Newfoundland and Labrador has its first hospitalized patient as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The individual is in the province’s Eastern Health region but no other details are being released about the patient.
Newfoundland’s Health Minister Dr. John Haggie says the province has been preparing hospitals for weeks for COVID-19 patients.
“Each of the Regional Health Authorities (RHA) has a plan based on protocols and the plan has been based around the idea there would be specific places within RHA facility that would be treated like an isolation ward,” he said during a provincial update on Friday.
During the update the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announced 20 new cases of COVID-19.
Fitzgerald said 19 are within the Eastern Health region while one is in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region.
The announcement brings the total number of cases to 102, the highest figure of any province in Atlantic Canada.
The majority of the cases are connected to Caul’s Funeral Home in St. John’s, which was visited by someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 earlier this month.
While only one person has been hospitalized so far, Haggie says they are prepared if more patients require hospitalization.
“Current data from the public health agency of Canada as of this morning is a six to seven per cent hospitalization rate,” said Haggie.
The province has cancelled all elective diagnostic and surgical procedures, which Haggie said has dropped the bed occupancy rate to about 50 per cent to 55 per cent.
“That leaves other beds, 45 per cent free and staffed, ready to take COVID-19 patients should they arrive,” said Haggie.
According to Haggie, the province also currently has 40 per cent of its ICU beds free and are only using 13 per cent of its ventilators.
In addition, new regulations are now allowing the college of physicians and surgeons and the college of registered nurses to grant emergency licences to groups who would not have been eligible because they retired last year.
“So we have a potential pool of retired, skilled personnel who could be drafted back in short notice,” said Haggie.
On Sunday, Newfoundland and Labrador was reporting only nine cases, but in the past week, that number has jumped 102.
Haggie said that spike is because the province is now able to confirm positive tests at home.
“The ability to confirm a test as positive is a quality assurance issue. The national microbiological laboratory required 50 tests to be determined and compared,” Haggie on Thursday.
“We have passed that landmark with both negatives and unfortunately positives.”
Dr. Haggie says the lab in St. John’s is staffed 24/7 and there is capacity to do more tests than the number they are currently receiving. He says specimens are tested twice, six hours apart.
“The main determinant of the turnaround in actual fact is how long it takes the specimen to get to the laboratory given our rather dispersed geography,” said Haggie.
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador also announced Friday they are providing $500,000 to Food First NL to help those in the province experiencing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
That includes $275,000 from the Labour Market Partnerships program, funded under the Canada-NL Labour Market Development Agreement, to support community food providers in addressing staffing issues.
Food First NL and the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development are co-chairing a task group that will work to address how to best support community food programs to help ensure staff, volunteers and clients of their services are safe and taking proper precautions against COVID-19 as they distribute food in the community.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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