N.L reports 2 new travel-related COVID-19 cases on Tuesday

·3 min read
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald is scheduled to deliver a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday afternoon. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald is scheduled to deliver a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday afternoon. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

There are two new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador Tuesday, as the province's health authorities continue to assess how new guidelines for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine will affect immunization plans.

Both cases are related to domestic travel, according to a release from the Department of Health, and both are males in their 40s. One case is located in the Eastern Health region and one in the Western Health region.

The department issued an advisory asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 7480 from Montreal to St. John's on Saturday to arrange a COVID-19 test.

The two new cases bring the number of active cases to four. There are two cases in Eastern Health, one case in Central Health and one case in Western Health.

Tuesday marks the first day since March 8 the province reported more than one new daily case.

There is no one in hospital with the virus, while an even 124,000 people have been tested to date, with 261 people getting a swab in the last 24 hours.

Immunization plan assessed

The latest pandemic update comes on the heels of an impromptu briefing Monday afternoon, with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announcing a pause on the distribution of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines to anyone under the age of 55.

That decision was a result of research suggesting that, in exceedingly rare cases, the vaccine may prompt vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia, also known as VIPIT.

Fitzgerald said the vaccine is still effective, but advised those who have already received a dose to watch for side effects.

Health Canada said Monday that 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered throughout the country and no cases of the rare blood clotting adverse events have been reported, but that it was aware of additional cases that have recently been reported in Europe.

The province is still assessing what the change will mean for the province's vaccine rollout plan, Health Minister John Haggie said Monday.

On Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Pfizer-BioNTech has agreed to move up delivery of five million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada from late summer to June.

Fitzgerald is scheduled to hold a briefing Wednesday at 2 p.m. NT.

MUN preparing for in-person fall classes

Tuesday also came with an announcement from Memorial University, which is preparing to welcome students and faculty back to campuses across the province for the fall semester.

University classes have been predominantly taught virtually since last May, and continued online through the fall and winter semesters.

Mark Abrahams, MUN's provost and vice-president, said the university has been paying close attention to vaccination rates and is eyeing a September opening date.

"We monitor it constantly," he told The St. John's Morning Show. "Looking five months down the road, we think the health environment will be to a point where we can safely reopen the university."

Memorial University's Mark Abrahams said the school is preparing for in-person classes this September.
Memorial University's Mark Abrahams said the school is preparing for in-person classes this September.(Paul Daly/CBC)

Abrahams said the pandemic will likely bring changes to campus, such as limited class sizes, along with support systems to help students, staff and faculty through what could be a stressful transition.

He said the university also has to find an alternative self-isolation space for students arriving from outside the province as residences return to business as usual.

"We have students from around the world who have to make plans, and the sooner we can give them information upon which they can act, the sooner they can make their own plans," he said.

According to Abrahams, the university is also aiming to open its new core science building by September, with academic units slated to move into the building over the summer.

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