Nfld. & Labrador

4th COVID wave has 'reached our shores' as virus rips through central Newfoundland, infecting 45

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting 45 new cases of COVID-19 since officials last offered an update, with the Twillingate area moving to Alert Level 3 effective midnight.

Testing continues in Baie Verte, Twillingate, Gander

Dr. Rosann Seviour, acting chief medical officer of health, moved Twillingate to Alert Level 3 on Friday, as a cluster in central Newfoundland continues to grow. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting 45 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, leaving the province with its highest active case count in over six months.

According to Dr. Rosann Seviour, acting chief medical officer of health, 39 of the cases are in the Central Health region, which is dealing with the latest COVID-19 outbreak in the province.

Thirteen of Friday's new cases were previously categorized as presumptive positive.

There are also three cases in the Eastern Health region, two of them under investigation and one related to travel, and three in the Western Health region, all under investigation.

Newfoundland and Labrador now has 109 active cases of COVID-19, the highest case count since March 5.

Seviour also reported 18 new presumptive cases, all in the Central Health region.

"The fourth wave has unfortunately reached our shores," Seviour told reporters in an unplanned briefing Friday afternoon, noting that a cluster of cases originally located in Baie Verte has begun to shift toward the Twillingate area.

As a result, Twillingate, New World Island and communities accessed via Route 340, starting at and including Boyd's Cove, will move to Alert Level 3 at midnight. Non-essential travel into areas under Alert Level 3 should be limited, said Seviour.

This area of Newfoundland is now under Alert Level 3, including Twillingate, Summerford and neighbouring communities on connected islands in Notre Dame Bay. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Communities along routes 410 to 419 on the Baie Verte Peninsula are also under Alert Level 3.

There are 71 cases connected to the Central cluster, including 10 cases in New World Academy in Summerford. As a result, the school will close in-person learning in favour of online classes.

The Department of Health confirmed later Friday that 21 of those cases are breakthrough cases — COVID-19 infections developed in people who are fully vaccinated.

Nine of the 71 cases are people who are partially vaccinated, while 40 cases, or 57 per cent of the cluster, are in unvaccinated people.

Across the province, over 79 per cent of the eligible population has received two doses, while over 87 per cent has received at least one.

Testing will be also available in Twillingate, Baie Verte and Gander over the weekend. A total of 294,264 tests have now been completed in the province.

"A case identified is a case contained," Seviour said. "Delta is here. And we need to show it the door."

Health-care system prepared for 4th wave: Seviour

The province reported 13 recoveries Friday, while two people are in hospital due to COVID-19.

Health Minister John Haggie said the province hoped not to see a triple-digit caseload again.

"Quite frankly, it speaks to the importance of vaccinations at the community level," Health Minister John Haggie said.

Haggie said the province will continue to update the public on new COVID cases over the weekend, which was done previously in the pandemic when higher case counts were reported.

Watch Friday's briefing:

Both Seviour and Haggie reminded people to wear their masks when needed and emphasized the importance of following health measures in place.

"We have stared down the face of COVID before and we will do it again. We have 18 months of this pandemic under our belts and it has been a long haul for everyone," she said.

"But those 18 months have armed us with the knowledge, tools and ability to keep us and our loved ones safe."

Despite the dramatic rise in cases, Seviour expressed confidence in the health-care system's ability to handle a spike in infections after speaking with Dr. Proton Rahman, head of Newfoundland and Labrador's COVID-19 data modelling team.

"He has told us that at the moment, we are certainly not in an area where we are being overwhelmed," she said. "Even our total cases, we're up to … 1,654, which for some provinces is what they see in a day."

Rahman will also speak to the province and present the latest COVID-19 modelling to the province as part of Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing.

Case spike causing 'fear' in central Newfoundland communities

Meanwhile, as communities in Newfoundland's Central Health region continue to navigate the province's latest COVID-19 outbreak, officials in the region say the onslaught of new cases is worrying for people in the area.

"There is fear," Baie Verte-Green Bay MHA Brian Warr told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning on Friday.

"I guess we've learned to live with it, but in this part of the province I don't know if we've ever had a positive case of COVID-19 within my district.… To have a cluster like this that's happening right now, it's put fear into the people of my district."

Warr said he's especially concerned about viral spread among the 19 communities in the region and a relatively low vaccination rate compared with the rest of Newfoundland.

Only 65.5 per cent of the eligible population on the Baie Verte Peninsula is fully vaccinated — the lowest on the island — according to data provided to CBC News by the Department of Health on Friday. 

Warr said a lack of cases in the region could have led to complacency.

"It may be the demographic. It certainly is an aging population, especially in some of the smaller communities," Warr said. "It's close-knit, and the variant is known to spread widely. And it has."

Seviour said the province's relative isolation from severe COVID outbreaks may have stopped some people from getting vaccinated earlier.

"I think one of the reasons is we feel fairly secure in Newfoundland, fairly safe. Especially in our smaller areas, where we just don't think COVID is going to get there," she said.

"We're also sort of reaching out to communities now in trying to understand a bit better and support people in making that choice."

Eighty-five per cent of the eligible population in Twillingate has received two doses of vaccine, according to Seviour.

COVID-19 testing is underway in Twillingate as health officials monitor the region amid increasing cases. (Submitted by Kayla Dalley)

COVID-19 testing is available in Baie Verte on Friday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Tommy Ricketts arena. An appointment is not required. People seeking testing are asked to stay in their vehicles until advised to enter the testing building.

Visitor restrictions have also been put in place at two regional health centres: the James Paton Memorial Centre in Gander and the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor.

Visiting hours will be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., effective immediately, with COVID-19 screening still in place. All patients can be accompanied by one person for emergencies, appointments or procedures. Emergency services and scheduled outpatient appointments are not affected.

Those requiring information about loved ones affected by the change should contact the appropriate nursing unit, said Central Health.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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