Chief Health Officer Heather Morrison reported no new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) on Friday afternoon but warned Islanders against becoming complacent over the weekend.
Morrison reminded Islanders to continue practicing physical distancing and proper handwashing, and urged those who have travelled to self-isolate.
"If you are not complying with the measures of self-isolation, you are putting yourself and others at serious risk and can be fined," Morrison said.
“It is a time that we need to be just as vigilant as ever. I expect the number of cases in P.E.I. to increase."
Morrison’s warnings arrived as the Ontario government released internal modelling projections showing that, based on current activities, the province could see as many as 1,600 deaths due to the pandemic. The models also said deaths due to the pandemic could be as low as 200 if the most stringent measures are taken but could have risen as high as 6,000 if no social distancing measures had been taken. As of Thursday, 53 people have died in Ontario because of the virus.
On P.E.I. as of Friday afternoon, 140 coronavirus tests had been conducted since the previous day, the highest single-day number so far. Close to 1,100 tests have been conducted since early March. The number of positive cases on P.E.I. remains at 22 and four individuals have recovered. No cases have so far required hospitalization.
There have been no known cases of community transmission in P.E.I.; all cases have been related to international travel.
Morrison also said Provincial lab that has begun releasing results of local testing has begun processing results of around 30 tests per day.
"We are now doing some testing here locally for certain populations like certain healthcare workers and individuals in long-term care," Morrison said.
"We'll be increasing that capacity for local testing, trying to double that capacity every three to seven days."
Most local tests are sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Once the Provincial lab is at full capacity, only positive cases will be sent to Winnipeg for confirmation.
Morrison also addressed concerns that some individuals on P.E.I. could be carrying the virus without exhibiting symptoms. She said the topic has been discussed, but aside from contact tracing of known cases, most testing continues to focus on individuals who have exhibited symptoms, such as a cough, fever or difficulty breathing.
"Despite the discussion on asymptomatic transmission, asymptomatic transmission is not driving the outbreak in this country or around the world," Morrison said.
Morrison said the focus of testing could change if there is evidence in the future of community transmission, unconnected to travel.
However, Morrison said there have been discussions around pro-active testing of staff in long-term care homes. Across Canada, 600 nursing and retirement homes have recorded cases of the virus, resulting in 75 deaths.
"They are very front of mind when we are considering everything in this outbreak and what we've seen around the country," Morrison said, referring to long-term care home staff.
Long-term care homes in P.E.I. have been closed to visitors for weeks.
Over the weekend, health authorities expect to receive a shipment of personal protective equipment, for use by healthcare staff, from the national emergency strategic stockpile. This shipment of increasingly scarce equipment will include 4,400 N95 surgical masks, 10,000 surgical masks, 30,000 face shields and 100 tubs of disinfectant wipes.