CHARLOTETOWN, P.E.I. — Prince Edward Island reported new COVID-19 cases for the first time in more than two months, announcing three new cases on Saturday — including one person who worked at Charlottetown seniors' home.
Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief public health officer, told a news conference that all three cases were Islanders who'd travelled within Canada — the first cases in P.E.I. since April 28.
"This is disappointing news, but we have said consistently that we need to be prepared for more cases and we are," Morrison said, noting none of the cases are related to seasonal residents or the opening of the Atlantic bubble this week.
One, a man in his 50s, was an essential services worker who'd travelled outside the province and was self-isolating.
Two other cases are believed to be linked — a man in his 20s who'd gone to Nova Scotia and had interacted with someone who'd been in the U.S. and was asymptomatic, returning to the island on Monday.
The other case was a close contact of the male, a symptomatic woman in her 20s who worked at Whisperwood Villa, a seniors' residence in Charlottetown where management was advised Friday evening and residents were being tested starting on Saturday as a precaution.
Morrison considered the risk of transmission low, given the woman wore PPE.
None of the residents have exhibited new symptoms of COVID-19, but the province planned to test all residents and staff as well as visitors from Tuesday.
"She did wear appropriate PPE while working and does not provide direct personal care to residents," Morrison said of the positive case.
"She left work as soon as she was not feeling well."
Still, all indoor and outdoor visits are cancelled until further notice at the home, where residents will now undergo twice daily temperature checks in addition to twice daily screenings, with no communal dining.
For all three new cases — which brought the province's COVID-19 confirmed cases tally to 30, contact tracing has begun.
Premier Dennis King said the new cases haven't changed anything in terms of the so-called Atlantic bubble for now.
The four Atlantic provinces lifted travel restrictions within the region early Friday, permitting residents of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I. to travel to any of the other three provinces without self-isolating for 14 days after arriving.
A P.E.I. Health Department spokesperson said the province received 5,200 applications for entry — a requirement under the Island's rules — for the first three days of the bubble.
"We will take the next 24 to 48 hours to allow the contact tracing and chief public health office to do what they are prepared to do and we will let the information guide us at that time," King said.
"We've said from the very beginning if we need to pull back we would, and if the public health information and the epidemiology points in that direction, then we would be prepared to make a decision on pulling back early next week."
King described the news of new cases after more than two months as a "gut shot."
Asked about the reaction of those locals hostile to the bubble, he said the three cases are a reminder to everyone that the virus remains a threat.
"This certainly should be a wake-up call for everybody," King said.
"I think Islanders should remain aware that these three individuals are Islanders and we've talked for 13 weeks now that COVID doesn't really care about your licence plate, your background or your geography."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2020.
— By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.
The Canadian Press