Nfld. & Labrador

No confirmed cases of COVID-19 in N.L. yet, says chief medical officer of health

Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health says 44 cases have been tested as of Wednesday afternoon, but none came back positive for coronavirus.

8 people from Department of Natural Resources isolated after attending conference in Toronto

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, said there's no positive cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador despite a recent spike in people going into self-isolation. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Latest

  • Tom Davis and Bev Moore-Davis have tested negative for COVID-19

Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health says there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said there have been 44 cases tested so far.

All cases in the province have been determined negative in their preliminary testing, done locally, according to Fitzgerald. All cases will also be tested at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. Fitzgerald said 22 have come back negative while the province waits for the results of the rest.

"Individuals and families considered to be at risk for developing COVID-19 are required to self-isolate and are not permitted to attend work or school," she said.

Watch N.L.'s chief medical officer of health deliver update on COVID-19

"When you're in self-isolation, a public health official will contact you to monitor the situation."

But Fitzgerald is remaining realistic. She said the province is anticipating positive cases, but will put in place public health measures to limit the spread of the virus if or when that happens.

However, Fitzgerald said 80 per cent of people who get the disease will have mild symptoms and will recover without issue.

"For those people who may develop more severe symptoms, obviously those are people who are older, who have underlying medical conditions. We would want to protect those people as much as possible."

Self-isolation for travellers

A St. John's couple is in self-isolation as they await the results of a COVID-19 test, while the World Health Organization said Wednesday afternoon the virus is a pandemic.

Tom Davis and Bev Moore-Davis came back from a cruise that originated in Italy before the country suffered the largest outbreak in Europe. They spent time in Venice around Feb. 12, before boarding the cruise in Rome.

Bev Moore-Davis and Tom Davis are back in St. John's after a cruise that originated in Italy before the country suffered the largest outbreak in Europe. (Submitted by Tom Davis)

About two weeks later, a woman they'd made friends with on the ship became ill. So did a man from Texas. 

The Davis couple got sick next, spending a few days with minor flu symptoms.

"Fast-forward to when we were leaving to come back, which was about eight or nine days later, we were still with the same symptoms," Tom Davis said.

They wore masks on the flight home, then had their children move in with their grandparents temporarily, and called 811 — Newfoundland and Labrador's health line — then given a different number to call.

After speaking with public health officials, "two nurses showed up with their full hazmat gear on and came in our house and tested both of us," Friday, Davis said.

Two people walk in Rome's Piazza Navona, deserted, Tuesday evening, March 10, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) (The Associated Press)

As of Wednesday at noon, the couple hadn't received their test results, which were sent to Winnipeg to be analyzed, but expected to have them by Thursday. 

Davis said the workers aboard the cruise ship were diligent about cleaning and keeping surfaces sanitized.

He's taking the same measures — albeit remotely from home — at his business, Frontline Action, which has an indoor facility for things like laser tag, archery and Nerf battles.

A cruise ship worker cleans a railing on a cruise ship docked off California. (The Associated Press)

"We always are cleaning and sanitizing everything, but recognizing people may be more apprehensive, we stepped it up a lot," Davis said.

"We deal with a lot of children's birthday parties so we just want parents to feel like we're taking extra measures to protect their children."

Taking precautions

Fitzgerald advises to avoid cruise ships, as the virus can spread quickly due to close proximity with other passengers.

Anyone returning from Iran, Italy or the Hubei province in China is being asked to self-isolate and call the province's 811 health line, said Fitzgerald. She added that all other travellers should self-monitor their health, and if symptoms such as a cough, fever or difficulty breathing occur, they should call 811.

There is no COVID-19 assessment centre set up in the province yet but Fitzgerald said it's being considered, and discussions are being held with regional health authorities.

Fitzgerald added there has been no decision made yet whether to allow cruise ships to enter St. John's harbour. 

Eight government officials in isolation

The Davis family are not the only ones quarantined in the province.

The province's Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady confirmed Wednesday that eight officials from her department are in self-quarantine after attending a trade show where a participant was confirmed to have the virus.

Fitzgerald said it's unknown how many people are in self-isolation in the province.

Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady says eight members of her department are in isolation. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Coady and her deputy minister, Ted Lomond, were not at the conference in Toronto.

"We have advised employees on this matter and have provided them with guidelines on COVID-19. The health and safety of our employees are paramount."

Coady said they became aware of the issue after media reports that someone at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference tested positive.

Fitzgerald said the conference was held March 2-3. The eight government officials have been back in Newfoundland and Labrador since, but were told Wednesday to self-isolate.   

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go and Heather Gillis

now