More exposed at Health Sciences Centre, as N.L. adds 3 new cases of COVID-19

·3 min read
Eastern Health confirmed Friday that one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19, sending under 10 patients and staff into isolation. (Paul Daly/CBC - image credit)
Eastern Health confirmed Friday that one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19, sending under 10 patients and staff into isolation. (Paul Daly/CBC - image credit)

Newfoundland and Labrador added three new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, according to the Department of Health, leaving the province with eight active cases of the illness — the highest total since March 19.

One of those active cases, Eastern Health confirmed Friday, is an employee at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's, where earlier this month dozens of people were contacted as a result of potential exposure via a COVID-positive patient in the emergency department.

Two of the new cases announced Friday are men in the Western Health region, one in his 40s and the other in his 50s. Both of those cases are under investigation.

The third new case is a man under 40 in the Eastern Health region who contracted the virus through travel within Canada. No one is hospitalized with the virus.

Public health officials are asking anyone who travelled on Air Canada Flight 8996, departing Halifax and arriving in St. John's on Tuesday, and anyone who travelled on the Marine Atlantic MV Blue Puttees departing Port aux Basques on Tuesday, to arrange testing.

The single case announced Thursday, a woman in her 40s in the Eastern Health region, remains under investigation, the department said in its release.

Health Sciences tacks on another exposure

Eastern Health has confirmed a positive case among its staff at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's. The health authority confirmed in a statement Friday that the employee was in contact with other staff members and patients, and contact tracing is ongoing.

"Less than 10" people, including staff and patients at the hospital, are now in isolation in relation to that case, the statement said.

According to the health authority, all test results so far have been negative. Tracing and testing is still underway.

It's the second known exposure in the hospital this month.

Last Thursday, the health authority confirmed that a COVID-positive visitor had entered the Health Sciences emergency department three times in a span of four days. About 70 people, including about 20 employees, were tested and sent into isolation.

Eastern Health said there's no evidence that patient infected the employee.

"There has not been any confirmed epidemiological link between this new employee case and the COVID-positive emergency department patient," the department said. "All contacts associated with the emergency department case have received negative COVID-19 test results."

The health authority did not issue public information about either exposure until explicitly asked by CBC News.

Vaccine clinics fill up

Newfoundland and Labrador saw a jump in vaccine shipments this week, and released its timeline of when its health regions expect to administer first doses.

The Department of Health released a timeline Thursday of when it expects to issue at least one dose to all eligible population groups.
The Department of Health released a timeline Thursday of when it expects to issue at least one dose to all eligible population groups.(Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

According to the department's latest vaccination numbers, 96,273 total doses had been administered as of Wednesday night.

The province has received 129,060 doses of vaccine since December, and is expecting a shipment of about 20,000 doses this week.

After a surprise arrival of about 20,000 additional AstraZeneca-Oxford shots last week, clinics for the 55-to-64 age group opened in the Eastern, Western and Central Health regions.

Eastern Health said Thursday that its metro-area clinics are now full, but some appointment slots remained at its Bonavista locations.

Labrador-Grenfell Health is forging ahead with its own clinics, and now opening AstraZeneca clinics for the 55-to-59 age group, as well as extremely clinically vulnerable residents over 18.

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