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P.E.I. public health officials preparing for wave of soccer players, students

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer, held a COVID-19 media briefing on Tuesday. There are no new coronavirus cases and all 36 documented cases are considered recovered.
Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer, held a COVID-19 media briefing on Tuesday. There are no new coronavirus cases and all 36 documented cases are considered recovered. - Contributed

Managing the risks associated with an influx of people coming from outside the Atlantic bubble is one of the province’s top health priorities.

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer, held a coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) briefing on Tuesday where she discussed the pending arrival of up to 300 players, coaches, staff and broadcasters with the Canadian Premier League (CPL) as well as post-secondary students, international and domestic, in the weeks ahead.

The professional soccer league announced recently that Charlottetown will be the location for the 2020 season, which is being called The Island Games. All games will be played at the lighted UPEI turf pitch.

Everyone associated with this event is scheduled to arrive on P.E.I. Aug. 8 and will be staying in their own bubble at the Delta in Charlottetown. Games will begin Aug. 13.

Under the protocols agreed to by the league and the province, the players are self-isolating in the team’s home cities and are being tested regularly.

There has been some talk on social media, primarily Instagram, that not everyone has been self-isolating.

When asked about that by The Guardian at Tuesday’s briefing, Morrison said she will be following up on that issue with tourism officials from P.E.I.

“I was reassured multiple times that these players are in self-isolation prior to arrival on Prince Edward Island,’’ Morrison said, adding that the players and league officials will be in a bubble while in Charlottetown for their entire 55-day stay.

“We’re trying to manage the risk and real good plans (are) being put in place to try to protect the players, the staff as well as the public here on Prince Edward Island.’’

But, the upcoming soccer event isn’t the only thing on the minds of provincial health officials.

There is also the matter of the 2020-21 school season. The province will be making an announcement on Wednesday about its plan for the K-12 year.

But, there is also the matter of incoming international and domestic students currently outside the Atlantic bubble.

She said more information will be announced in the days and weeks ahead.

“There will be . . . hundreds of international students coming in that we also need to make sure are self-isolating. (We’re) trying to manage many of these different plans, knowing that we have people coming into the province.’’

Morrison also talked about early learning and child-care centres.

She said they’ve been successful in operating at 75 per cent capacity so far and preparations are being made to return to 100 per cent capacity in September.

“Centres will be required to have operational plans . . . to ensure minimal interaction between groups of children.’’

Morrison also clarified guidance on essential workers who travel to the United States for work purposes. In compliance with the Federal Quarantine Act and the increased risk present in the U.S., essential workers returning to P.E.I. from the U.S. are required to be tested upon arrival on P.E.I. and, if they test negative, are permitted to work-isolate.

“This means they can go to work and are otherwise self-isolating at home,’’ Morrison said, noting that truck drivers are exempt but are tested regularly on P.E.I.

Just the facts

Following information was released by Dr. Heather Morrison at Tuesday’s briefing:

  • Since the Atlantic Canada bubble opened on July 3, 61,430 vehicles have travelled to P.E.I. Confederation Bridge has accounted for 53,200 vehicles while Northumberland Ferries Ltd. has had 8,230 vehicles.
  • This past weekend, a civic holiday for many in the Maritimes, was the busiest weekend since the bubble opened at the P.E.I. checkpoints. More than 3,700 vehicles (8,600 people) were screened coming off the bridge.
  • There are no new cases to report and all 36 documented cases on P.E.I. are considered recovered.
  • While P.E.I. has no coronavirus hospitalizations, the drug Remdesivir, approved by the Public Health Agency of Canada, to treat the most severe cases of COVID-19, is available if needed. It has been used in the past to treat Ebola and works to inhibit the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Morrison continues to recommend people wear masks in public spaces.
  • There are 18.3 million cases of COVID-19 around the world and there have been 694,000 deaths. That’s a global fatality rate of 3.8 per cent. There are more than 117,000 cases in Canada but 87 per cent are now recovered.
  • In terms of testing, P.E.I. ranks third in Canada, on a per-capita basis, at 129 tests per 1,000 people, ranking behind Ontario and Alberta. The national rate for testing is 111 tests per 1,000 people.
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