N.L. reports 2 new cases of COVID-19, with vaccine shipments delayed

·4 min read
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, moving the total number of cases since last March to 400.

Both new cases are men between 20 and 39 years old in the Eastern Health region.

One is related to international travel while the source of the second case is still under investigation, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald during Wednesday's weekly update.

Both men are self-isolating, and contact tracing is finished for one of the cases. The other is ongoing.

There have been no new recoveries since Tuesday. The province has five active cases.

As of Tuesday, Fitzgerald said, the province had received 16,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and more than 10,000 have been administered.

But Fitzgerald said Pfizer-BioNTech shipments are now delayed as the company has temporarily shut down some production lines at its factory in Europe for renovations that will allow they company to increase its output.

"The timing of this delay is unfortunate," said Fitzgerald, who said regional health authorities are holding onto vaccines to be able to give people their needed second doses.

Watch the full Jan. 27 update:

In the fall, the federal government offered the province Statistics Canada resources to assist with contact tracing and traveller followup. Followup phone calls for travellers in isolation in N.L. began in December, according to the Department of Health.

"These resources are being provided at no cost to the province," the department said in a statement to CBC News.

Fitzgerald said stepping up those followups was part streamlining the process for travellers seeking exemption to enter the province and learning what they can and cannot do during those two weeks.

"Public health officials make contact with all travelers in self-isolation. If there is no response after several attempts by phone and email law enforcement will be contacted," she said.

Fitzgerald added that calls from public health may show up as an unknown number, and anyone whose contact information changes should email exemptionrequests@gov.nl.ca as soon as possible with updated information.

To date, 78,749 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, including 272 in the last day.

One person is in hospital.

New variants of COVID-19 found in Alberta

Two new variants of COVID-19 have been circulating the globe, at least two of which have been found in Canada.

Fitzgerald said that while vaccines protect against the variant first found in the United Kingdom, the mutation of COVID-19 moves faster and easier between people.

"COVID-19 variants are transmitted in the same way as the original strain, through droplets," she said. "This means that the public health measures that we have been practising all year will protect against COVID variants."

When asked on Wednesday if the province would — given the presence of the variant strains in Alberta — change the rules for rotational workers, Fitzgerald said the situation is being monitored.

Lindsay Bird/CBC
Lindsay Bird/CBC

"At the moment, certainly we're not seeing large numbers in Alberta and they're certainly quite aware of the situation as well and they're taking measures to help reduce the spread of those variants," she said.

"As we've been saying from the beginning, if the evidence changes and the epidemiology changes then we'll change our response."

Fitzgerald added this province's new cases are being sent for additional testing to see if they are either of the new strains.

Outbreak in St-Pierre-Miquelon being followed

Fitzgerald said the province has been following the recent outbreak in St-Pierre-Miquelon, and the province's Department of Health as well as officials from Eastern Health met with health officials from the French territory Wednesday morning.

St-Pierre-Miquelon has reported seven cases in recent days, all tied to its hospital.

"St-Pierre-Miquelon have completed extensive contact tracing and testing, and have the situation well in hand," said Fitzgerald.

"They have agreed to send only those patients who visits are deemed essential for care, and all infection prevention and control protocols are being followed."

Eddy Kennedy/CBC
Eddy Kennedy/CBC

Residents with medical appointments in Newfoundland are permitted to enter the province, but must self-isolate except to attend their appointment.

Eastern Health has contracts in place with health officials on the French islands that allow its residents to receive COVID-19 care in Eastern Health facilities, if needed.

Eastern Health told CBC News on Tuesday it has not yet received any requests from St-Pierre-Miquelon for physician support, medical equipment or supplies.

The health authority also said it could not send doctors to treat patients in St-Pierre-Miquelon itself as they are not licensed to practise in that jurisdiction.

"We will be meeting with officials in St-Pierre-Miquelon regularly as the situation evolves, and we'd like to thank them for their collaboration and co-operation," Fitzgerald said.

She said the province has not identified any new cases related to the two cases reported a week ago on the MV Blue Puttees ferry run between Port aux Basques, N.L., and North Sydney, N.S.

A total of 78,477 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador since the pandemic began.

One person is in hospital in the province due to the virus.

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