The confirmation of an eighth new COVID-19 case in Prince Edward Island in the past week could delay an easing of border restrictions, the province’s chief medical officer of health said Monday.
Dr. Heather Morrison said the latest cases are not the result of seasonal visitors to the province or the so-called Atlantic bubble, which the four provinces opened July 3 to allow travel within the region.
“But this situation raises questions about the possibility of the Canadian bubble,” Morrison told a news conference.
“Although ultimately this is not my decision, I believe it would be premature today to be considering a further loosening of our border restrictions and encouraging broader travel.”
The latest case is a man in his 40s who works in the emergency room at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. Morrison said he tested positive Sunday night after being identified through contact-tracing of another case.
She said the health-care worker had come into contact with a Queen’s County woman in her 80s who went to the hospital by ambulance on July 4.
Morrison said the woman was not displaying COVID-19 symptoms when she was at the hospital and was not tested. She had no contact with anyone in the waiting room. She had diagnostic testing and then was taken home by family.
Morrison said the woman’s symptoms worsened Saturday and she called 811 and was tested. The results came back positive Sunday.
“This is a challenging and worrisome situation,” Morrison said Monday. “The increased number of contacts, both patients and staff, makes for a larger and more complex response.”
Morrison said the health-care worker had travelled to a Canadian destination outside the Atlantic provinces and returned to work July 4 after testing negative for COVID-19.
“Essential health-care workers who travel or arrive from elsewhere in Canada have been able to work as long as they are tested immediately prior to reporting to work and wear appropriate (personal protective equipment),” she said.
Morrison wouldn’t say what role the person has in the emergency department, but he worked seven shifts between July 4 and 11.
She said 100 patients and 125 staff have been identified as contacts and will be tested.
“I encourage anyone who was at the QEH emergency department between July 4 and July 11 to be patient and calm. Not everyone who went to the emergency department during this period will need to be tested,” Morrison said.
She said anyone who flew on WestJet Flight 654 from Toronto to Charlottetown on July 2 should call 811 or their family doctor about testing.
She said it is hoped the spread to patients and staff at the hospital has been limited.
P.E.I. has now had 35 cases of COVID-19, including 27 that are considered recovered.
Morrison said, now more than ever, she is pleading with Islanders and visitors to the province to pay attention to the public health measures, including hand washing, physical distancing and wearing a mask when physical distancing isn’t possible.
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