N.L. expands public health restrictions, reports 45 new COVID cases as cluster grows

Newfoundland and Labrador reported 45 new COVID-19 cases Friday — the highest daily number of new infections in the province since Feb. 19, when an outbreak in St. John’s delayed the provincial election.

The province’s acting chief medical officer of health said a cluster that began in a personal care home in Baie Verte, N.L., on the northeast coast, has spread to neighbouring communities.

Public health is asking residents not to travel into and out of the affected region – which now includes the town Twillingate, N.L., and the surrounding area — unless it’s absolutely necessary, Dr. Rosann Seviour told reporters.

“The fourth wave unfortunately has reached our shores,” Seviour said. “We have stared down the face of COVID before, and we will do it again.”

Read more: N.L. tightens rules in Baie Verte Peninsula over cluster of COVID-19 cases

There were 109 active reported COVID-19 infections in the province — a number Health Minister John Haggie on Friday called “a threshold we had hoped we wouldn’t see again.”

Seventy of those active cases are connected to the outbreak in the Baie Verte area, and 21 of those infections are breakthrough cases — or infections affecting people who were fully vaccinated, Seviour said.

‘A different beast’

Vaccination rates on the province’s northeast coast are low, she noted, with just over 70 per cent of eligible residents fully immunized. By contrast, nearly 80 per cent of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians had two doses of vaccine as of Tuesday, government data shows. With the Delta variant fuelling the outbreak, those numbers simply are not high enough, Seviour said.

“Delta is a different beast,” she said, adding that the vaccination rate needed to stave off outbreaks is higher with the Delta variant because it is so much more transmissible. “It has been an eye-opener across this country.”

There are active COVID-19 infections at four schools across the province, including 10 cases at an all-grades school near Summerford, N.L., where in-person learning was suspended, officials said.

Heightened public health measures restricting social gatherings and household bubbles will expand from the Baie Verte peninsula to Twillingate and surrounding communities at midnight Friday night.

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

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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