Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. reports 3 more COVID-19-related deaths, pushing provincial total to 34

The three deaths are the most reported in a single day in the province since the pandemic began. Thirty-four people have now died of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, 15 in the last month alone.

Province marks most deaths in a single day since pandemic began

Three people in Newfoundland and Labrador have died from COVID-19 since Tuesday, says Dr. Janice Fitzgerald. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting three more deaths due to COVID-19, the most in a single day since the pandemic hit the province.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said at a provincial briefing Wednesday that all three deaths were people in the Central Health region.

Thirty-four people in the province have now died of COVID-19 since March 2020 — 15 in the last month.

While Health Minister John Haggie said he can't elaborate on the nature of the deaths due to privacy concerns, he said about 60 per cent of deaths connected to the Omicron variant were people who were at least partially vaccinated.

More than 96 per cent of the province's eligible population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while over 93 per cent of the eligible population ages 12 and above are fully vaccinated.

"I caution people with looking at numbers without really diving a bit more into them.… The vaccine is still very effective at preventing that severe disease," Fitzgerald said, adding the province is seeing more deaths because the province has reported a drastically higher volume of cases than in previous waves.

The province also reported 304 new cases and 308 recoveries, dropping the known active caseload to 2,680.

There are 240 new cases in the Eastern Health region, 36 in the Central Health region, 23 in the Western Health region and five in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region.

Twenty people are in hospital due to COVID-19, unchanged from Tuesday's update, including seven in critical care, and 80 people total are COVID-19-positive.

Watch the full briefing here:

Haggie said 759 regional health authority employees are in isolation, including 198 who have tested positive.

Since Tuesday, 2,017 tests have been completed, with a positivity rate of 15.1 per cent. More than 474,000 tests have been completed over the course of the pandemic, said Fitzgerald.

Despite the high numbers, Fitzgerald says the province is in Alert Level 4, rather than the stricter Level 5, to try to balance public health goals with societal effects.

"Our goals are to minimize the impact on society, while also minimize severe disease and deaths and keeping hospitalizations at a level that our health system can manage. Our vaccination rate is helping … but we still have work to do," she said.

"All that work we put in has prepared us to see this through."

Premier Andrew Furey says the alert level will be monitored on a weekly basis, with the next update planned for Monday, Jan. 31.

Fitzgerald also addressed concerns about the contact tracing system in schools, in which parents are not obligated to notify the school if the child tests positive.

She said the goal is to try to prevent students from being caught in repeated isolation cycles that would keep them out of the classroom, or have an effect on their — or their family's — mental health.

If their child develops symptoms, parents are asked to use their supply of rapid COVID-19 tests.

The province is also changing testing requirements for those who have previously tested positive and face a second exposure. If a person has tested positive for COVID-19 on or before Dec. 21 and becomes a close contact of another case within 90 days, they do not need to be tested or self-isolate.

N.L. boosting online learning resources

During the briefing, Education Minister Tom Osborne announced the expansion of online learning resources for junior and senior high school students.

The province is adding educators to help develop resources for its Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation program, commonly known as CDLI, including six people who will create additional online learning resources to support math and reading in junior high.

NLESD CEO Tony Stack says online curricula will be boosted for students who need to self-isolate. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

More than 40 courses are available, Osborne said, with fuller curricula potentially available in February.

"It's for anybody who might have to self-isolate. It's not really intended for long-term learning, but it's an excellent resource," added Newfoundland and Labrador English School District CEO Tony Stack.

The new resources don't apply for students in kindergarten to Grade 6, Osborne said, as the self-teaching nature of the online material doesn't work as well for that age group.

Grades 8 and 9 of Menihek High School in Labrador West resumed in-person instruction Wednesday, Stack said. Students in the two grades had continued with online learning this week due to a staffing shortage.

Health Minister John Haggie says Pfizer's antiviral drug treatment is intended for people who are more vulnerable to being hospitalized by COVID-19. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

COVID-19 antiviral drug not for everybody: Haggie

The health minister said an antiviral COVID-19 drug that was created by Pfizer and approved by Health Canada late last year will be available in the province, through a doctor, to anyone over the age of 12 who has tested positive, but Haggie said the drug isn't for everybody.

"It is a drug to reduce the risk of hospitalizations in those who are frail, who are elderly or who are in demographics that we know are at high risk of hospitalization," he said. "It's not a drug for everybody."

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