Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil (left) and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang, at the daily COVID-19 briefing, April 15, 2020. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia.

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

Thirty-two more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, bringing the total to 549. Nine people are currently hospitalized, four of whom are in ICUs; 137 people have fully recovered. Three people have died.

We have various graphic representations of the disease’s progress in Nova Scotia, and the response to it, here.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said that as of this morning, 31 residents at Northwood have tested positive for COVID-19, and yesterday alone, 13 of the 32 new cases of COVID-19 came from Northwood.

Still, even with those alarming number of positive tests among elderly people, said Strang, the “vast majority” of them are either completely asymptomatic or show only mild symptoms.

Aside for an update on the numbers, there wasn’t much new information in today’s briefing.

Construction inspections

On Monday, I wrote about what I called the “construction loophole” and Premier Stephen McNeil’s response to a question about why construction sites are still allowed to operate.

Here’s how McNeil responded:

Well, it’s part of, when we were looking at the issues of how to follow public health orders, we looked at construction sites where the six-feet, two-metre protocol could be followed. Um, I was actually on my way here today and noticed some work happening on the 101, a construction site near Windsor where everyone was either using equipment or well past six feet apart. The same thing can happen at apartment buildings where we can actually have people on different floors.

We also have to have some economic activity going on in our province. We can’t completely go to a complete standstill. Where we’ve seen issues that we felt with the advice of Dr. Strang that there was a workplace that couldn’t operate or that didn’t have the appropriate protocols, we would close it.

That’s why the service industry, we aggressively moved early on. We were one of the first provinces in Canada to ensure that the service side of our economy was closed. And then we moved to the other aspects of our economy — is there a way to have parts of it operate? And we felt that was the case.

I can tell you we have inspectors on work sites. Where there are issues, people are being identified, and our inspectors are enforcing what is our regulation and we will continue to monitor that, but as we deal with COVID-19 and we continue to have progress on trying to control that with inside our province, we need to also make sure that our economy is in somewhat a position to allow us to come out of this whenever the public health orders are lifted.

I addressed that answer in detail here, but I still had questions, so I emailed the Department of Labour with them:

I’m interested in workplace inspections during the COVID state of emergency.

The premier has said that construction sites are being monitored. Can you help me flesh that out?

Has the department hired more inspectors? How many inspectors are there total? And how many are actually inspecting construction sites? How many construction sites have been inspected since the state of emergency was declared?

Have any businesses been charged for violating the public health orders? If so, how many? Can I have a list of businesses that have been charged?

This afternoon I received this response from spokesperson Carley Sampson:

Since March 11th, the date of notice of pandemic from the World Health Organization, we’ve completed 37 inspections of construction workplaces. These inspections resulted in 20 orders and 2 administrative penalties, none of which dealt with COVID-19. All issues were resolved and there were no charges issued. We have 35 inspectors; all involved in workplace inspections. We did not hire any new inspectors; this is part of our normal work planning activities. Our inspections of construction sites will be increasing over the next few weeks to ensure workplaces are following COVID-19 social distancing protocols.

So far, Halifax police have ticketed 110 people for violating the public health orders, and the RCMP have ticketed 116 people. But zero businesses have been cited.

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

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