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Community transmission COVID-19 cases reported in central Newfoundland, St. Anthony

Premier Dwight Ball (centre) is flanked by health minister John Haggie (left) and chief medical officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald during the province's COVID-19 Wednesday, March 24, COVID-19 update.
Premier Dwight Ball (centre) is flanked by health minister John Haggie (left) and chief medical officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald during a COVID-19 update. - Telegram file photo

Chief medical officer of health says significant development heightens the need to be vigilant in protecting public health

There are 18 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, with an additional case now being treated in a hospital according to government officials.

In Saturday's media update, chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said there were now two hospitalized cases linked to the global pandemic. Of the 18 new cases announced Saturday, she paid particular attention to a pair of cases in the Central Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health regions. She said these people had not travelled outside the province and did not have contact with a person who was already known to have COVID-19. Contact tracing is underway for both of these individuals. Dr. Fitzgerald said these known cases of community transmission highlight just how important it is to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously.

“We now have known community transmission in the province — this is a significant development,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “We have said on many occasions that we need to behave as if this virus is circulating in our communities already. Today we have proof that this is true. I am calling on all of you to do your part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our province. Stay home unless it is essential, and by that, I mean groceries, medical supplies, hygiene products and essential work. Do not hang out with your friends. If you must go out, maintain a physical distance of six feet between yourself and others. Wash your hands well and frequently.

“Finally — and I cannot stress this enough — if you are sick with cold or flu-like symptoms, you must stay home. It is all of our responsibility to flatten the curve. Our collective actions will have significant impact on how COVID-19 progresses in our province.”

The person in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region is presently hospitalized in isolation at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony. People who were in close contact with that individual are being tested and now quarantined and hospital staff who were in contact with the patient are self-isolating. Dr. Fitzgerald said appropriate precautions are in place to care for the confirmed case at the hospital.

“This includes the use of personal-protective equipment for staff who are caring for the patient,” she said.

The first hospitalization related to COVID-19 was announced Friday and involved a patient in the Eastern Health region.

Testing centre

Meanwhile, a testing and assessment centre was opened in St. Anthony earlier Saturday. That site will support what's expected to be “the increased number of people requiring assessment,” according to Dr. Fitzgerald.

St. Anthony is considered the regional hub of the Northern Peninsula and located in a relatively remote area. Asked about the hospital's ability to deal with managing the temporary loss of staff self-isolating due to contact with the confirmed case of COVID-19, Health Minister John Haggie said the regional health authority has told him the hospital remains well equipped to address local health-care needs.

“I have been in discussions with the CEO of Labrador-Grenfell (Heather Brown), and she advises me that given the bed occupancy and the staff pool currently, they do not foresee any issues,” he said. “Obviously, it's something they'll monitor as time goes by, and as the numbers of staff firm up in terms of who is able to work and who is not, she and her advisers will be in a better position to be a bit more definitive. But at the moment, we are not anticipating any operational challenges there.”

There have now been 120 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador. Based on cases per 100,000, the province has the second highest rate of cases in Canada, behind only Quebec.

Of the 18 new cases reported overnight, 16 were in the Eastern Health region and there was one each for the Central Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health regions. 1,927 people have been tested provincewide, with 1,807 confirmed negative.

Summer Games postponed

Premier Dwight Ball also announced Saturday the postponement of the 2020 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games. The event was scheduled to take place this August in Bay Roberts. Ball said government consulted with the Town of Bay Roberts in making the decision to postpone the event, noting all relevant sporting facilities have been closed due to the ongoing public health state of emergency.

“Now, the provincial government recognizes that for these athletes, this is disappointing,” Ball said, later cautioning this is not a full cancellation of the event. “But we recognize these athletes, these sporting organizations, the sponsors and all the organizers, they've put in a lot of work, and I want to thank you.”

Given this is a pandemic likely to last for months, the premier said the decision to postpone is the right thing to do.

Twitter: @CBNAndrew

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N.L. COVID-19 demographics (as of Saturday, March 28)

• 57 percent of confirmed cases female, 43 per cent male;

• 11 cases under 20 years;

• 16 cases 20-39 years;

• 16 cases 40-49 years;

• 29 cases 50-59 years;

• 22 cases 60-69 years;

• 26 cases 70 years and above.

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