N.S. top doctor says ongoing N.L. COVID-19 outbreak a reminder to not be complacent

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health says the outbreak in St. John’s, N.L., is a reminder of how easily COVID-19 can spread.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported 100 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, including 74 teenagers.

The new figures are another single-day record for COVID-19 infections in the province and follow the 53 cases that were reported Wednesday – a record at the time.

N.L. chief medical officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said in a Thursday briefing that the situation is more severe than during prior outbreaks.

She said it has become clear that the virus has been circulating undetected in the province for some time and that people who had mild or no symptoms of the disease didn’t get tested.

Read more: N.L. chief medical officer warns of complacency as province records 100 new COVID-19 cases

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N.S. chief of public health Dr. Robert Strang said in the provincial briefing on Friday that the province is closely monitoring the situation across the border.

“The first lesson is how quickly things can change,” Strang says, reminding Nova Scotians to not become complacent. He says he’s been in communication with Fitzgerald.

“They are attributing a lot of this major outbreak in St. John’s to social gatherings and sports tournaments.”

Strang says a large volleyball tournament brought high school students from across St. John’s together.

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“It’s a reminder that why we continue to work really hard, while we’ve opened up a number of things, we put limitations on the number of people that can gather,” Strang says.

“We’ve allowed sports but we’re not allowing tournaments.”

The situation in Newfoundland, he says, means Nova Scotia is on the right path by limiting gatherings.

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According to Strang, Nova Scotia’s first protection are border measures.

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“That’s the key piece which limits the virus getting in here in the first place.”

Another important measure is Nova Scotia’s testing capacity.

“I’ll be honest, a part of what we’re seeing in St. John’s is they weren’t testing lots of people. Now all of a sudden they have two to three weeks’ worth of people they now have to test,” Strang says.

“We’re in a different position because of our innovation and the ways we are using asymptomatic testing.”

He says the rapid testing approach allows the province to stay ahead of the virus.

“When we do have cases we’re well within the public health capacity to respond very quickly.”

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 0 new COVID-19 cases Friday

This week Nova Scotia confirmed two additional cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19.

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Strang says public health is now revisiting these cases, although the individuals who were infected have recovered.

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“(They’re) retesting all the contacts. We have the ability to do that very quickly.”

Even with this capacity to respond quickly, he says it’s important to have restrictions in place. Public health’s capacity is what allows the province to slowly open things up.

“But again, St. John’s is a reminder that we don’t want to go too far,” Strang says.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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