Premier Stephen McNeil (l) and Chief Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID-19 briefing, Wednesday, May 6, 2020. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia.

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All seven new cases of COVID-19 reported by the province today are at Northwood. There are no new deaths. The total number of positive diagnoses across Nova Scotia stands at 998 but two-thirds of these people are now recovered. The majority of active cases (211 out of 296) are connected to Northwood’s Halifax facility on Northwood Terrace, where 160 residents and 51 staff have active cases. **

“Several Northwood staff have tested positive in the last few days and we are doing an intense review of each of those cases to understand potential exposures — what would be the likely source of them becoming infected — and part of that review is a deep dive into our infection control and cleaning protocols to make sure everything necessary continues to be done,” announced Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, during today’s briefing.

According to Northwood’s website, three employees have tested positive over the last two days. Meanwhile, Strang continues to defend Northwood and the province’s handling of the outbreak at the nursing home where 35 people have died in the past few weeks.

“Northwood was ahead of the national guidance on masking and it was only a few days between the federal guidance and the province issuing the directive on masking,” said Dr.Strang. “We were even distributing masks a couple of days before we pushed out that directive (April 12).”

Given the age (50+ years) and the size (485 beds) of the building and the large number of shared rooms that have been identified as major factors fuelling the spread of the virus at Northwood Centre, Premier Stephen McNeil was asked if the province would consider spending additional money to help Northwood “fix” these problems.

“In terms of Northwood and the infrastructure, obviously we are working today to deal with the issue of the virus and how can we isolate those who are positive away from those who are negative,” said McNeil in response to the question. “But when this is over, we will certainly be looking at what does that footprint look like and is there something that can be done to continue to improve the facilities that care for our family members.”

McNeil declined to accept responsibility for the Northwood deaths as a result of chronic underfunding to long-term care homes. He was asked and continues to resist calls for a public inquiry into Northwood from the Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union (NSGEU).

Forty nurses and unionized medical people and VON arrived April 18 after Northwood no longer could provide enough staff to adequately care for residents.

More than 100 Northwood employees remain off work. Both Strang and Northwood CEO Janet Simm say asymptomatic workers unknowingly introduced the virus into the nursing home five to six weeks ago despite having their temperature checked at the start of every shift.

Meanwhile, there are only two other positive cases (both staff) at two other nursing homes in the province. The number of Nova Scotians being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals has dropped to just five people from a high of 13 a week ago. Two of those five are still in Intensive Care. Given that elective surgeries, many diagnostic procedures, and treatments such as physiotherapy have been put on hold for nearly eight weeks, the Examiner asked Strang when citizens could expect medical services at hospitals and clinics to resume.

Strang said he could not provide a timeline but that he is in “very active” discussions with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the deputy minister of Health at this moment about the best way to re-open hospitals and  health clinics without increasing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

“Clearly everybody knows that this is an important and urgent action that needs to happen,” said Strang. “So in terms of timelines nothing exact but we are moving very quickly on this.”

**  The daily provincial briefing numbers have been updated by Northwood today to include “active” cases of 152 residents and 50 staff due to more residents having recovered. The reporting periods for Northwood and the province do not perfectly align.

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

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  1. Re the headline, which is barely followed up in the article:

    If I was one of hundreds if not thousands of patients waiting on surgery, I would say quit thinking “may soon resume services ” and DO IT.

    Last time I looked, 6 count’em 6 covid patients in NS hospitals.