Premier Stephen McNeil (l) and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID-19 briefing, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.

Today, the Department of Health and Wellness announced one newly discovered case of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the new case is a resident of the Northwood retirement home, which now has 16 active cases — 12 residents and four staff.

So far, there have been 1,053 known cases of the disease in Nova Scotia. Nine-hundred and seventy-five people have recovered, and 59 people have died with the disease. Mathematically, that leaves 19 active cases, but the 16 active cases connected to Northwood plus the seven people in hospital with the disease makes 23 active cases, unless 4 of the Northwood connected cases are in hospital. Either way, there appears to be no known active cases at all in the community that aren’t connected to Northwood or in hospital.

Businesses to reopen June 5

Today, Premier Stephen McNeil announced that most businesses will be allowed to reopen on June 5, as follows:

Effective June 5, most businesses required to close under the public health order can reopen. Businesses must follow protocols in the plan that is tailored to their sector. This includes following public health protocols to ensure physical distancing, increased cleaning and other protective measures for staff and customers.

The following can open if they are ready and choose to do so:
— restaurants for dine-in, as well as takeout and delivery
— bars, wineries, distilleries and taprooms
— lounges are not permitted to reopen at this time
— personal services, such as hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons and body art establishments
— fitness facilities, such as gyms, yoga studios and climbing facilities
— veterinarians

Other health providers can also reopen on June 5, provided they follow protocols in their colleges’ and associations’ plans, as approved by public health. These include:
— dentistry and other self-regulated health professions such as optometry, chiropractic and physiotherapy
— unregulated health professions such as massage therapy, podiatry and naturopathy

The province hopes to allow for the reopening of day cares on June 15, “but the reopening date will be confirmed and shared with Nova Scotians once the plan is fully approved,” says a press release. “The primary focus is the safety of children.”

The announcement was met with much confusion, at least on my Twitter feed, with people asking for more details about how the reopening will proceed. Strang said many of the details will be made public by industry groups. But he did say that, for example, restaurants will be allowed to reopen at half their legal capacity, but only if they can additionally maintain two-metre separation between groups of customers. And those groups must consist of people within the household bubbles allowed last week.

I asked Strang whether libraries and theatres can reopen, but he dodged the question. At the end of the briefing, however, McNeil said he will have more announcements Friday about “reopenings and social gatherings.”

Business support

The premier made much of a $230 million spend for “shovel ready projects.” This is money over and above the billion dollars included in the provincial annual capital project list approved in February, before the coronavirus shutdowns; the new money will pay for projects that had been slated for future years in the five-year Highway Plan, the School Capital Plan, and other capital plans. Projects were picked that can be completed this year.

The press release for the stimulus money lists the funded projects as:

– additional paving for 100 series highways and local roads across the province
— expansion of the gravel road program
— replacement of at least six bridges, including Dillmans, Meagher’s Grant, HRM; Hydes, Lantz, Hants Co.; Clam Harbour, Clam Harbour, HRM; Capt. Gillis, near Port Hood in Inverness Co.; Nelson’s, Margaree, Inverness Co.; Mira Gut, Cape Breton Regional Municipality
— renovations and upgrades for the Halifax provincial court
— school repairs, including roofs, windows and mechanical upgrades
— provincial waterfronts
— provincial museum upgrades, including increased funding for Perkins House, Liverpool
— four provincially owned small option homes
— dyke rehabilitation at locations around the province
— campus upgrades to the NSCC campuses

Additionally, McNeil announced a $25 million Small Business Reopening and Support Grant, which will provide grants of up to $5,000 to small businesses to help them reopen safely. McNeil described the program as follows:

This fund will provide eligible small businesses, not-for-profits, charities, and social enterprises with a grant of up to $5,000. Many of you have to operate under entirely new conditions, and maybe even change your business model. So along with the grant, we’re announcing a voucher worth $1500 to access consulting services to offer you advice. This program is for those businesses ordered to close under the public health order, along with small independent retailers, independent gas retailers, and dental clinics. If you received the small business impact grant we announced in April, you do not need to apply; we will contact you directly. For everyone else, applications [will be] online June 1.

The money for the grant program consists of money previously committed to other business support programs that wasn’t used. Theoretically, it could help 5,000 businesses.

How does this end?

I’m still confused as how this is expected to end. Some of the stimulus spending McNeil announced was dedicated for projects that will assist with next year’s tourism season. But, I wondered, how do we get to a tourism season without a vaccine? So I asked as much; here’s my question and the premier’s response:

YouTube video

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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. I’m confused. What has changed about the global pandemic? Will they allow people to be tested voluntarily so we can know if there is community spread?
    How will we be able to weather the global recession? It’s not as if we just took a break. Are they going to announce more and larger support programs?
    Will we now have a two-tier system for citizens? Those who aren’t worried about contracting the disease and those who are? If business if mostly reopening as usual, those who are worried may not participate. Are we not expecting a second wave? If business is encouraged to move away from the new level of service expected, how will they pivot back?

    1. What has changed is that the scenario where hospitals are full and people are dying because there aren’t enough ventilators thankfully never materialized, and because keeping things shutdown until (if) a vaccine is developed is not realistic.

      If there are a significant increase in cases, then things will be shut down again.