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Newfoundland and Labrador reports Atlantic region's first COVID-19 death

ST. JOHN'S, N.L.
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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The first death in Atlantic Canada related to COVID-19 was reported Monday in Newfoundland and Labrador, where health officials confirmed a 78-year-old-man with underlying health problems died after attending a funeral service where several people were infected.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, expressed her condolences to the man's family and immediately announced a ban on all funerals, wakes and visitations. She also said all weddings and burials must be limited to five people, including the person presiding over the ceremony.

"I know people may be anxious about what is happening in our province," Fitzgerald told a news conference via telephone link. "Please know that these feelings are a normal reaction to what we are going through and that you are not alone."

Fitzgerald said 13 positive cases were added to the province's growing caseload, which stood at 148. That's the second-highest per capita infection rate in Canada, after Quebec.

Of particular concern for Newfoundland and Labrador is a cluster of cases linked to two services held March 15-17 at Caul's Funeral Home in St. John's. As of Monday, 111 of the province's infections were linked to those services.

So far, nine people in Newfoundland and Labrador have been admitted to the hospital and two were in intensive care on Monday, Fitzgerald said.

Health Minister John Haggie urged families not to travel together on shopping trips, which he said should be limited to essential purchases.

"Don't take your children with you," he said. "And please don't let them lick the handles on the shopping cart."

No other Atlantic province has reported any deaths related to the virus.

In Nova Scotia, health officials on Monday reported five new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the province's total to 127.

Officials said almost all of those cases have been connected to travel or a previously known case, but one case appears to be the result of transmission within the community.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the infected individual attended a St. Patrick's Day event on March 14 in Lake Echo outside of Halifax. However, Strang said no one else at the party has tested positive.

"It is now more important than ever for Nova Scotians to strictly adhere to the public health orders and directives," the province's Health Department said in a statement, reminding residents that gatherings of more than five people are prohibited.

In New Brunswick, two new confirmed cases were reported Monday, bringing the province's total to 68. Health officials also confirmed that community transmission is now present in the province, noting that cases in Moncton, Saint John and Edmundston cannot be traced to an infection which took place outside the province.

"People everywhere in New Brunswick have to act as if the virus is in their community whether it is confirmed or not," said Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said there are still too many people going to parks and beaches that are supposed to be off-limits. He said he was told of a large crowd at New River Beach near Saint John on the weekend.

"I was told there were over 100 cars at that beach," he said Monday. "We have notified the authorities."

In Prince Edward Island, seven new cases were reported Monday, all of them related to international travel. The Island now has 18 confirmed cases.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said he is disappointed that some people are still not listening to the advice from Public Health to self-isolate or practice social distancing, despite the threat of hefty fines.

King said he is asking the attorney general to instruct police agencies on the Island to make enforcement a priority.

"There will be no more warnings," he said.

Meanwhile, police in Nova Scotia appear to be getting serious about imposing fines on people caught ignoring provincial orders aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

On Sunday, Halifax Regional Police handed a $697 fine to a woman who was walking in Point Pleasant Park, which has been closed to visitors since the province declared a state of emergency on March 22.

On Saturday, the Truro Police Service handed a ticket to a 65-year-old man for failing to self-isolate. Police said they received complaints alleging the man was "blatantly disregarding" rules requiring people entering the province to remain in isolation for two weeks.

In Millbrook, N.S.,  the RCMP have charged a non-essential business for remaining open, despite repeated warnings. Police said the owner was handed a fine for $7,500.

— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax. With files from Keith Doucette and Michael Tutton in Halifax and Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John's, N.L.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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