, and we want to put COVID behind us. We're getting there, but we're not quite there yet.… We are in a much better place than we were last year, most of the province is fully vaccinated, we can gather with family and friends, enjoy our activities and welcome our loved ones home for the holidays," Fitzgerald said.

"We know not what the future holds, so we need everyone's cooperation to stay the course." 

We know that those who are unvaccinated are at the highest risk of getting and spreading this. And it's also not just about the children, it's about who children can spread it to.- Janice Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald said more than 3,700 children between the ages of five and 11, about 10.5 per cent of the province's eligible population, have now received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Newfoundland and Labrador.

About 94 per cent of the province's total eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine, while over 90 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Fitzgerald said the province is holding off on lifting more restrictions to reduce the risk as much as possible while a section of the population remains unvaccinated.

"We know that those who are unvaccinated are at the highest risk of getting and spreading this. And it's also not just about the children, it's about who children can spread it to."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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