P.E.I. chief public health officer expects rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations soon
'The police services are there to help us if we think we need it'
P.E.I. chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says she soon expects to see a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the province.
In Tuesday's afternoon news briefing, Morrison continued to stress the importance of social distancing and self-isolation and knowing the difference.
"I do expect here in P.E.I. we will soon see a rise in cases," she said, noting another uptick in cases across the country Tuesday. She said about six per cent of cases across the country are resulting in hospitalizations.
"The time to act is now, but acting requires us to stop. Stop going out, stop socializing in person and most importantly stop, or at least slow down, the spread of this virus," said Morrison.
Self-isolation vs. social distancing
Morrison said the government is working on clarifying the language between self-isolation and social distancing, as there has been some confusion among Islanders.
Anyone who has travelled outside of P.E.I., whether in the country or outside of Canada, is required to self-isolate — that means staying in your home for 14 days.
There are three cases of COVID-19 in the province, all travel related, which is why travellers specifically are being asked to self-isolate.
If someone has been exposed to COVID-19, Morrison said the typical onset of symptoms can be up to 12 days later. The 14-day self-isolation period captures that entire window. The average onset of symptoms is five to six days later, but it can range between two and 12 days.
P.E.I. has not yet reported any community transmission of COVID-19, which involves getting the coronavirus from someone in the province who already has it, but it has occurred elsewhere in Canada.
'Flatten that curve'
Social distancing is for all Islanders, even those who have not travelled outside of the province. It means maintaining a two-metre distance from one another, because the virus spreads through droplets and can live on surfaces for hours or even days.
Morrison said social distancing still means staying home as much as possible, and reiterated that one person in the family should go for groceries or to pick up a prescription, and they should continue to keep two metres, or six feet, between themselves and anyone they come in contact with while out in the community.
She said self-isolating and social distancing are both being done in an effort to flatten the curve.
"The curve represents the maximum number of cases from the infection and that number could be well above what our health-care system is able to cope with if we do not try to flatten that curve," Morrison said.
Morrison said 416 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the province as of Tuesday morning, including health care workers.
"Health care workers who have new onset of cough, fever, whether or not they've travelled outside the province or outside the country, are now being screened for testing if they have new symptoms," she said.
Anyone with symptoms is advised to call 811 and Morrison said Tuesday that additional phone lines and staff to answer the calls have been added so wait times should be "significantly reduced."
In a news briefing Monday, Morrison was joined by Premier Dennis King and Minister of Justice and Public Safety Bloyce Thompson. They announced that those who do not comply with orders to self-isolate during the pandemic will face strict fines.
King also said that under P.E.I.'s Public Health Act, Morrison will have the ability to issue orders. Law enforcement can issue fines starting at $1,000 for the first offence, $2,000 for the second offence and $10,000 for the third and subsequent offences.
In Tuesday's briefing, Morrison said she has corresponded on this with the Emergency Measures Organization and police services Monday evening and Tuesday morning.
"Our expectation is that … if a concern is called into us from the 1-800 line, we will reach out and we will initially have that conversation," she said.
"The police services are there to help us if we think we need it."
Officials said Islanders can call 1-800-958-6400 to express concerns about fellow Islanders who are not following self-isolation requirements or social distancing recommendations.
Morrison said Tuesday that the line has received calls from employees concerned their employers are not following her instructions.
She said the province is reaching out to those businesses and addressing concerns, and they have been well received.
There was one instance, Morrison said, where "there was a little reluctance, but a firm voice conversation happened and so that was resolved."
Morrison announced the Island's third case of COVID-19 on Sunday.
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.
More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.
With files from Sara Fraser, Brittany Spencer, Cody MacKay and Sally Pitt