The mayor of Roddickton-Bide Arm is encouraging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the town at the centre of a COVID-19 cluster moves back into Alert Level 3.
Roddickton-Bide Arm, along with Englee, Conche, Croque, St. Julien's and Main Brook, moved into Alert Level 3 Tuesday afternoon, as a cluster of COVID-19 cases continues to grow in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region.
Newfoundland and Labrador added five new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
As part of Alert Level 3, residents in affected communities must resume wearing a mask in indoor public spaces. Restrictions on gatherings such as weddings, funerals, the use of gyms and restaurant capacity limits are also in place as of Tuesday.
Sheila Fitzgerald, mayor of Roddickton-Bide Arm, said she believes the presence of COVID is a first for people in the community, but residents are prepared to follow guidelines put in place.
"People are taking the necessary precautions, trying to protect themselves and each other," Fitzgerald, who is currently in Nunavut, told CBC News Tuesday. "People are low key today. You're not seeing too many people at the coffee bars or going out to the grocery store or pharmacy or anything of that nature."
The emergence of the cluster has also impacted the opening of three schools in the region, which will remain closed in order for contact tracing to take place. One of the affected schools, Cloud River Academy in Roddickton-Bide Arm, services three of the affected communities, according to Fitzgerald.
"So it's not just affecting the children just in our little, tiny town," she said. "There might be a little bit of disappointment, kids look forward to going back to school.
"As far as we know, school will be delayed opening for one week, and I guess we'll see where things go…. Whatever it is, people are really resilient, and we'll do what we got to do. What's most important right now is that people are safe, and that our children are safe."
Lower vaccination rate a 'point of learning'
During Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said part of the reason she invoked the special measures order was due to the region's lower vaccination rate, which is below 60 per cent of the eligible population.
Across the province, 76 per cent of the eligible population have been vaccinated with two doses, while 86 per cent of the eligible population has received one dose.
Mayor Fitzgerald said the news came as a concern to her and others in the community, who have been pushing for people in the region to get vaccinated.
"We also have a very high senior population, more than 50 per cent are seniors. So [it's] certainly a point of learning, that means we really got to work hard to make sure that our neighbours and our seniors get out to get vaccinated," she said.
"It's so, so important. And I can't stress that enough ... to the entire province."
Vaccination and COVID-19 testing clinics will remain open in the community throughout the week, including Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the White Bay Central Health Centre. The facilities are open to the public, even for those not showing COVID-19 symptoms.