Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
There won’t be any Easter parades, and if you’re looking forward to the May 24th weekend, plan on camping alone.
As the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the province rose to 82 Thursday, Health Minister John Haggie said he expects it could be summer before public-health restrictions are lifted in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I am pretty sure that it’s going to be some time in June,” he said at the daily briefing. "Whether or not we make a Canada Day celebration, time will tell.”
Chief medical officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said all 15 new cases are in the Eastern Health region, for a total of 76. The other three health districts each remain at three or less.
Fitzgerald said seven of those who tested positive are under 19 years of age, while 30 are between the ages of 60 and 80. All are recovering at home.
All cases in the province are now considered confirmed, as the local microbiology lab has passed a threshold of 50 tests matching the results of the national laboratory in Winnipeg. However, samples are still being sent there for cataloguing and for genetic research.
Haggie said the fact that most of the Eastern Health cases — which include nine health-care workers — stemmed from contact at Caul’s Funeral Home in St. John’s over a three-day period is illustrative of how the coronavirus has spread in other jurisdictions.
“There have been outbreaks clustered around a retirement home in B.C., there was a convention of professionals in Vancouver and a bonspiel in Saskatoon. All have generated similar concerns in those jurisdictions,” he said.
“St. John’s is no different. We are a metropolitan area.”
Haggie said he’s not concerned that Newfoundland and Labrador now has among the highest counts per capita in the country.
“The bulk of our cases are driven from one location over a three-day period, and I think as those cases work their way through the system, the real telltale will be how seriously the people who went there take their self-isolation.”
He added that the province has kept up with the rest of the country with respect to preventive measures.
“We have pulled every lever that the other provinces have pulled, and in actual fact, in a lot of them we’ve led the way.”
Haggie confirmed that four teams of paramedics with Eastern Health are self-quarantining because they were unaware of possible COVID-19 contact when they were on calls.
“If you need an ambulance, please make sure that you tell the dispatcher at the time of your call whether or not you’ve been exposed. The crew will need to use (personal protective equipment). But rest assured, that will not stop an ambulance coming if you need it.
"The same goes for anyone with anyone with suspect to symptoms going to a hospital or any other health-care faciliity.
"Call first. Be honest. And don’t be afraid of rejection."
“Your access to health care will not change,” Fitzgerald said. “You will still get care.”
Praise for compliance
While he has shown his disdain in past briefings for those who are violating public-health orders, Premier Dwight Ball wanted to address those who are being compliant.
"The majority of you are at home, you’re safe and you’re doing the right things, so I want to compliment you on doing what is appropriate for you and your family,” he said. “You’re setting a good exemple of what it takes to be leaders in the community.”
Residents — including those under self-quarantine — are not restricted from going outside for any reason, as long as they maintain their distance — two metres — from others. However, anyone experiencing symptoms must stay indoors.
As he has in the past, Haggie added his own kudos to all frontline health workers, from cleaning staff to nurses, for their continued efforts.
Premier Ball added some context on new federal orders that require any traveller arriving in Canada to self-isolate on the spot. There are only four international hubs now, in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
He said the orders apply only to those experiencing symptoms. All others can still connect to this province, where they will have to self-quarantine for 14 days
But Ball seemed to suggest that someone who has had to quarantine out of the province will not be off the hook back home.
When asked if that means a further 14 days in isolation at home, he replied, “That’s correct.”
To clear up any confusion, Haggie said Thursday that home-care workers are considered essential by the province.
“We cannot manage without you,” he said, adding that extensive information can be found at the gov.nl.ca/covid-19 website under Resources.
Meanwhile, Ball and Fitzgerald addressed a number of questions on contradictory policies. Some daycares that closed will now have to open to accommodate children of essential government workers, though at reduced capacity.
Ball said they’re still looking at providing the same for those working in the private sector.
Fitzgerald said it’s a balancing act trying to ensure the safety of those who are still in the workplace.
“We need essential services. We need a food supply chain,” she said.
All businesses are expected to ensure rigid hygiene practices.
More informatioon is available online at gov.nl.ca/covid-19.
Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiatiive reporter covering health care for The Telegram.