N.L. is moving back to Alert Level 5; here's what that means

·7 min read
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald brought the province back to Alert Level 5 on Friday.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald brought the province back to Alert Level 5 on Friday.

(Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

The spike in COVID-19 cases in the metro St. John's area has public health and government officials are leaning on what they've learned in the past 11 months to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

On Friday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announced the province has moved back to Alert Level 5 of its pandemic response plan in an effort to gain control of the quickly spreading coronavirus variant B117, which health officials say is the cause of the recent outbreak.

Under Alert Level 5, health officials are asking everyone to stay home as much as possible, except to collect essential items, such as groceries and medications. They are also asking people to limit contacts to only those in their immediate household bubble.

Anyone required to self-isolate or quarantine must stay on their own property and should not go for a walk or a drive unless it is to receive urgent medical attention. If you are COVID positive and self-isolating, the whole household must self-isolate together.

If you're an essential worker living with someone who is COVID positive, you must isolate in a separate location, not in the same house.

Fitzgerald added for anyone who isn't COVID positive but has been advised to self-isolate, they must do so away from other members of the household. If that can't be done, the entire household must isolate together.

Anyone who is identified as a close contact of a COVID case, and the test returns negative, Fitzgerald said they have to continue to isolate for 14 days from the last contact of the positive case.

Businesses

Retail stores that "do not provide services essential to life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals" are closed to in-person service. However, these businesses can still offer online or telephone sales with delivery or curbside pick-up options.

Retail stores that are permitted to remain open are not permitted to sell scratch or break open lotto tickets in store.

Restaurants are closed for in-person dining. Take-out, delivery and drive-thru options are still permitted. Bars and lounges are closed.

Personal service businesses such as spas, esthetic services, hair salons, body piercing, tattooing studios and tanning salons are closed.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Gatherings

Gatherings are limited to five people.

Wakes and visitations are prohibited.

Funerals, burials, weddings, and religious ceremonies are limited to no more than five people, including the officiant.

There is one exception: A single person household can join another household.

Recreation

Gyms and fitness facilities are closed, including yoga studios, tennis and squash facilities and arenas.

Team sports and recreational activities where close contact is required are suspended. Group arts and cultural activities — such as bands, choirs and music classes — that involve in-person gatherings are suspended.

Dance studios and performance spaces, cinemas, bingo halls and playgrounds are closed.

Outdoor activities, such as walking or hiking, can continue as long as physical distancing can be maintained and you are not required to self-isolate for any reason.

Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

Healthcare services

Private health care clinics are closed, except physician and nurse practitioner clinics. The Department of Health said closed clinics can open to provide urgent and emergent care, and virtual options can be provided for non-urgent care.

Visitor restrictions in health care facilities are in place and health authorities have postponed or cancelled some health care services.

There are some exceptions to this in the Eastern Health region for pediatric in-patients, labour and delivery patients and palliative care and end-of-life patients. In certain exceptional circumstances, inpatients and residents may be permitted one designated support person or caregiver for the duration of their stay, the health authority said in a media release.

Eastern Health updated these regulations on Monday, allowing one support person to be present for labour and delivery. That person can now stay with the mother and baby until they are discharged from hospital. However, if the support person leaves the health care facility for any reason, they will not be permitted back in.

They are also required to wear a mask, pass a COVID-19 screening and bring their own supplies for the duration of their stay.

Virtual visitation is being recommended, and anyone needing to use emergency rooms or attending health-care appointments should arrive on their own, unless a support person is required.

One parent can accompany a child in the emergency department or for other appointments.

Long-term care homes, personal care homes and assisted living facilities

Group activities and activities outside the home or facility for residents is suspended.

Visitation is limited to only one essential visitor per resident. On Saturday Fitzgerald said an essential visitor is someone considered by the resident's care team to be paramount to the resident's physical care and mental well-being.

Residents admitted from the community or acute care must undergo screening, testing and isolation prior to admission to the home or facility, while anyone who enters the home or facility must be screened before entry.

Staff are only to be shared between homes or facilities in urgent situations, where the direct care of residents may be adversely affected, Fitzgerald said, and residents are to be monitored daily for symptoms of COVID-19.

Government services

Many government services will operate as normal, with their respective phone lines and contacts remaining in place while others are moving to appointment only.

Some services are being temporarily suspended, including:

  • Walk-in front counter service at motor registration.

  • Driver examinations. Commercial driver testing will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

  • Student Aid phone services.

  • Regular move-ins and transfers in social housing.

  • Regular maintenance in social housing units.

  • Marble Mountain.

  • Arts and Culture Centres.

  • All Newfoundland and Labrador Public Library branches.

  • Provincial historic sites.

  • Visitor information centres.

  • The Rooms.

  • Government of Newfoundland and Labrador swimming pools and sports facilities.

For a full list of affected and ongoing government services click here.

CBC
CBC

A growing list of interruptions

All schools in the province's English school district are now closed, with classes moving online.

Metrobus reduced its service to its summer schedule, and also announced that Route 26 will not operate, while some routes end one hour earlier from Monday through Saturday.

The RCMP suspended its non-emergency front counter service for the St. John's headquarters, as well as detachments in Bell Island, Holyrood and Bay Bulls, effective Friday morning.

The City of Mount Pearl closed all its municipal facilities, including city hall, until further notice. The Town of Paradise also closed all its municipal buildings to the public.

Starting Monday, the City of St. John's is cancelling its recycling program. The decision will be revisited in two weeks. Residential drop off at Robin Hood Bay will remain open.

Also starting Monday, public access to all provincial courthouses is suspended. All adult and youth criminal appearances, trials, hearings and sentencings, for anyone not in custody, from Feb. 15 to March 12 will be
rescheduled for a month from the date of the scheduled court appearance or the next court date thereafter.

Courts will still be available to process warrants and judicial authorizations. Civil matters will be adjourned indefinitely and anyone involved will be contacted about rescheduled dates.

Non-urgent family matters will be adjourned for a month starting Monday.

Provincial ferry routes are returning to previous restrictions. The restrictions are limiting passengers to essential workers travelling to their workplace, patients travelling for medical reasons, including for doctor's appointments and visits to pharmacies, residents travelling to purchase essential goods and supplies that are not available in their home community and passengers transporting essential goods.

The number of passengers per trip will be also be reduced as necessary and the number of crossings for each route will also be reduced.

Updated schedules can be found here or by calling 1-833-NLFERRY (653-3779).

The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation has closed all its stores to the public, and move to online and phone ordering and pickup only.

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