3 new cases of COVID-19 in N.L. as vaccine effort increases

·4 min read
More vaccine appointments open across the province, as some health-care workers prepare to fly to Ontario to help with rising hospitalizations. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters - image credit)
More vaccine appointments open across the province, as some health-care workers prepare to fly to Ontario to help with rising hospitalizations. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters - image credit)

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, according to a media release from the Department of Health.

Two of the new cases are in the Western Health region: a man in his 60s, related to travel within Canada; and a man between 20 and 39, who is a contact of a previous case. The other case is in the Eastern Health region: a man between 20 and 39 years old, related to travel within Canada.

The Department of Health said contact tracing by public health officials is underway and anyone considered a close contact is being advised to quarantine.

Related to one of Monday's new cases, public health officials are asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 8018 from Montreal to St. John's on Thursday to arrange COVID-19 testing by completing the online self-assessment tool or by calling 811.

Monday's update follows four new cases reported over the weekend, all in the Eastern Health region and all related to travel or close contacts with a previous case.

There have been no new reported recoveries, leaving Newfoundland and Labrador with 25 active cases. To date, 129,832 people have been tested for the virus in the province, including 231 since Sunday's update.

A case reported April 8 in the Eastern Health region remains under investigation.

Additional vaccination clinics

While immunization numbers continue to climb, the province expects about half the doses it received last week, with 14,040 doses en route, according to the Health Department's data hub.

But Health Minister John Haggie told reporters on Monday that Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments will double starting the week of May 3.

"I think, when you do the math on that, that increase makes up for the issues around delays of other vaccines," Haggie said. "I think it doesn't alter our timeline by more than maybe a couple of days."

Haggie said the provincial government is now considering when it can issue an open call to allow anyone eligible for a vaccine to get one.

The health minister said the province could be finished delivering first doses for Phase 2 groups — teachers, dentists, rotational workers and essential workers — in about three weeks.

Health Minister John Haggie says Newfoundland and Labrador could have Phase 2 of the vaccine plan completed in about three or four weeks.
Health Minister John Haggie says Newfoundland and Labrador could have Phase 2 of the vaccine plan completed in about three or four weeks. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

More than 20,000 people have had their first shots since April 9, for a total of 122,791 people immunized with one dose across the province as of Saturday. Nearly 10,000 more people have been fully vaccinated. In total, 173,840 doses have been distributed to Newfoundland and Labrador since December.

On Sunday, Ottawa gave the green light for provinces to use AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines on anyone over the age of 18 following updated safety data on a rare blood clotting disorder caused by the shot. Health Canada said it has determined AstraZeneca is safe and will not be restricting its use in any specific populations. Ontario and Alberta will begin vaccinating people over 40 with the shot this week.

Eastern Health said in a release Monday that it's opening additional AstraZeneca clinics for people between 55 and 64, while Western Health announced Monday it's starting to book Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna appointments for people over 65.

Premier Andrew Furey promised over the weekend to send medical staff, equipment and supplies to Ontario as it battles a third wave of COVID-19 cases, with more than 2,000 people in hospital and hundreds admitted to intensive-care units and on ventilators.

On Monday, Furey said he hopes to have firm decisions in place over the next 24 to 36 hours in terms of timelines and logistics, but there's no date set or team in place yet.

"The people we will be sending will not impact the delivery of services here," Furey said.

But, Furey said the province will not forgo its share of vaccine supply to meet demand in hotspots across the country.

"It's now a forest fire. You need firefighters. You don't need the fire prevention unit," he said.

Prince Edward Island is holding back its seasonal residents from entering the province until at least May 17, with an update on the reopening the Atlantic bubble — tentatively set for May 3 — being discussed in the next few days, according to P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison on Monday.

P.E.I. reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, and eight in the last week. Four of the recent travel-related cases were the coronavirus variant B117, which in February quickly spread through Newfoundland and Labrador's Avalon Peninsula, resulting in the province's second lockdown.

Furey said no formal decisions have been made about the Atlantic bubble.

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