N.L. reports record 53 new cases of COVID-19, schools closed across St. John's

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Heath officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported a record 53 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday and 32 presumptive positive cases.

"This is what COVID does," chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald told reporters, about the highest, single-day number of new cases reported in the province since the start of the pandemic.

"We've had our few practice runs ... and now here we are with the big one. So, we really need to start taking this seriously."

Fitzgerald said there were 110 active reported cases of COVID-19 in the province — 94 of which were confirmed in the last three days.

Last spring, COVID-19 hit the province hard, with a cluster of more than 160 cases connected to a funeral service in St. John's. Fitzgerald said she expects the latest outbreak to involve more infections and to be more difficult. "We are in for a rough period in the days and weeks ahead," she said.

In response to Wednesday's record number of new cases, Fitzgerald issued a raft of new health orders for the province's capital region, including the closure of all kindergarten to Grade 12 schools. The local school board said in-person instruction will be suspended until Feb. 26.

Fitzgerald also suspended in-person dining in restaurants across the capital region and closed all stores considered non-essential. Group and team sports across the province are also prohibited, she said.

On Tuesday, when health officials reported 30 new cases, Fitzgerald ordered all bars, gyms and cinemas to close in the capital region.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press