Complacency main culprit in Baie Verte outbreak: official

·3 min read

Dr. Rosann Seviour says if any one thing is to blame for a growing outbreak of cases in the Baie Verte area, it’s the fact that too many people are not taking cold-like symptoms seriously enough.

“People with mild symptoms aren’t getting tested,” she said Wednesday. “So they’re thinking oh, it’s just a cold, masks were gone, we had a bit of circulation of rhinovirus…”

Seviour, acting chief medical officer of health while Dr. Janice Fitzgerald is on vacation, held an unscheduled briefing Wednesday to update the public on the situation in the community.

A cluster that started with 10 confirmed cases in the White Bay Retirement Living care home Tuesday has grown to 42. All but 17 are outside the facility, but Seviour said there are so far no cases associated with schools in the area.

Four schools in the region remain open but are operating at high-risk mode, which means more stringent distancing and cleaning protocols and fewer extracurricular activities.

The Baie Verte region has reverted to Alert Level 3.

“Schools should be the last to close and the first to open for the physical and emotional well-being of youth,” Seviour said.

“There’s no reason that schools in the area cannot continue to operate. Additional measures were implemented in the schools today.”

As with the Roddickton area on the Northern Peninsula, Seviour said, the Baie Verte area also has a lower vaccination rate than most other areas of the province.

Vaccine clinics were open in Baie Verte and La Scie on Wednesday, and shots will be offered at the Middle Arm town hall and at the Baie Verte campus of the College of the North Atlantic on Thursday from 10 a.m to 6 p.m.

Seviour said Public Health sees no need for asymptomatic testing in the area yet, but that may change over time.

She said some people may have let their guard down, unaware how easily the new Delta variant spreads.

“Delta loves the family dinner. It likes that close contact,” she said.

“People feel they are safe here in Newfoundland and that COVID isn’t really a serious threat here.”

Nonetheless, she said the outbreak didn’t come as a surprise.

“We knew this was coming and we’re prepared for it. I think it’s always a shock to people because no one wants to have COVID in their community.”

Overall, she said she’s proud of how well Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have taken to health orders and advisories since the pandemic began.

“I just think the way that Newfoundlanders have dealt with COVID in the last year and a half has been exceptional.”

And she said vaccine uptake has generally been quite healthy.

“I know this has been really tough for people, and it’s really difficult times, but I think also incredibly encouraging is the vaccination rate in this province,” she said. “Newfoundlanders have been among the best across this country for coming forward, sticking out their arms and taking the jab.”

As of Sept. 22 there were 77 active cases in the province, with one person in hospital.

Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram

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