Measures expanded as new COVID-19 cases surface in Atlantic Canada
Am empty teacher's desk is pictured at the front of a empty classroom at Mcgee Secondary school in Vancouver on Sept. 5, 2014. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- New Brunswick announced another presumptive case of COVID-19 Monday, bringing the province's count of presumptive or confirmed cases to seven as its top doctor urged all residents to do their part to slow the spread of the illness.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the new case is a woman between 20 and 30 years old who lives in the southern part of the province and had recently travelled to Greece. Public health officials are tracing her contacts in the province.
Russell also announced a wide range of closures to start Tuesday, including bars, cinemas, libraries and museums. She recommended New Brunswickers employ social distancing measures to slow the spread of the illness.
Other Atlantic provinces also announced preventive measures Monday amid the rapidly evolving situation.
Prince Edward Island declared a state of public health emergency, which will give chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison powers to prepare for the impact of COVID-19. Under the state of emergency, Morrison can order Islanders to refrain from attending public gatherings and divert resources to where they are needed.
Premier Dennis King also announced a $25-million contingency fund to support workers and small businesses affected by the pandemic.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Dwight Ball announced that schools and regulated daycare centres will close indefinitely starting this week.
Ball said his government changed course on school closures after observing trends in other provinces, where community transmission has been identified.
"We see ourselves in a position where we can be proactive, put the necessary precautions in place and use the time ... to make sure that we do whatever we can to prevent community transmission," he said.
The group representing the province's teachers had criticized the government for leaving schools open, saying it was inconsistent with other preventive measures aimed at avoiding large gatherings.
The province has one presumptive case of the illness, reported Saturday.
Nova Scotia announced two additional presumptive cases on Monday, bringing that province's total to five, while P.E.I. has confirmed one case.
Health officials in the region are preparing for more COVID-19 cases to hit their health-care systems.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says his province has ordered 140 additional ventilators, a 60 per cent increase to the existing supply of 240.
Newfoundland and Labrador has imposed a number of restrictions at hospitals and health facilities, postponing all elective surgeries after Monday and suspending appointments at outpatient clinics.
Ball said teachers will have a planning day Tuesday and students will be permitted to pick up their materials Wednesday and Thursday.
Dean Ingram, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association, had raised concerns about the health of students and teachers during the developing public health crisis.
In P.E.I., Morrison said Monday that any Islander who returned to Canada on March 8 or later should self-isolate for two weeks, regardless of whether they are showing any COVID-19 symptoms.
Morrison said the Island still has one confirmed case of the disease -- a woman in her 50s from the Queens County area who recently returned from travelling on a cruise ship. There have been over 120 tests conducted for the virus in the province.
She said three other Islanders were on the same Celebrity Summit cruise from Feb. 29 to March 7.
"They have all been given direction to self-isolate," Morrison said.
She also said all library events have been cancelled provincewide, and libraries in Montague, Georgetown, Murray Harbour and O'Leary would be closed until further notice.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2020.