No time to let guard down

Newfoundland and Labrador has no plans to vaccinate people under the age of 16. But Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says there are other things that can be done to stop COVID-19 from spreading among young people.

Marykate O’Neill

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Newfoundland and Labrador
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald

Newfoundland and Labrador has no plans yet to vaccinate children under 16 against COVID-19, but the province’s chief medical officer of health says she is confident the disease can be can prevented in this age group.

During a COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald addressed concerns about young people returning to school.

All the major COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are currently conducting trials to determine risks to children under 16. Fitzgerald does not know when the results of these trials will be available, but she laid out some recommendations for keeping these children safe in the meantime – such as wearing masks, socially distancing and getting tested if even one symptom is present.

“There’s a lot that can be done and we’re doing already, and I think there’s things we can all do on a personal level that can reduce the risk,” Fitzgerald said.

Newfoundland and Labrador saw a sudden, dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases, especially among young people, in early February.

As many of the infected young people experienced mild symptoms or were asymptomatic, said Fitzgerald, it poses great concern for the time when children of Newfoundland and Labrador return to school.

Some of the young people who became infected in early February might have thought their symptoms were too mild to be signs of COVID-19. Since then, the province’s criteria for getting tested has changed.

Now, if you experience one symptom as opposed to three or four, you must get tested.

Screening tools at schools have changed as well, with every student having to be screened during entry into the school. If a student is experiencing one symptom, that student must return home and arrange for testing. Staying home when you’re experiencing symptoms is very important in reducing potential spread.

There have also been recommendations about measures to be followed by students. These measures include­­­ wearing masks and physically distancing, of course. But students must also be aware of their close contacts while keeping their contacts low.

With the last outbreak in the metro region, there was a fair bit of spread resulting from sporting and recreational events – shining a light on the amount of caution that must be followed when these types of events become part of daily life again.

There was other important information provided at todays media availability. The province is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 in the eastern health region, both males under the age of 20. There are 27 new recoveries. There are currently 11 people in the hospital due to the virus, and there are 236 active cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

As COVID-19 generally poses lower risk to people under the age of 20, it is still very important to follow public health guidance. If you’re experiencing symptoms, you can arrange for testing by calling 811.

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