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Fitzgerald cautions against large holiday gatherings to stem spread of COVID-19

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald. - Telegram file photo
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says the holiday season must be different this year, without large gatherings, to defend against outbreaks of COVID-19.

“I caution against planning any extensive functions or gatherings at this time, except for those with your close contacts,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday.

“We simply do not know where we will be in the next few weeks. I continue to hear about workplace Christmas parties being organized, which is concerning for me. As I said before, this is just one year and things will have to be different. We need to find new and creative ways to celebrate the holidays without parties.”

Fitzgerald says while large gatherings can take place, Public Health recommends keeping up to 20 close contacts, with whom Christmas gatherings can take place. While the holiday season is usually a time to gather with friends, Fitzgerald said she hopes people can help those more isolated feel the holiday spirit.

“If you know someone who may be feeling alone this Christmas, please consider ways of safely connecting with them over the holiday season,” she said.

Health Minister Dr. John Haggie says he has heard of parties being planned where attendees are being encouraged to leave their phones home and not share photographs.

A complaint form exists on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador website to report any events people feel may be exceeding public health regulations, but Haggie says the police will take other emergency calls first before checking in on house parties.

“Law enforcement have been very keen to stipulate at the beginning that this was not going to be something that they would regard as a 911 call. The onus is on individuals. It’s about individual responsibility,” he said.

The Wednesday, Dec.2, 2020, Newfoundland and Labrador COVID-19 briefing

Vaccines in January

Premier Andrew Furey says a small number of COVID-19 vaccines could be available to the province as early as January.

“We hope to have a broader announcement with more detail about a vaccine distribution committee, which will have military representation on it, so we can operationalize a plan and stress test a plan even prior to receiving the vaccines,” said Furey.

“(We will) do a pre-mortem on the plan to ensure it’s the most effective, efficient way we can distribute this vaccine to the most vulnerable first, then to the rest of the population.”

Fitzgerald says it will take time to distribute the vaccine throughout the province.

“We will be getting this vaccine fairly slowly, at first. In the beginning, I think a lot of the vaccine will be able to be distributed through our normal channels that we normally do,” she said.

“I want to temper people’s expectations. It’s going to be slow in the beginning. We’ll get more doses as the months go on throughout the year. It won’t be what we see traditionally with the flu vaccine, where we get a lot of vaccine all at once.”

Bubble decision coming

Furey says there will be a decision made on whether Newfoundland and Labrador will rejoin the Atlantic bubble on Monday. Furey says there is plenty to consider before a decision is made.

“It’s not a one plus two is three kind of scenario. We’re weighing many variables,” said Furey.

“Most important for us is to look at other jurisdictions and see how they’re doing, and of course re-evaluate where we are in the pandemic. All of those things will come into the decision matrix about whether to proceed as we are or re-entering the bubble. That decision has yet to be made.”

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