'Here we go again': N.L. braces for another spike of COVID-19

·3 min read
Forty-six new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday, 31 of them in the Western Health region. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)
Forty-six new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday, 31 of them in the Western Health region. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)
Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

Ever since a jump of COVID-19 cases in September, Jenn Humphries of Gander said she's been prepared for another increase.

"I'm not too bad this time, because I figured it was coming Christmas time. It didn't expect it to be in Gander," she said Friday afternoon. "I figured in September that by Christmas, we would have another outbreak. And sure enough…"

Newfoundland and Labrador reported 46 new cases of the virus Friday, some of which are the quickly spreading Omicron variant. Presumptive cases of the variant have surfaced in the Eastern Health and Central Heath regions of Newfoundland.

New restrictions on capacity limits at restaurants, performance spaces, cinemas and more are coming into effect Monday as a result, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald on Friday.

"The timing just sucks," Fitzgerald said.

The cases have forced families across the province into isolation, including Humphries' partner, Ryan Bradbury. She says her family has taken it in stride, saying the whole experience feels like a moment of "here we go again."

"Everybody wants to go out with their friends and hang out with their family and do their thing. But now we can't do anything again," she said.

"We're old hands at this now. We know this like the back of our hand. When it comes it comes, whatever happens happens. We'll have to deal with it.… I'm used to it now, I guess."

She says he family is now playing the waiting game: waiting for her partner to get out of isolation, and waiting to see if their kids will be able to go to school safely.

Garrett Barry/CBC
Garrett Barry/CBC

Twillingate Mayor Justin Blackler is in isolation with the rest of his family after being deemed close contacts of two positive cases. Blackler will be in isolation for seven days under rules introduced Friday, but his sons will have to wait 14 days since they can't be fully vaccinated yet.

"The last couple of days have been filled with anxiety. There's a little bit of nervousness and caution moving forward," he said from his home.

"We got away from preparing for Christmas and looking for schools to start to close out and getting to see family and friends. Now we're back in the COVID times."

While having to self-isolate is frustrating, said Blackler, people in the community have been quick to support each other — something he says will help the holiday season feel better for him and his family.

"Everyone's going to be helping out where they can, and I think that's what will make Christmas more possible. I think I was in for 30 minutes before my parents dropped off a whole bag of soup," he said.

"It's going to be challenging, but we'll make it work."

Cancelled events 'heartbreaking': Hotel manager

Heather McKinnon, who manages two hotels in St. John's, said events scheduled for the new year are already facing the prospect of cancellation as a result of the spike in cases. She was especially looking forward to a conference booked in January that could now be off the table.

"Now we're having the conversation with them about possible postponement or cancellation, which is heartbreaking," she said.

"It's incredibly challenging, because next year we have a very big year in the books for conferences and events, weddings, you name it. We were very hopeful that we were on the road to recovery and to start off the new year with a conference. We were very excited."

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

McKinnon said she hopes Omicron won't put a lasting crimp in the plans for a promising year ahead.

"Everything looks so promising for next year, so I'm holding out hope that this will be short-lived."

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