PEI

Chief public health officer urges Islanders to consider what's essential amid COVID-19

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced additional testing, identified the cruise ship that the first case of COVID-19 was on and urged Islanders to rethink what is essential activity.

'Ask why you are going somewhere, do you have to go?'

P.E.I. has tested an additional 22 cases as of Monday morning, that is in addition to the 100 which were tested on Sunday.  (Julien Lecacheur/CBC-Radio Canada)

In a media briefing on Monday afternoon, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced additional testing, identified the cruise ship that the first case of COVID-19 was on and urged Islanders to rethink what is essential activity.

"Today I'm asking individuals, families, businesses and government to really start thinking about what is really essential and what is not essential for you to be doing. Ask why you are going somewhere, do you have to go? This has significant impacts but we need all of us, at every level, to start thinking and planning." 

"Going to the grocery store — that's essential — but maybe you don't need to get your hair done," she said. 

P.E.I. has tested an additional 22 cases as of Monday morning, that is in addition to the 100 which were tested on Sunday. 

Morrison announced the Island's first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Saturday. Morrison said the Queens County woman, who recently returned from a cruise, is in her 50s and is in self-isolation. 

Cruise ship identified

Morrison said the cruise ship the woman was on has been identified as the Celebrity Summit Cruise. Four Islanders, including the woman, were on the ship. It was travelling through the Caribbean from Feb. 29 until March 7. 

Public Health has reached out to those people and they have all been instructed to self-isolate. 

Morrison said officials with the province and public health are discussing the need for social distancing and self-isolation with seniors and those most vulnerable to the virus. 

But as the province asks people to self-isolate, Morrison said officials understand the challenges that come with that. 

"We also know isolation, not having that interaction with others — it's a balance. How do you make sure that older individuals still have contact and have the support they need?"

She said people should avoid mass gatherings to ensure social distancing and protecting health and safety.

"There maybe some who don't understand yet. This is why it's so important to talk about it, what self-isolation means and what social distancing means," Morrison said in response to a question on how seriously Islanders are taking the directives. 

Additional ventilators, equipment

Morrison is reminding people to keep a two-metre distance from each other. She said self-isolation must be done at home.

She said if people do not appear to comply with social distancing and self-isolation recommendations, she said there are additional orders under the Public Health Act that may be pursued by the province. 

Morrison said a lot of planning is underway to make sure there are resources available to handle people who become ill.

Retired doctors, nurses and medical staff are being contacted to see whether they're able to work if needed.

Morrison said the province is looking into making a request for additional ventilators and other equipment to deal with the virus. 

I believe in our health system. I believe in this government.— Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer

"Absolutely we could use more ventilators, and I think the request we would be making to the federal government is for more ventilators and more supplies."

She also announced the closure of some public libraries on the Island including: 

  • Georgetown Genevieve Soloman Memorial Library
  • Montague Rotary Library
  • Murray Harbour Public Library
  • O'Leary Public Library

Funeral homes

Morrison said the province has plans to reach out to funeral homes in the coming days on COVID-19 guidance and directives on managing wakes and funerals.

"I think it's important that people have the opportunity to grieve — but how we're going to manage that is a discussion with that organization."

On Sunday, the province announced a series of new recommendations aimed at stopping the spread of the virus on P.E.I.

Public schools and early years centres across the Island are closed, long-term care and community care facilities are no longer accepting visitors, and Health PEI is moving toward essential services and postponing non-essential appointments.

She said planning is underway to explore alternative learning options for Island students. 

Morrison said while there is much to be done in the coming days, she believes public health is doing everything it can to prepare and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

"I believe in our health system. I believe in this government getting ready. I believe we are doing the right measures here … for the protection of Islanders in the weeks and months ahead," she said.  

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

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.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

About the Author

Sam Juric

Digital Reporter

Sam Juric is a digital reporter with CBC P.E.I. and can be reached at samantha.juric@cbc.ca.

With files from Nicola MacLeod and Brittany Spencer