P.E.I. chief public health officer stressing self-isolation, social distancing

P.E.I. chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison continues to stress self-isolation and social distancing, and is preparing the system for an increase in cases, she said in her daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday.

P.E.I. has 3 confirmed cases of COVID-19, all travel related

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said P.E.I.'s first case of COVID-19 has ended her self-isolation period and the other two more recent cases are doing well at home. (CBC)

P.E.I. chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison continues to stress self-isolation and social distancing, and is preparing the system for an increase in cases.

Everyone should be social distancing and staying home as much as possible, Morrison said in her daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday. That means if you have to go to the grocery store, pharmacy or outside for fresh air, stay at least six feet away from others. Going to a friend's house for coffee or going to the grocery store with the entire family is not social distancing, Morrison said.

She said some who are supposed to be self-​​​isolating are doing a good job, but others are not. Anyone who has returned from international travel since March 8 should self-isolate for 14 days. Anyone who has returned from another province since March 21 should also self-isolate for 14 days.

Morrison said those who are close contacts of a positive case or are awaiting testing or results of a test have also been notified of their duty to self-isolate. 

Exceptions are in place for truck drivers, airline crews and other essential workers.

She said people who are self-isolating can accept food or groceries on their doorstep and can go outside as long as they stay on their property or close to home and maintain social distancing. It does not mean going through a drive-through or going to homes of others who are self-isolating.

Morrison said the province is hearing about people who are supposed to be self-isolating stopping at the grocery store, gas station or elsewhere on their way home from travel. Morrison said she knows it is not easy to self-isolate, and does not know how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last.

"We don't know for sure, but what we do know is what we do now will make a difference in the next couple of weeks, and it will influence the outcome," she said.

P.E.I. has three confirmed cases of COVID-19. The third case, a Queens County woman in her 20s who returned from Spain through Toronto, was announced during Sunday's news briefing.

The woman was on WestJet Flight 3456 from Toronto to Moncton, N.B., on March 16. All passengers on that flight are being asked to self-isolate.

The other two cases, a Queens County woman in her 50s and a Queens County man in his 40s, are also travel related. All three have experienced mild symptoms, Morrison said, and the first woman to test positive has ended her self-isolation period.

Expanding testing

As of Monday, Morrison said more than 400 COVID-19 tests have been conducted on P.E.I.

Initially, P.E.I. had only tested people showing symptoms who returned from Iran, Italy, China and other countries with outbreaks. She said P.E.I. now wants to expand testing to anyone who has travelled anywhere internationally or within Canada who has shown symptoms, such as fever, coughing or difficulty breathing, in the last 14 days. 

"This is part of our search and our desire to make sure we have early identification of cases, and look for any evidence of any community transmission," she said. "Right now, in the Maritimes, we are not seeing that sustained community transmission they're having in other provinces."

Health PEI’s chief of nursing Marion Dowling says they received 76 calls over the weekend from retired physicians, nurses, health-care workers, service workers and volunteers who are ready to work. (CBC)

Marion Dowling, Health PEI's chief of nursing, also spoke at Monday's news briefing. She thanked staff and physicians for their co-operation and working together as a health system. She said Health PEI received 76 calls over the weekend from people ready to work, including retired physicians, nurses, health-care workers, service workers and volunteers.

Morrison said conversations are ongoing with police around logistics of enforcing orders on P.E.I. She expects more details later today at the 5 p.m. news briefing.

Health-care workers who test positive for COVID-19 can't return to work until they've had two negative tests, 24 hours apart, and are not symptomatic, said Morrison. 

Screening checkpoints

Last week, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the province set up screening checkpoints at the Confederation Bridge, Charlottetown Airport and Souris ferry terminal. On Monday, Morrison stressed that does not mean interprovincial borders are closed, and that the checkpoints are there to screen and give travellers proper information.

Across the province, many businesses and services remain closed. Some grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores remain open, but may be on reduced hours. 

Morrison is also reminding delivery drivers to practise social distancing.

A full list of COVID-19 cancellations can be viewed here. You can report closures on our cancellation hotline at 1-877-236-9350.

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 from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Nicola MacLeod


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