Newfoundland and Labrador reported another day of no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, its fifth day in a row without one, as the government laid out more details about managing daily life in the pandemic — including how Halloween will happen this year.
The report of no new cases comes just two weeks after school children returned to classrooms, with no known or reported spread of COVID-19 throughout school districts.
"Schools are a reflection of what is happening in the community," Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said during Wednesday's briefing at Confederation Building.
"I think that at this time it tells us that our prevalence is low in our community. That's not to say that that can't change, so we always have to be diligent … Certainly we know that in communities with lower risk of community transmission then we see a lower risk of transmission of COVID in schools."
There is now just one active case of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, as 268 people have recovered from the virus since March.
In total, 38,960 people have been tested — an increase of 388 since Tuesday's update.
Watch the full Sept. 23 update:
Fitzgerald also took time during Wednesday's briefings to advise parents on talking to their kids about vaping and cannabis use, particularly now amid the pandemic.
"There is now the added risk of COVID-19 transmission through the sharing of products used for vaping," she said.
"Across the country we are seeing that the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing among young adults."
Next week's live update will be held on Tuesday to accommodate the government's provincial budget on Wednesday. Fitzgerald will be taking "some well-earned time off," said Health Minister John Haggie and will not be present for the next two briefings.
When asked, Fitzgerald said she is not travelling outside of the province with her time off.
Haggie also said government will cease to issue daily news releases on COVID-19, outside of weekly briefings.
The provincial government's COVID-19 website will be updated between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. NT with the latest information.
Haggie said news releases will be issued when circumstances warrant.
Halloween on track: Fitzgerald
The beginning of fall marked another milestone for young people to look forward to: Halloween.
Fitzgerald said while COVID-19 may look much different in Newfoundland and Labrador in five weeks, right now there are no plans to cancel door-to-door trick-or-treating this year.
Fitzgerald said government and public health are developing guidelines for Halloween festivities, and added they will be available online within the next week.
"With diligence this can be done safely," she said.
She added anyone who is self-isolating should not go out this year, and should arrange for someone else to hand out Halloween snacks.
Free flu shots
People looking for flu shots this fall will be able to get them free from their family doctor, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association announced Wednesday, just hours ahead of the provincial government's weekly live pandemic update.
Doctors will once again be allowed to bill MCP to administer the vaccines in an attempt to increase uptake, as the NLMA advises everyone over the age of six months to get the shot.
Wednesday's announcement reverses the decision the province made in 2017 to no longer fund the shots via family doctors. In a press release, the NLMA said the province made the reversal "on a temporary basis for the current flu season," although the association would like to see it made a permanent change.
"Our concern this year is we are going have, we hope, a very big demand for administration of flu shots," Haggie said.
"Anybody whose scope of practice allows them to give a flu shot is someone I'd like to be out there in the evenings or weekends doing just that. Pharmacists and physicians — it is well within their scope."
According to the provincial government, about 138,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians received the flu shot in 2018.
"Family doctors will provide a huge and immediate increase in the health-care system's capacity to deliver flu shots," Dr. Lynette Powell, the president of the NLMA, said in a press release.
Wednesday also marks the first day of mandatory temperature checks for all departing travellers at St. John's International Airport. Non-passengers entering secure areas of the airport will also have their temperatures checked.
If a person records a temperature above 38 C on two possible readings, they will not be permitted to enter any airport screening in Canada for two weeks. There are exemptions permitted to the rule provided there is an accompanying doctor's note explaining that a high temperature is unrelated to COVID-19.
Airports across Atlantic Canada have reported a steep drop in traffic for spring and summer travel, with travel down 92 per cent from April to August compared with the same time frame in 2019.