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Five people in hospital

At least two people are in the intensive care unit (ICU) with COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, and authorities admit the traditional lag between confirmed case counts and more serious manifestations of the disease is cause for concern.

“That’s something that we’re following closely. Dr. Fitzgerald and her team are following closely,” Premier Andrew Furey said Monday during a video update. “We’re all tracking that as a significant variable and parameter moving forward to ensure we’re prepared if there is an increase in hospitalizations.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald would only confirm “there are hospitalizations in the ICU due to COVID-19” when asked Monday.

In total, five people are in hospital with the coronavirus.

The number of daily cases has bounced around in the past week after hitting a high of 100 on Feb. 11. It’s assumed all cases in the St. John’s region involve the more contagious variant B.1.1.7, which exploded on the scene when several students and close contacts at Mount Pearl Senior High School tested positive the week before Valentine’s Day.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we are making progress,” Fitzgerald said Monday, “but we are by no means out of the woods. We were fortunate to detect this outbreak when we did, and we have to do everything we can to prevent another occurrence.”

Fitzgerald confirmed that students in Mount Pearl were recently retested because a large number of them were about to leave mandatory isolation.

There were 221 people aged 18 and under who were quarantined at the beginning.

“What we found with a lot of them is they had very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, but they were able to still spread it,” Fitzgerald said.

Authorities felt some of the negative tests at the beginning may have just been asymptomatic.

“We wanted to just make sure, where we had so many coming out of isolation at the same time, and where they had that potential to pass on disease without really knowing that they were sick with it — we wanted to test and see if anybody was asymptomatic and positive,” she said. “And we did find a few.”

In another development Monday, Fitzgerald said the province is starting to set up monitoring of wastewater in the metro region.

Testing for the presence of the coronavirus in human waste has proven to be useful in other jurisdictions to get advance warning of outbreaks or establishing prevalence in different regions.

“It’s not just as simple as just going in and testing the wastewater,” Fitzgerald said. “There is a process and a protocol that has to happen, and that’s not always feasible in some areas, depending on the type of system they have.”

She said so far they are only exploring how to do it.

“At this point right now it’s probably not as useful, but we do need to get a baseline and see how things are going to go over the next little while.”
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