'Small cluster' emerging in St. John's, says Fitzgerald, as N.L. gains 6 new cases of COVID-19

·4 min read
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says a small cluster of COVID-19 cases is beginning to emerge in St. John's.  (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador - image credit)
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says a small cluster of COVID-19 cases is beginning to emerge in St. John's. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador - image credit)
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

There are six new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday and a small cluster is beginning to develop in St. John's, according to the province's top doctor.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said four of the new cases are related to travel, and two are close contacts of previous case. All are in the Eastern Health region.

Two of the travel-related cases are from within Canada, while the other two are related to international travel.

Meanwhile, the province also marked three more recoveries on Wednesday, all in the Eastern Health region, which includes the man who was a crew member of a Portuguese fishing vessel that was anchored in Conception Bay in July. There is now nobody in hospital due to the virus.

The province has 12 active cases.

"After going quite a long stretch with very few cases, we are starting to see an increase in cases due to travel, and we do have a small cluster emerging in St. John's," Fitzgerald said.

"The identified cases are isolating and Eastern Health is conducting contact tracing."

Fitzgerald said unlike the outbreak in February, a good proportion of the province's population is now vaccinated, which changes how public health manages contacts of new cases.

Watch Wednesday's briefing:

She said testing and isolation now takes the vaccination status of the contact into consideration. Anyone who has been identified as a close contact will be contacted by public health and given instructions specific to their vaccination status.

To date, 266,406 tests have been administered in the province.

Tim Hortons advisory

As part of public health's investigation into a COVID-19 case in the Eastern Health region, it's asking anyone who visited the Tim Hortons on Portugal Cove Road in St. John's on Thursday between 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to arrange testing. This does not apply to customers who only used the drive-thru.

Fitzgerald said clusters and outbreaks can create anxiety, and there will be an adjustment to learning to live with COVID-19. She said it's important to remember that the goal is to not stop cases from entering the province, as they will with increased border traffic, and it's a reality the public must accept.

"But live with it we must, and we cannot keep society closed forever," she said.

"Our goal is to prevent deaths and protect acute-care hospital capacity. We do this in two ways: first with increasing our vaccination rate and second with practicing our tried and true public health measures."

To arrange testing, people can arrange complete the online self-assessment and referral tool or call 811. Those who visited the location and currently have symptoms of COVID-19 are required to isolate until 24 hours after their symptoms resolve and they receive a negative test result.

People who visited the restaurant during this time and do not currently have symptoms of COVID-19 are not required to isolate until they receive a negative test result.

No vaccine mandate

Meanwhile, as some provinces, such as Ontario, are making vaccines mandatory for health-care and education workers, Health Minister John Haggie said Newfoundland and Labrador is leaning on the Department of Justice and Public Safety first.

Haggie said a vaccine mandate is more of a legal and charter issue at this stage, but the province is watching what's happening across the country.

"Our vaccination figures are actually extremely good," said Haggie. "Our first dose is probably better than any other jurisdiction in Canada."

As of Wednesday, 85 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine and nearly 70 per cent has two doses, Fitzgerald said, adding data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows 90 per cent of new cases are being found in people who are unvaccinated.

Less than one per cent of cases and hospitalizations are in fully vaccinated people, she said.

Heading into the new school year Fitzgerald said the province needs to have as many eligible students fully vaccinated as possible, encouraging mRNA dose mixing to anyone waiting for a Pfizer shot.

Fitzgerald said the province currently has enough doses of Moderna to give the entire eligible population a second shot. She added the province also has enough Pfizer doses to supply two shots to everyone between 12 and 17 years old — the only vaccine currently approved for people in that age group.

"At this time we will not have enough supply of Pfizer to give second doses to all those 18 and over that received Pfizer as a first dose," said Fitzgerald.

"So, waiting it out is a personal decision, but please know that it comes with risk."

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