No new COVID-19 cases on P.E.I.; no expansion of bubble planned

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says the province still needs more time to evaluate the risks of further COVID-19 spread before expanding beyond the existing Atlantic bubble.

"For some this can't happen soon enough; for others it can't happen slow enough," he said.

Nearly 30,000 vehicles carrying 64,000 people have travelled to Prince Edward Island since the bubble opened on July 3, letting people living along Canada's East Coast visit other Atlantic provinces without needing to self-isolate for two weeks.

Families wanting to reunite with relatives from outside the Atlantic bubble are an ongoing concern, King said. Provincial officials are considering ways to allow family reunification while still respecting the 14-day self-isolation requirement, he said without giving examples.

But in general, the P.E.I. government is focused less on expanding that bubble than on trying to open up long-term care homes to more visits from relatives, King said during Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison's weekly COVID-19 update.

Morrison said that could involve designating loved ones as essential care providers, allowing residents to go on drives or visits with family members, or increasing visitation overall, which could include closer contact if personal protective equipment is used.

No new COVID-19 cases reported

Prince Edward Island has no new cases Tuesday, and now has only three active cases among the 36 identified since the beginning of the pandemic, Morrison said.

The second round of tests done after two cases connected to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital emergency department in Charlottetown were all negative, Morrison said.

"Our health system was challenged, and the response was effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19," she noted.

Morrison said P.E.I. health staff have done 2,350 tests in the past week alone, and the province ranks third in Canada in terms of testing per capita, behind Alberta and Ontario.

Prince Edward Island has done 108 tests per 1,000 residents compared to the Canadian average of 94 per 1,000, she said.

Credit to PPE and contact tracing

Until July 4, Prince Edward Island had detected no new cases for more than two months. But on that Saturday, three new cases were confirmed, followed by six others.

Morrison spoke of a "stressful and worrisome" time over the past 18 days, starting with the realization that one of the new cases was a worker at Whisperwood long-term care home in Charlottetown.

Morrison said P.E.I.'s continuing low rates of infection can be credited to the use of personal protective equipment at Whisperwood and Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the effectiveness of the province's contact tracing system.

Morrison noted that Canada overall had an 18 per cent increase in cases last week, with a "worrisome" spike in cases among young people.

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