NL reports 519 new cases of COVID-19, 20th death and move to Alert Level 4

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announced Monday that Newfoundland and Labrador will switch to an amended Alert Level 4 at midnight. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Newfoundland and Labrador will move to a modified Alert Level 4 to deal with record numbers of COVID-19 starting in 2022, the provincial government said on Monday.

The province has reported 519 new cases – for the seventh day in a row, a new single-day record – and its 20th death from COVID-19, a woman in her 50s in the central health region. The active workload is 2,925, also a new record.

As cases of the highly transmissible variant of Omicron continue to spread, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said she believes it is inevitable that most people in the province will catch the disease. COVID-19 at one point.

“I know we all think we’re done with COVID, but COVID isn’t quite done with us. Living with COVID means celebrating the good days and mobilizing all of our courage and strength to persevere in the bad. days, “Fitzgerald told the provincial briefing Monday afternoon.

There are 276 new cases in Eastern Health Region, 125 in Labrador-Grenfell Health Region, 64 in Central Health Region, 43 in Western Health Region and 11 found through private testing where the region is unknown.

In the past 24 hours, 134 people have recovered from the virus, leaving 2,925 active cases. One person is hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Just over 3,300 tests have been carried out since Sunday, bringing the number of tests performed to 404,008 to date.

Fitzgerald said the spike in cases has pushed the province’s health care system to the brink of collapse, saying it can’t handle record-breaking cases day in and day out.

“The reality of this virus is that it is so contagious that most people will acquire it, but our healthcare system cannot withstand the pressure that everyone acquires it at the same time,” he said. she declared. At the same time, she said, it’s unclear what the full effect of the Omicron variant will be.

“We’re doing our best to follow a map for a road that’s under construction.”

Fitzgerald said many people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, which could be due to the province’s high vaccination rates.

Alert level 4

Under the amended Alert Level 4, which goes into effect at midnight and will be reassessed on January 17, informal gatherings are limited to 10 people, which Fitzgerald called a “tight 10.” She said the goal of reducing the number of contacts a person has is to limit the spread of the virus.

Funerals, weddings, funerals and religious gatherings are limited to 50 people or 25% of capacity, whichever is less. Businesses – including gyms, dance studios, and arenas – will follow the same rules. It is again forbidden to dance at official gatherings, with the exception of ceremonial dances.

Watch the full briefing here:

Retail stores, including in malls, can remain open at reduced capacity, while restaurants can remain open at 50% capacity as long as the distance between tables can be maintained. Tables are limited to six people and buffets are prohibited.

There are no changes to on-call services, which may operate at full capacity, or personal care facilities, which may open as per public health guidelines.

Bars, lounges and cinemas remain closed. Fitzgerald encouraged people feeling the stress of the high number of cases and isolation to reach out to family or friends, saying residents of the province are navigating the COVID-19 storm together, but in different boats.

“Feeling anxious or lonely is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of being human, as we all are.”

Healthcare misappropriation

Health care staff in Eastern Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health health regions are being reassigned to stay on top of the province’s response to the pandemic.

In a statement to CBC News, Eastern Health said more than 200 employees have been redeployed, including nurses and support staff. Staff are used to assist with testing and vaccination, in other urgent areas where they may have previous work experience, or to replace workers in isolation.

As of Monday afternoon, around 625 health workers were in isolation due to exposure to COVID-19 or a positive test, according to Eastern Health CEO David Diamond, who added that the speed of arrival of ‘Omicron had made the experience different from the past. waves.

“We’ve had this throughout the previous waves, but it’s more intense within the health system because it’s more intense within the community,” he said.

Some healthcare workers in the Eastern Health region are reassigned to help meet demand as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Emily Elconin / Reuters)

With the diversions come the cancellations of appointments for some patients.

In a press release on Sunday evening, Eastern Health said that starting Tuesday, it will only focus on emergency emergency services at health care sites to redeploy staff to help with the response to the pandemic.

The health authority said emergency appointments will continue in the following areas:

  • Outpatient clinics for adults.
  • Regional program of medicine.
  • Children’s and women’s health.
  • Rehabilitation, palliative care and geriatric medicine.

Only patients whose appointments are in progress will be contacted, Eastern Health said.

For the surgery, Eastern Health said emergency, heart and cancer surgeries are continuing. Patients whose procedures are in progress will be contacted.

Medical imaging also continues, although in these cases patients will only be contacted if their appointment has been canceled.

For child and women’s health, all fetal-maternal assessment units and prenatal appointments will continue. For all other appointments, patients with early appointments will be contacted for confirmation.

All radiotherapy and chemotherapy appointments will take place. Patients will be contacted directly if there is a change in their clinic appointments, Eastern Health said.

Finally, all non-urgent appointments for outpatient laboratory services between Tuesday and Friday are canceled, but emergency laboratory tests and services will continue. Outpatient blood collection sites are limited to urgent blood collection only, including blood tests for patients requiring INRs, therapeutic drug level monitoring tests and, for patients treated for cancer, monitoring of cancer profiles and other required cancer-related tests.

A statement from the Labrador-Grenfell region on Monday afternoon said that although there is no outbreak at Labrador Health Center, the hospital has started operating in “epidemic mode” to protect employees.

Resources are realigned to focus on cancer care, obstetrics, dialysis, mental health and emergency services.

The hijackings also come as the province continues to grapple with the effects of the cyberattack in late October on the healthcare system. Diamond said the cyberattack set things back several weeks, but professionals are working to address the backlog.

“If we hadn’t had the computer outage, most of our backlog from a COVID perspective would have been dealt with by the end of December and a bit until the end of March,” he said. “Now we have another unexpected blow. “

Test the changes

Fitzgerald also announced changes to testing requirements and testing priority, advising anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 who is high-risk close contact from a previous case to assume they are positive for it. virus.

Anyone who is asymptomatic in close contact or living in a high-risk environment should always be tested, she said.

The province also removed the requirement for close contacts from a previous case to be tested a third time between days 11 and 13 of their isolation period. Fitzgerald said the wait time between filling out a referral form for testing and collecting swabs has dropped to around 48 hours, but results can take up to three days under the current workload. of the province.

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