Marystown area in Newfoundland working hard to contain COVID-19 outbreak: mayor

Mayor Brian Keating says there is "an anticipation of more positives as contact tracing is ongoing" in Marystown, NL. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

The mayor of a small town in Newfoundland says his community is coming together to battle an outbreak of COVID-19 that had resulted in 39 confirmed cases as of Saturday night, with more expected to be confirmed Sunday.

Mayor Brian Keating said in a telephone interview on Sunday that people in Marystown and nearby communities located on the Burin Peninsula are signing up for testing clinics set up by Eastern Health.

Keating said public health officials have informed him that 974 people have been tested for the virus and more than 400 are booked for testing Sunday in the town, which has a population of about 5,000 people.

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Meanwhile, he said residents are supporting families of children from a local school where the illness has taken hold.

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“It’s more personal where it’s such a small community … Everybody is being kind and compassionate,” he said. “I’m proud of my little town.”

Residents are dropping off treats and toys for children who are ill and are reaching out to see what is needed, he said.

During a briefing on Friday in St. John’s, provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said most of the initial cases occurred at Sacred Heart Academy in Marystown, though the original source of the outbreak was under investigation.

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The school has 460 students from kindergarten to Grade 7, and has been closed since Thursday due to the outbreak.

Keating says most of the community’s residents have been vaccinated, though people under 20 are still receiving their doses, and he’s hopeful this will help limit hospitalizations.

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The mayor said the virus started to spread over the past week, and exposure notices were posted for Sacred Heart Academy and the local arena.

The area is currently under an alert level 3, which includes health measures that limit gatherings at home and formal events and cancels group and team sports and recreational events. Performance spaces, bars, lounges, cinemas and bingo halls must close.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2021.

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