With 100 new COVID infections, N.L. ties record for single-day case count

·6 min read
Dentists in Newfoundland and Labrador are willing to help deliver COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.  (Michael Probst/Associated Press - image credit)
Dentists in Newfoundland and Labrador are willing to help deliver COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. (Michael Probst/Associated Press - image credit)
Michael Probst/Associated Press
Michael Probst/Associated Press

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting 100 new cases of COVID-19 infections, tying the highest single-day case count since the pandemic began.

Seventy-three of the new cases reported Thursday are located in the Eastern Health region, 49 of which are people aged between 20 and 39. Case numbers also include 10 people in their 50s, seven people in their 40s, five under the age of 20 and two people in their 60s.

Sixty-six of the 73 cases are under investigation. Four are contacts of previous cases, while three are travel related.

There are 19 new cases in the Central Health region, including six people aged in their 50s. Four are connected to previous cases, while 15 are under investigation.

There are seven cases in the Western Health region. Six are under investigation and one is travel related. There is also one new case in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region connected to travel.

The new cases, offset by nine recovered cases, brings the number of active cases to 314. That's the highest figure recorded since late February.

The province last reported 100 cases on Feb. 11, during an outbreak that — among other things — derailed the provincial election.

In the current outbreak, connected to the Omicron virus variant, no one is in hospital due to COVID-19.

Thursday's count came just hours after the whole province moved into Alert 3 of its pandemic plan, which meant the closure of bars and theatres and new restrictions on visits at hospitals and other institutions.

Testing, which has ramped up dramatically in recent days, is continuing Thursday as 372,311 COVID tests have now been completed. That includes an additional 3,419 since Wednesday's update.

As testing volume goes up, public health officials say there may be some delay in getting results.

Officials say the province's test results portal is used to provide negative test results, meaning anyone who tests positive will be contacted by a public health representative.

Public health is also advising people to make sure the date shown on the most recent test result is correct, as the portal will show all of a person's previous test results on the same screen.

Elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 689 new COVID cases on Thursday. Fourteen people are in hospital, including four in intensive care.

New Brunswick reported a record 257 new cases along with 2 new deaths. The province also shared potential COVID exposure notices connected to a hospital emergency room in Saint John.

There are 35 new cases in Prince Edward Island and 165 active cases.

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise across Newfoundland and Labrador, the province's health authorities are tightening public access to their buildings.

Eastern Health, Western Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health are now only allowing one support person and two designated visitors per patient in all long-term care homes, hospitals, health centres and personal care homes.

The moves on Wednesday's decision to put the entire province under Alert Level 3 of the pandemic response plan, and as public health restrictions increase to slow the spread of the highly infectious Omicron virus variant.

Dentists want in on booster rollout

Meanwhile, the call is out for physicians to step up in helping to deliver COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses to the public — but the province's dentists want in, too.

Dr. Michelle Zwicker, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association (NLDA), says many of the province's 220 dentists are willing to help get shots into arms.

"Right from the beginning of the pandemic, and even when we were talking about flu vaccines, we were speaking with government about we have the ability to provide this vaccination," Zwicker told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show Thursday.

"We have the physical skills. We have the training to do it."

On Monday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald sent a letter to physicians requesting support to administer booster doses to eligible members of the public.

Zwicker said the NLDA sent its own letter to Health Minister John Haggie earlier this week reminding him that dentists are ready and available to help. She said the NLDA has not received a response, but added it's understandable given the COVID-19 situation and the busy holiday season.

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada
Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

Dentists are currently working in mass-vaccine clinics throughout Manitoba, Zwicker said, and in the United States some are offering doses within their own office. Zwicker said dentists in N.L. are open to doing both.

"We're seeing the patients anyway. They're coming to us anyway. Our offices are safe and they're safe places to be, so it only makes sense that we could provide this service to help with controlling the spread of COVID-19," she said.

CBC News has asked the Department of Health for comment, but has not yet received a response.

More exposure sites

Possible exposure notices continue to be posted as public health continues contact tracing through Newfoundland and Labrador. COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported in all health areas.

Exposure notices were posted in the Eastern Health region Thursday afternoon:

  • #4 Restaurant, 4 Cathedral Street, St. John's on Dec. 17 from 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Dec. 18 from 5:30 p.m to 1 a.m.

  • Montana's BBQ and Bar, 80 Kenmount Road, St. John's on Dec. 19 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

  • Mews Centre, 40 Mundy Pond Road, St. John's on Dec. 20 from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

  • POYO/Sprout, 364 Duckworth Street, St. John's on Dec. 22 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Several exposure notices have also come out of the Central Health region in recent days, prompting the health authority to launch walk-in testing clinics in the area early next week.

Clinics will be open at Gander Academy in Gander on Dec. 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the Salvation Army Church in Grand Falls-Windsor and Twillingate United Church on Dec. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. respectively.

The clinics are open to anyone who has been identified as a contact of a previously known case and requires a COVID-19 test, anyone who needs a second between days 11-13 from the last date of contact with a previous case, anyone who is part of a public advisory or anyone who requires a day seven or day 11-13 test.

Vale, a mining company working in Voisey's Bay, confirmed a presumptive positive test in a worker Thursday morning.

The company said it communicated the case to public health, and it's medical team is providing all necessary assistance to the individual, who remains in self-isolation at site. The company said contact tracing has started and a subsequent COVID-19 test was performed on site public health.

"COVID-19 screening protocols, including testing [and] mandatory masking, remain in place at the Voisey's Bay site, which has a vaccination rate of 97 per cent," the company said.

Municipalities are also starting to tighten up in hopes to slow the spread of the virus.

The City of St. John's has reduced capacity at city recreation facilities. Participants are asked to be dressed for their chosen activity as change rooms have limited space. Spectators are currently not permitted in gymnasiums.

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