Vaccines will be a slow rollout, says Fitzgerald as N.L. reports 1 new case of COVID-19

·4 min read
Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19 and four new recoveries on Wednesday, as the province's chief medical officer of health says vaccine distribution will be slow going in its early days.

The federal government is preparing to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine, once it receives necessary approvals, as early as January.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald and the public health team is working to build a plan for distribution in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Fitzgerald said the province will be getting shipments fairly slowly at first, and in the beginning its distribution will be able to go through the already in place vaccine distribution system.

"I think we need to also consider how we're getting this vaccine is not have we've gotten, for example, flu vaccine where we get quite a large amount all at one," said Fitzgerald.

"I want to temper people's expectations for what's going to happen when we get a vaccine. It's going to be slow in the beginning and we'll get more doses as the months go on."

Premier Andrew Furey told reporters he had spoken with federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc on Sunday about distribution. He said Newfoundland and Labrador's challenges differ from those seen in other jurisdictions, and the province has accepted military advice and expertise in the distribution.

"We hope to have a broader announcement with more detail about a vaccine distribution committee, which will have military representation on it as such that we can operationalize, and plan and stress test, the plan prior to receiving the vaccine," Furey said.

New case

The new case reported on Wednesday is a man in the Eastern Health region between 20 and 39 years old who returned home from work in Nunavut.

According to the Department of Health the man is self-isolating and contact tracing by public health is underway.

Because of this case the Department of Health is asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 696 from Toronto to St. John's arriving Tuesday, Nov. 24 to call 811 to arrange COVID-19 testing.

In the event of a negative test result, public health is encouraging all passengers to continue monitoring themselves for symptoms for a full 14 days from the time of their arrival in the province.

The province's active caseload is now 30.

Watch the full Dec. 2 update:

During Wednesday's live COVID-19 briefing Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said she continues to hear about workplace Christmas parties being planned, after many days of warning against them and other gatherings over the holidays.

"As I've said before this is just one year, and things will have to be different," said Fitzgerald.

Health Minster John Haggie also said he has heard of New Year's Eve parties being planned, with virtual tickets suggesting patrons refrain from taking photos or even leave their cellphones at home.

"What I would suggest for the people who are seriously thinking of going to those, you are actually putting yourselves in harm's way," said Haggie.

"There is no conceivable reason why a legitimate establishment would want you to not take a phone or not take photographs unless they're worried about the repercussions of what you might see and record on social media. We are much better than that, and you'll go home from a place like that with more than a hangover if you're not careful."

Close eye on clusters

Over the last couple of weeks the province has seen three small clusters of COVID-19 crop up in different areas of the province.

On Wednesday Fitzgerald said the province is still following up on those clusters in Deer Lake and Grand Bank.

"Some people in Grand Bank have gotten through their isolation periods, but not everyone has. So we're still following up, and same for Deer Lake — we're only about half way through that," she said.

"We're watching things closely. Anyone who was a close contact may go on to develop symptoms, so that's certainly something we're watching out for. But, by and large, we know what's happening there and we feel comfortable with where we are now."

Furey said an update on potentially returning to the Atlantic bubble will be provided on Monday.

Travel form

As of Tuesday, the province increased its information-gathering from anyone arriving into Newfoundland and Labrador from elsewhere in Canada. All travellers, including rotational workers, must fill out an online form up to 30 days prior to their arrival.

They will then receive a reference number that must be presented to border officials when they get to the province. People crossing the border between Labrador West and Fermont, Quebec will not have to fill out the form electronically in advance.

Fitzgerald reassured anyone who already has a travel exemption, noting that it remains valid, but those people still need to fill out the online form to ensure smooth entry into the province.

Newfoundland and Labrador's total caseload overall is now 340, with 306 recoveries.

In total, 63,163 people have been tested since March — an additional 322 since Tuesday's update.

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