No visitors for long-term, community care facilities, says P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer
'We make that recommendation knowing that it is really trying to protect their health'
In a media briefing Sunday afternoon, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison updated Islanders on COVID-19 on Prince Edward Island.
On Saturday afternoon, Morrison announced the Island's first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a Queens County woman recently who returned from travel on a cruise ship.
The woman is in her 50s and is in self-isolation. Morrison said the woman and her family are doing well.
At Sunday's press briefing, Morrison was joined by Health PEI's Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling to respond.
As the number of cases continues to grow across the country, Morrison said additional measures will be put in place across the province to ensure the health and safety of all.
"I wanted to let people know that our case, that was announced yesterday, our first COVID-19 case, [she] continues to self-isolate," Morrison said.
She said contact tracing is being conducted in relation to the first confirmed case. This is being done by an existing team at Health PEI, which deals with the spread of other communicable diseases.
"Every person who has been in contact, will be contacted," Morrison said.
They are a vulnerable population who is at risk of the most serious complications of COVID-19.— Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer
Morrison said officials are aware of other Islanders who were on the cruise ship and are contacting them as well.
She said the province will release which cruise line the woman was on in the coming days. The cruise ship is not based out of Canada, she said.
No visitors to long-term and community care centres
One of the provinces new recommendations includes the discontinuation of visitation to P.E.I.'s long-term care and community care facilities.
"We've struggled with this kind of recommendation and how we can best do that.
"They are a vulnerable population who is at risk of the most serious complications of COVID-19," Morrison said.
She said the decision to discontinue visitation was not made lightly. She said the decision was a challenging one to makes due to the potential impact on people who are in these facilities.
"We make that recommendation knowing that it is really trying to protect their health," Morrison said.
Essential health services the focus
The second recommendation being implemented by Health PEI will include moving toward essential services and postponing non-essential appointments at health-care facilities across the Island to alleviate pressures on staff. People will be contacted directly.
"We want Islanders to know, from Health PEI, we are doing our best to protect our health-care workers," Dowling said.
That includes implementing visitor restrictions across all sites. Part of the recommendation is that those who are ill or experiencing symptoms should not visit those who are in health-care facilities across the Island.
Though people who are ill are being discouraged from visitation, Islanders who are experiencing symptoms of the virus are encouraged to seek care.
"They should come to hospital if they need that care."
Dowling said efforts are being made to come up with alternative options for people in private and long-term facilities to keep in touch with loved ones.
"There's all kinds of options we're trying to work through."
Dowling assured Islanders that health-care workers are following all guidelines surrounding self-isolation.
Ahead of Sunday's press briefing, several long-term care facilities announced the cancellation of visiting hours, including Garden Home and Whisperwood Villa in Queens County.
Morrison said her office has received many questions from Islanders surrounding early childcare centres, which fall under the province's third recommendation.
"Children who have travelled outside the country, including the United States, should not attend any child-care centre for 14 days."
"It's also very important that any child with any symptoms of illness not attend early child-care."
We're trying to balance and minimize the impact on the lives of Islanders with the best interest of their health and safety.— Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer
Morrison added that children whose parents have travelled outside of the country should also not attend early child-care centres as they are not able to isolate themselves from their parents.
"We're trying to balance and minimize the impact on the lives of Islanders with the best interest of their health and safety," Morrison said.
An evolving situation
These are the recommendations being reinforced today, Morrison cautioned and they may change in the coming days.
Morrison said that self-isolation is only recommended for those who have travelled outside of the country after March 8. Those who travelled prior to that date are still being asked to monitor for symptoms.
She said if people in self-isolation begin experiencing symptoms, those living with them should also self-isolate and monitor their symptoms until test results are confirmed.
Morrison elaborated that the movement of goods and the transportation industry are considered essential travel. People like truck drivers and airline crew will still be able to continue their daily activities but are being asked to self-monitor.
Morrison stressed that those who are most vulnerable follow self-isolation recommendations. Avoiding social gatherings that may put them at increased risk is critical as well as, avoiding touching your face and washing hands.
The province will continue to have live conferences every day as the situation develops.
COVID-19: What you need to know
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.
How can I protect myself?
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.
More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.