P.E.I.'s chief public health officer announced four new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as her office continues efforts to control two outbreaks that started in the last week of February.
Dr. Heather Morrison announced the new cases in her regular weekly briefing.
The new cases were:
A man in his 20s, a close contact of a person in the Charlottetown cluster of cases. He had been in self-isolation already. Morrison noted that he tested negative at first, but continued to isolate and a second swab tested positive after he developed symptoms.
A man and woman in their 20s. These could be related to both Charlottetown and Summerside clusters, and contact tracing is continuing.
A man in his 20s, likely related to travel.
Later on Tuesday, the province added another restaurant to the list of public exposure sites on P.E.I.: Bombay Cuisine at 339 University Ave. in Charlottetown, on Saturday, Feb. 20 between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The Island added 12 cases over the weekend, and the number of active cases rose to 18, the most since the spring. In response, the province implemented a three-day lockdown starting Monday, and ramped-up testing.
With the new cases, P.E.I. has 22 active cases, its most ever, out of 136 diagnosed since the pandemic began nearly a year ago.
Excluding cases linked to travel, the current outbreaks include at least 11 in Summerside and up to nine in Charlottetown.
Results seen as good news
While Morrison was not yet able to say if the red phase of restrictions could be lifted on Thursday as scheduled, she characterized the results of the testing so far as relatively good news.
"It looks like we will be able to connect a lot of these cases to each other," said Morrison.
"We've tested a significant number of people, and despite all those additional tests, we're not getting a whole bunch of unlinked cases. And that's really key and important for us to know as we move forward and try to determine if there is any more widespread community transmission."
Morrison said 10,000 tests had been gathered in a mass testing campaign since Saturday, 2100 rapid tests among them. Only 2,000 tests from that batch are still awaiting analysis.
Also at Tuesday's briefing, Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling confirmed that staff had been pulled from a Charlottetown Airport testing pilot project in order to reinforce efforts at the Summerside clinics and testing sites elsewhere on the Island.
UK variant in past cases
Two cases announced last Wednesday — including one woman charged with public health violations for visiting Toys R Us in Charlottetown when she was supposed to be self-isolating — have been confirmed to involve the B117 variant, first detected in the UK.
Morrison said analysis of the other recent cases is continuing, and she is expecting more news by this weekend.
Confirmation of two new cases involving the variant is a concern, said Morrison, because it appears to be more contagious.
Morrison said until definitive results are in new cases will be treated as if they were the variant strain.
COVID-19 and testing on P.E.I.
The province's COVID-19 data page shows that males make up 60% of those diagnosed with COVID-19 on the Island, and females 40%. All but 10 cases have been detected in people aged under 60.
As of Sunday, Feb. 28, a total of 100,507 COVID-19 tests had ended up with negative results after being analyzed.
Testing was being slowed on Tuesday by bad weather, with storm-related closures announced for testing clinics at Slemon Park and Three Oaks High School in Summerside as well as at Bordon-Carleton.
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