PEI

'Stay home if you can,' urges P.E.I. chief public health officer

P.E.I. bars and restaurants will close in-room dining effective immediately, says Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.

Restaurants and bars to close dining rooms

"This is unprecedented and there are unprecedented measures we’ve had to put in place," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said Tuesday. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

P.E.I. bars and restaurants will close in-room dining effective immediately, says Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.

In a news briefing Tuesday, Morrison emphasized the need for Islanders to stay home if they can and as much as possible, regardless of whether they have a travel history.

"For those of you who are not self-isolating, this means you are home as much as possible and asking that question, do you really need to leave?" said Morrison.

"The best way for us to come together right now is if we stay apart." 

Morrison said theatres, including movie theatres, and indoor play areas will also close. She also recommended the closure of dental clinics for at least two weeks, with emergencies to be handled on a case-by-case basis. 

For wakes and funerals, visiting hours only are permitted with fewer than 20 people and funeral services need to be postponed or delayed. Morrison encouraged Islanders to instead send donations and condolences online.

"Closure for families and grief process, this is very difficult," she said. "We think this is the best approach ... trying to keep everyone safe."

WestJet Flight 3440

There is still only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in the province. Morrison said the Queens County woman in her 50s is still at home and doing well.

Health officials are alerting anyone who was on WestJet Flight 3440 on March 7 from Toronto to Moncton to self-isolate as the Island's sole confirmed case of COVID-19 was on that flight. New Brunswick health authorities are relaying the same message.

The best way for us to come together right now is if we stay apart.'— Dr. Heather Morrison

"That will likely impact more New Brunswickers than Islanders," she said, adding that the identity of the individual on the flight will not be revealed.

"Anonymity of cases is very important, it's essential."

Morrison said almost 150 tests have been conducted on the Island. Some results are still pending but officials are expecting to receive the results of some of those additional tests later Tuesday.

75% occupancy rate

Health PEI's Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling also spoke at the news briefing, saying Health PEI has implemented its essential services plan which will remain in place for three weeks. This means rescheduling non-essential services during that time. 

Dowling said emergency care will continue, but patients that are less sick are asked to book through community-based appointments in order to keep up the capacity of the emergency rooms.

Non-emergency surgeries are also being rescheduled. 

Dowling also spoke about preparing for a spike in cases at Charlottetown's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

"We're aiming towards 75 per cent occupancy rate. We run way closer to 100 per cent now," she said. "Some elective procedures won't be continuing so that will give us some capacity."

Dowling also said that some staff within the health system are in self-isolation and other staff may be moved from their regular jobs to help deal with the crisis.

"We're also working on a list of retirees and volunteers to help support our staffing efforts, and we've received a good response," she said.

'Stay home'

Morrison said she has received some indication that Islanders are not taking the recommendations seriously and officials are relying on Islanders to help protect the most vulnerable in an effort to flatten the curve of the virus. 

Public health officials are urging Islanders to stay home unless they need something essential like groceries. (Tony Davis/CBC)

"I'm saying stay home unless you need to go out to get groceries. I think that's pretty clear. We need to take this seriously. I'm not sure everyone on P.E.I. understands that it's important to self-isolate," she said.

Morrison said she's relying on Islanders to help protect the most vulnerable, which means not going for a walk in a crowded place, not going to the bank and staying away from other people.

In Tuesday's briefing, Morrison also said that 29 registered nurses as well as 11 new call takers have been added to 811, a service shared with Nova Scotia.

"We hope that, together with Nova Scotia, will help address some of the issues of wait times," 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.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said funerals and wakes would be allowed with fewer than 20 people. In fact, funerals have to be postponed or delayed and wakes are allowed with fewer than 20 people.
    Mar 19, 2020 1:25 PM AT

About the Author

Nicola MacLeod is a reporter with CBC in P.E.I.

With files from Shane Ross and Nancy Russell

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