Harbour Breton enacts partial lockdown, while N.L. reports no new cases of COVID-19

Harbour Breton enacts partial lockdown, while N.L. reports no new cases of COVID-19

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and two more recoveries.

The province now has 28 active cases.

This is a breaking news update. A previous version of this story is below.

Public health officials will provide an update on Newfoundland and Labrador’s pandemic response this afternoon, just as concerns over COVID-19 have sparked closures in Harbour Breton, including its schools and town office.

The Connaigre Peninsula community’s mayor says two cases have been identified in the small town over the weekend.

Georgina Ollerhead said one case was identified Saturday, and another Sunday, prompting town council to post on Facebook to ask residents to go into lockdown mode and non-essential businesses to close, as contact tracing continues within the community.

Instituting the closures, as well as asking for residents and businesses to curb public interactions, come as voluntary measures and not ones imposed by provincial public health officials.

Ollerhead said the cases have Harbour Breton residents concerned.

“They’re worried. Is it travel-related? Is it community spread? They’re looking for answers, and like I tell them, be patient,” Ollerhead told CBC News on Monday.

The premier, health minister and chief medical officer of health will hold a COVID-19 briefing at 2 p.m. NT, with the event live streamed on the provincial government’s YouTube page.

According to Department of Health press releases, of the three cases of COVID-19 identified in the Central Health region over the weekend, the source of infection in one case from Saturday, a woman between the ages of 20 and 39, is still under investigation. One other is travel-related, with the third a close contact of a previous case.

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As of Sunday there were 30 active cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Central Health will have a mobile testing clinic set up in Harbour Breton on Monday morning, Ollerhead said.

Elvis Loveless, the MHA for the area, wrote on Facebook on Sunday, “COVID-19 has found its way to our region, and this is unfortunate,” and said he had been in communication with the premier and minister of health on the situation.

“The days ahead may be filled with uncertainty, but please know that public health in the Central Health region are doing everything possible to investigate the source of the infection,” Loveless said.

There were two cases of COVID-19 identified in Harbour Breton over the weekend, says Mayor Georgina Ollerhead. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Schools closed

Both schools in the town, St. Joseph’s Elementary and King Academy, announced on Facebook they would be closed on Monday “to allow additional time for cleaning,” as directed by the province’s Ministry of Education. Whether they will reopen Tuesday will be decided Monday, the post said.

About 180 students attend the two schools, but Ollerhead said she has been informed neither COVID-19 case is in the school system. The cleaning is meant to give students, parents and staff peace of mind.

The town council has closed its office, as well as the Connaigre Fitness Centre.

“We felt it’s very important that we step up. Let’s be the leaders. The residents are looking to us for direction and we felt this direction would be the proper one,” Ollerhead said.

The town’s library branch added to the list of closures Monday, tweeting it would be closed Monday and Tuesday and “monitoring the situation in Harbour Breton on a day-by-day basis.”

Harbour Breton is the latest small town in Newfoundland and Labrador to deal with COVID-19 lockdown measures, as both Deer Lake and Grand Bank have tightened restrictions in the wake of clusters of the virus in their respective communities.

Harbour Breton has about 1,600 residents, many of them elderly, Ollerhead said, with the cases serving as a wakeup call.

“You didn’t think that this virus was going to knock on your door. But it’s an eye opener to everyone in this province, whether you’re a small community or big, that it can happen to you,” she said.

“It can happen to you, and when it does, I’m telling you, it certainly makes your heart pound.”

Ollerhead said she and her council are taking their public restriction suggestions day by day and staying in close communication with health officials, and hope for no further cases in the town.

As of Sunday, the province had seen 351 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic hit in March, with 64,354 people tested.

There have been 317 recoveries and four deaths.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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