22 cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. with 1 more confirmed Thursday
Queens County man recently returned from international travel and is self-isolating
One new case of COVID-19 has been confirmed on P.E.I. bringing the total to 22, said chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison in a news briefing Thursday afternoon.
The new case, a Queens County man in his 50s, is related to international travel and he is at home self-isolating.
Morrison highlighted that the case is another example of why self-isolating is so crucial. She spoke to the man Thursday morning and said he is doing well.
She clarified that if you are self-isolating upon returning from travel outside the country or province, it is important for other members of your household to maintain physical distancing and enhance cleaning measures in shared spaces.
She also said it is important to designate a separate bathroom and bedroom for the person who is self-isolating to use. If this is not possible, she said all members of the household should self-isolate for a period of 14 days.
Tests conducted have doubled
Since Wednesday, Morrison said the province has seen a total of 144 negative tests return. Over the last couple of days, she said the number of tests done at cough and fever clinics has doubled.
Three cases on P.E.I. are considered to be recovered. She clarified that recovered cases are those who have completed a full 14 days in self-isolation since symptom onset.
Across Canada, Morrison said there have been more than 9,500 cases of COVID-19 with 109 deaths.
She said the province started conducting tests on P.E.I. as of Wednesday afternoon, as opposed to relying solely on the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
Child care for essential workers
Morrison noted that this is a time when many essential workers are leaning on friends and family to help with child care.
One of the many things that keeps me up at night is worrying about what will happen if we get widespread community transmission.— Dr. Heather Morrison
She said the province has received feedback from people concerned that this does not comply with physical distancing guidelines.
"Those cases are exceptions. Essential workers still need to go to work each day and their children still need to be cared for during this time," she said.
She reminded Islanders that as announced earlier this week, the province has implemented emergency child care for essential workers.
Morrison said children who will be cared for at these child-care facilities will be screened daily. She also said the number of children being cared for by early childhood professionals will be limited to small numbers and lunch times will be staggered.
Morrison said correctional facilities on P.E.I. are currently closed to volunteers and visitors, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols are in place.
Each new person admitted into a correctional facility will be directed to a one-person cell for a period of 14 days. Those in custody will be able to leave their cells one person at a time, she said.
She said more details are to follow in the coming days.
Morrison said essential workers travelling to and from P.E.I. — like health-care workers and truck drivers — are being told to self-isolate when they are not on the job.
More enforcement measures
Going forward, Morrison said the province will be following up with each individual who has been instructed to self-isolate on a daily basis to ensure they are complying with the new health measures.
"If they are not, it will be referred to law enforcement to help us in making sure people are self-isolating if they need to," she said.
She noted that Prince Edward Island is one of the most densely populated provinces in the country.
"One of the many things that keeps me up at night is worrying about what will happen if we get widespread community transmission in P.E.I."
Morrison said the province has received a number of questions from Islanders about going for drives to get out of the house.
"I would suggest that you minimize the number of people you take with you. The more drives you're taking, the more gas stations you will need to visit to fill up where you will come into contact with other people," she said.
"This is an activity that is at best, kept to a minimum."
'A couple of months'
Morrison urged Islanders to remain diligent in their efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to prevent that situation from happening.
"I recognize that so many Islanders, and by far the majority are practising excellent physical distancing as well as self-isolating if they have recently returned from travel — and I thank you," she said.
However, Morrison said there still remain some Islanders who are not following directions.
While she said she can't provide a definitive timeline, Morrison said the period of physical distancing and self-isolation will likely take "a couple of months."
She urged Islanders to continue to follow health guidelines to minimize that time.
Preparing for expected surge
Health PEI's chief of nursing Marion Dowling told Islanders both the Prince County and Queen Elizabeth hospitals have been working to relocate patients.
Dowling said Health PEI has surpassed its initial target of getting down to 75 per cent capacity at the hospitals in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization.
She said both hospitals are equipped and ready.
Dowling said cough and fever clinics in both Summerside and Charlottetown continue to see an increase in patients.
She said 83 patients were seen in Charlottetown and 57 in Summerside Wednesday. She reiterated that people coming to the clinics should remain in their cars.
People can be referred to the clinics through their family doctor or by calling 811.
Dowling said Health PEI continues to provide essential services only. She reminded Islanders to call ahead to check if their appointments will go ahead.
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.
Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.
How can I protect myself?
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
Practise physical distancing.
More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.
With files from Malcolm Campbell