New case ends 8-day COVID-free streak, while N.L.'s top doc endorses 3-ply masks
New case in Central Health region, man between 50 and 59 years old, and is travel-related
Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting a new case of COVID-19 Wednesday, while officials endorse new federal guidance about using masks with filters.
The new case ends an eight-day streak in which no new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the province.
The new case is a male resident of the Central Health region, between 50 and 59 years old, who recently returned from Alberta, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald at Wednesday's weekly live COVID-19 briefing. Fitzgerald said the man is self-isolating.
In a subsequent media release, the health department said all passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 7484 from Toronto to Deer Lake, arriving on Friday, Oct. 30, to call 811 to arrange for COVID-19 testing. The flight advisory was made out of "an abundance of caution" and related to the new case.
The new case brings the province's total caseload to 292, but an additional recovery announced Wednesday means the active caseload remains three, with four deaths and 285 recoveries since the pandemic hit in March.
With Halloween over — Fitzgerald said she believes people largely complied with public health guidelines — the chief medical officer of health said people's thoughts will now be turning to Remembrance Day and the holiday season.
"While large-scale community events such as parades, fireworks, tree-lighting ceremonies and bonfires are not recommended at this time, anyone planning an outdoor event should follow the guidelines for distanced gatherings," she said.
That means a maximum of 100 people at an outdoor event, with proper distancing.
"Please remember this one holiday season in which things will be different as we navigate life with COVID-19," Fitzgerald said, adding that with the weather getting colder, people will also be spending more time indoors.
"Organizers should plan for situations and activities with the least amount of risk possible, and individuals should carefully consider the risk associated with any events before they attend," she said.
As people plan their activities under the pandemic, Fitzgerald said, it's important for people to be careful about where they get their information.
"A story on social media may be old, inaccurate, or not applicable to Newfoundland and Labrador," she said.
On Tuesday Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, recommended Canadians use three-layer non-medical masks with a filter layer. According to recently updated federal guidelines, two layers should be made of a tightly woven fabric, such as cotton or linen, and the middle layer should be a filter-type fabric.
Fitzgerald backed up the recommendation at the Newfoundland and Labrador briefing Wednesday.
"I'm certainly not suggesting that people throw out what they have and not use it, but if you are going to purchase masks, I think looking for something that's three-ply, or something that has the ability to put a filter in it —you know, some masks have pockets that you can put filters in — I think that will be a good idea."
Fitzgerald said the common disposable blue and white masks many people use — and often can be found littering the roads as well — are still fine to use.
"They are woven of a slightly different material, and so they are considered acceptable at this time," she said.
As science changes, we'll change our recommendation. I appreciate people's frustrations with that … but, you know, this is what we have to do to stay ahead of this virus.- Janice Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald said she sympathizes with people who feel like health recommendations keep changing, but said advice will continue to be updated as more is learned about the coronavirus.
"As science changes, we'll change our recommendation," she said. "I appreciate people's frustrations with that — I think that's felt everywhere — but, you know, this is what we have to do to stay ahead of this virus."
Health Minister John Haggie — emphasizing that it's called a "novel" coronavirus because it's new — said one of the challenges of the pandemic has been dealing with uncertainty.
"One of the challenges we have had here has been around managing uncertainty," he said. "And the facts are, as Dr. FItzgerald laid out, that we have changed our advice to mirror the level of generally accepted peer-review knowledge around this virus. And as that changes, our recommendations change."
Expect recommendations to continue to change, said Haggie, because there is new information about the virus daily.
"I think for those people who would argue that because we've had to change our mind, that sometimes suggests to them that we don't know our mind," he said. "I think that's a false assumption, and it's unfair to the staff in public health who have done their level best to advise us of the best way to cope with COVID on this day, as opposed to three days ago."
On Wednesday, Ontario announced 987 new cases of the virus, pushing the province's seven-day average to 972, the highest it's been at any point during the pandemic. While Newfoundlanders and Labradorians may feel insulated from what's happening elsewhere, warned Fitzgerald, that could change if people let their guard down.
"Our biggest risk right now for cases is introduction from people bringing it into the province," she said, adding that keeping mask and self-isolation rules in place will help the province limit the virus's spread.
"That being said, there is always a risk that this virus could come in. Somebody may not have symptoms, somebody may develop symptoms later … so there can be reasons why this virus can spread and people can still do everything right, so to speak, right? So we do have to remember that."
According to the Department of Health, 53,472 people have been tested as of Wednesday, an increase of 349 since Tuesday.