1 new COVID-19 case in N.L., but more will come with December travel, warns Fitzgerald

·4 min read
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19 on Monday, a woman in the Eastern Health region between 20 and 39 years old and a close contact of a travel-related case.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald also announced that public health officials can now say a case announced Sunday with an unknown source was in fact travel-related.

The province's total number of cases is now 338, with 36 active cases, as there has been a new recovery in the Eastern Health region. It's the first day since Nov. 18 the province's active caseload hasn't gone up.

Premier Andrew Furey said the daily increase of cases in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last two weeks, as well as in other parts of the country, may increase anxiety.

"But it's going to be OK. Please don't panic. Take a deep breath and stay calm," he said.

"We are focused on avoiding a full lockdown here in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is where you come in and have a big part to play. You have to follow the rules, no matter who you are, and you have to focus on what you and your family are doing as opposed to what others are doing. That's how we avoid turning into a COVID-19 hot spot."

Tuesday marks the beginning of December, and Fitzgerald said her countdown to Christmas is "a little more apprehensive" as residents begin to return home for the holidays.

"Inevitably we expect to see more cases of COVID as a result of travel into the province," she said. "For travellers and their families welcoming them home, please remember that travellers must adhere to the 14-day self-isolation requirement."

Watch the full Nov. 30 update:

Fitzgerald once again warned the public this holiday season should be very different. Christmas parties and New Year's Eve parties can set up the "perfect condition" for community spread to happen in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Fitzgerald said employers need to do their part by not having staff parties, but should instead find another way to recognize workers.

Government regulations for gatherings are set at 50 people for informal gatherings, if space allows, and 100 people for organized events. However, over the last number of weeks Fitzgerald has said groups should be limited to 20.

Asked if official changes will come for gathering sizes, Fitzgerald said more information will be provided in the coming days.

To date, 62,521 people have been tested for the virus across the province, an increase of 359 in the last 24 hours. There have now been 298 recoveries and four deaths.

"We continue to hold steady and avoid the COVID trajectory that has taken a hold across our country. This is not luck. It's a result of layers of protection that we've built from travel restrictions, self-isolation requirements, distancing, masking, staying home if you're sick and following personal public health measures," said Fitzgerald.

New forms for travel

The provincial government says clarifications for travel will be available to people on its COVID-19 website on Tuesday, with the site outlining the reasons someone may enter Newfoundland and Labrador, and what documentation they'll be required to have.

Essential workers will also have to provide more information, including what sector they work in, their worksite and contact information for their employer.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

Fitzgerald said they're the same criteria the province has been applying all along, but moving the forms online will make things easier for travellers, as well as the provincial government's exemption team and the border officials meeting people at entry points.

"I think it facilitates the whole process for everybody, and it helps us keep track of things in a very efficient way."

Isolation with others

Fitzgerald also noted the recommendation has always been for rotational workers to isolate away from members of their household, but under some circumstances it's not possible. If a worker isolates at home with family members, she said, the whole family must isolate for the full 14 days.

Provinces such as Nova Scotia have similar guidelines in place.

"I think in some situations people weren't isolating because they weren't required to, and then in other situations sometimes people weren't aware that they needed to isolate," said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said people isolating in a house that includes other people should use a separate bathroom and bedroom if possible. If using a separate bathroom is not possible it must be disinfected after each use, she said. Common touchpoints, such as doorknobs, should also be disinfected after each use.

Those in isolation must also stay six feet apart from those not in isolation with them.

"Ideally you should be in a completely separate area of the home, and not be in common areas of the home. This may mean having meals delivered to your door," said Fitzgerald.

"No visitors should enter a home where someone is self-isolating, and if someone in the house becomes symptomatic everyone in the house must self-isolate."

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