Premier Stephen McNeil (l) and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID-19 briefing, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

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It will be sometime next week before Nova Scotians get a glimpse of how restrictions will be eased once the province has gone two weeks without a new case of COVID-19. The Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, said he expects to be able to loosen up some of the restrictions “within the next very few weeks.” That timing hinges on the route the virus takes.

Today, Pubic Health reported four new cases and three new deaths at the Northwood nursing home in Halifax. The province has reported a total of 1,024 positive cases and 51 deaths, all but two of which have involved long-term care residents. On the other side of the ledger, Public Health says 870 people have now recovered and their cases of COVID-19 are considered resolved. That leaves just 103 known active cases.

Strang was asked if easing restrictions in Nova Scotia would resemble the “bubbles” in New Brunswick, where families are permitted to interact socially with another family of their choice. Strang is not keen on that model because he says it forces people to make stressful choices between their friends (or kids’ friends) and their relatives. He suggests Nova Scotia may go down a different path.

“Right now we have limitations on essential social gatherings for only five people or less,” noted Strang. “Maybe the way to do this is not ‘bubble families’ but loosening some of the restrictions around what type of gatherings and the numbers that are allowed. We continue to look at that in our consultations among various sectors about Phase 1 of the Recovery.”

New Brunswick has not had a single death from COVID-19 and only 120 positive cases. Premier Blaine Higgs has announced that New Brunswick’s borders with Quebec and Nova Scotia will remain closed this summer to leisure travellers. That is not an approach Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is in a hurry to adopt. McNeil says no such decision has yet been made and our doors are still open to travellers who must self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days.

No commitment to RCMP Inquiry

McNeil was asked if he would commit to the province holding a public inquiry into the mass murder following revelations the RCMP did not pursue a complaint involving an assault on the killer’s common-law spouse and a description of an illegal gun.

McNeil did not answer the question. Instead he gave a “wait and see” answer that committed to monitoring the ongoing RCMP investigation. He then launched into an impassioned speech condemning domestic violence.

“We have to come to terms with the fact domestic violence is happening in our province,” said McNeil. “That women and children are afraid in their homes. The results are not necessarily to the extent we saw but we are seeing too many of our daughters and sisters living in violence and staying there because of their children or fear for their lives and we need to have an open and frank conversation about how do we address this issue in our province.”

PPE Supplies

This week Strang continues to consult with groups from cosmetologists to veterinarians about changes needed to protect them and their clients when they reopen for business.

Accessing sufficient supplies of surgical masks and gloves — personal protective Equipment, or PPE — is part of that discussion. Today McNeil said the province has “about 90 days worth of PPE” supply for health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, home-care, hostels, and group home settings. McNeil said he has been in touch by phone with other Atlantic premiers about how the private sector can access enough PPE for their employees from local companies such as WearWell and MacKenzie Atlantic that rebooted operations to make masks, face shields, and disposable gloves.

“We are looking at what does an Atlantic version of supply look like: how do we ensure we build a network of companies that can continue on an ongoing basis to supply the region with PPE?”

Meanwhile, there is still no estimated timeline for when largely vacant hospitals will reopen for orthopedic and elective surgeries as well as diagnostic tests and various therapies. There are currently nine people in hospital, four of whom are in ICU, with COVID-related illness. The premier said the Health Minister and Deputy Health Minister are having discussions with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, which operates the hospitals, about how to ramp up services safely.

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Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. I am entirely dismayed at the announcement that vehicular travel through New Brunswick for «  leisure » purposes, such as family reunification will be disallowed this summer. Family members can fly if they can afford either the money or the risk of exposure. Staying in my bubble, in my car, and committing to direct trajectory should be my right. I do intend to start a letter campaign to the feds. Mobility within this country…such an important issue. How can the interests of NB trump the interests of Canadians?