The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Newfoundland and Labrador jumped from one to three on Wednesday, as health authorities continue to try to get as many people vaccinated and boosted as possible.
The province reported 479 new cases Tuesday, with 288 in the Eastern Health region, 97 in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region, 57 cases in the Western Health region, 30 in the Central Health region and seven cases done in private labs. All cases are under investigation. Since Tuesday's update, 3,615 tests have been completed, for a test positivity rate of 13.3 per cent. A total of 411,656 tests have now been completed in the province.
Test positivity is the percentage of the COVID-19 tests performed that produced a positive result. The higher the positivity rate the higher the amount of transmission, but the number doesn't necessarily reflect overall positivity in the general population. The province has told people in some cases, for example, that they do not need a test to confirm COVID-19 if they are a close contact of a previous case and are symptomatic for COVID-19.
With 68 new recoveries, there are now 3,665 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, up from 3,254 on Tuesday. But the number of confirmed cases may not represent the true spread of the virus, as the Department of Health has changed testing criteria. Anyone who is a close contact of a case and has symptoms should assume they are positive for COVID-19. Officials say a test is not needed to confirm the result, but any close contacts who are asymptomatic should get tested. Anyone who has symptoms and is not a close contact of a case should also be tested.
More closures, more clinics
As cases continue to rise, Eastern Health is offering more booster shot locations this week and adding a walk-in clinic at Waterford Valley High School on Wednesday specifically for essential workers who are at least 30 years old.
Workers who fit the bill include health-care workers including personal-care home workers, community care home, assisted living staff, and home support workers, first responders, teachers, and daycare operators and staff. The clinic runs until 8 p.m.
Residents of the Trepassey area will see a clinic pop up on Friday at the Nurse Abernathy Clinic from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The clinic is being offered to people who do not already have an appointment at Eastern Health's upcoming Jan. 11 clinic in the community.
The push is also on to make sure people living in long-term care get their third dose of vaccine, as Eastern Health's head of infection prevention and control says nearly every long-term care facility or personal-care home in eastern Newfoundland has had a COVID-19 exposure.
Dr. Natalie Bridger told CBC News on Tuesday that Eastern Health's list of potential exposure sites is lengthy and changes rapidly.
"It's incredibly difficult to contain this virus because it is spreading quicker than we're able to know that it's even there," Bridger said.
Bridger said not every long-term care resident has had a COVID-19 booster shot yet, but a quick booster rollout for at-risk residents remains a priority for Eastern Health with cases spiking.
She said exposures at long-term care facilities likely came from staff members who didn't know they were infected, or visitors who were inside the buildings before health authorities tightened restrictions on who is allowed to visit.
"Most of these situations are what we consider congregate living facilities. So you have a bunch of people living under one roof and this has been known as a good risk factor for acquiring COVID infections throughout the pandemic, but even more now."
In central and western Newfoundland, medical officer of health Dr. Monika Dutt said it's a similar situation, and community transmission of COVID-19 is having an impact on health-care staff.
"Any time there may be someone who's positive who worked in a facility, we do follow up with facilities," she said.
"So we are seeing that in different places across the regions.… It's something we're seeing across the province."
Eastern Health on Tuesday cancelled all outpatient appointments at the Dr. L.A. Miller Centre in St. John's after five patients tested positive for COVID-19 on one unit.
The health authority said a "small number" of staff members also tested positive but it hasn't confirmed the positive cases are connected to the patients on the unit.
Bridger worries that cases in long-term care will continue to rise.
She said the rise in cases is a result of infections that happened a week or more ago but she hopes public health measures will slow the spread.
"I'm hopeful this will be a quick outbreak," she said. "But I do think we're going to see more cases in long-term care facilities, and that does concern me."
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador will be going virtual until Jan. 28, according to a media release. Non-urgent matters that cannot be conducted virtually will be postponed, the court said.
Supreme Court registries will remain open, and anyone who needs to go to the court to drop off or pick up documents are encouraged to use the drop boxes inside the front entrance of the courthouses available during the court's normal operating hours.
People who require in-person service will still be able to attend at the registry counter. In St. John's, anyone needing the general division or family division registry must make an appointment using the court's website.
The Court of Appeal is following suit by going virtual unless parties are noted otherwise.