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UPDATE: Public health restrictions could ease in P.E.I. later this month

Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison.
Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer - File

There could be an ease in public health restrictions later this month if P.E.I. stays the course.

Speaking at the weekly COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, Premier Dennis King said there have been some preliminary talks about doing just that, as long as the number of positive cases stays as low as it has been recently.

“Should we continue on this trajectory, it would put us on a path to easing the restrictions here on the Island,’’ King said. “We haven’t talked about it in great detail (yet).’’

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer, said they’ve targeted Jan. 25 as a date towards easing restrictions, explaining that it would mean allowing numbers of gatherings to increase.

King and Morrison said this is only possible because Islanders, unlike those in other provinces, have adhered to public health guidelines.

Morrison said during the past week, the number of positive cases has shot up in Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. There are now 205 active cases in the province P.E.I. is linked to by the Confederation Bridge.

“It's a good reminder if people have symptoms they should not be attending social events,’’ Morrison said. “Some of the gatherings that were being discouraged over the holiday period may have taken place. People who had symptoms were not getting tested and then (the virus) spreads quickly. This is a tricky virus. Hundreds of people are having to isolate in New Brunswick as a result of contacts with these cases. It has had a significant impact on that province.’’

“From the beginning, we (in P.E.I.) felt we’re only as good as the rules we follow,’’ the premier said. “Islanders have taken this seriously from the very, very beginning.’’

Morrison said Tuesday that is one new confirmed case of COVID-19 in P.E.I. The latest case is a man in his 30s with a history of recent travel outside Atlantic Canada. That person travelled on Air Canada flight 8302 from Montreal to Charlottetown on Jan. 4.

There are eight active cases in the province. Since the pandemic began, there have been 103 cases with no hospitalizations or deaths.

In terms of vaccinations, Marion Dowling, P.E.I.’s chief of nursing, said the second dose is now being administered in long-term care homes.

As of Tuesday, 4,226 does of the vaccine have been administered while 1,154 front-line health-care workers and long-term care workers have received their second dose. By the end of this week, everyone working in community care will have received the first dose. Beginning the week of Jan. 25, all long-term care and community care residents and staff will be receiving the second dose. All should be fully immunized by Feb. 16.

It will take months for everyone in P.E.I. to get vaccinated but there will be enough vaccine for everyone, Morrison said. She also said when the province receives the vaccine it will be administered to Islanders as soon as possible, adding that the health-care system here has the capacity to vaccinate everyone.

After workers and residents in long-term care homes are taken care of focus will turn to vaccinating people in congregate living situations, such as group homes, community residential facilities, shelters and other priority groups, such as Indigenous adults and communities and health-care workers with direct patient care. That would include groups such as family physicians and operating room staff.

Clinics will also begin sometime in February for seniors aged 85 and over, Indigenous adults, partners in care, registered rotational workers and truck drivers. More information is coming on that.

There is also information coming soon as to national recommendations on vaccinating pregnant and breast-feeding women, immuno-suppressed individuals and people with auto-immune conditions.

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At a glance
Here are some reminders for anyone heading to a COVID-19 testing clinic:
• Keep the car window up until you are directed by staff to lower it.
• Passengers over the age of two should be wearing a mask at all times until directed by staff to lower it.
• Don’t bring unnecessary passengers such as pets (service dogs are an exception).
• Those who need transportation to a clinic, call 1-833-533-9333.
• Do not take a taxi to a clinic.
• Call your family physician or 811 to be referred to a cough and fever clinic.
• For general questions, about COVID-19, call 1-833-533-9333.
• For business questions, about COVID-19, call 1-866-222-1751.

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Did you know?
Following are the latest COVID-19 numbers in the other Atlantic Canadian provinces, as of Tuesday afternoon:
• New Brunswick: 17 new cases, 219 active cases.
• Nova Scotia: 1 new case, 27 active cases.
• Newfoundland and Labrador: no new cases, four active cases.

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