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For the third day in a row, just two new cases of COVID-19 are announced in Nova Scotia today (Monday, Dec. 21).

One case is in Nova Scotia Health’s Western Zone and the other case is in the Central Zone; both cases are close contacts with previously announced cases.

There are now 38 known active cases in the province. No one is currently in hospital with the disease.

Nova Scotia Health labs conducted 1,389 tests yesterday.

Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

And here is the active caseload for the second wave:

Here is the possible exposure map:

Eden Vally to reopen tomorrow

Eden Valley Poultry has been approved by Public Health to reopen its processing facility in Berwick, Nova Scotia, on a limited basis with reduced headcount and operational capacity beginning tomorrow, December 22, 2020, according to a public statement on the company’s website.

The plant was closed on Dec. 9, and over the next three days all workers were tested. Six tested positive. Public Health ordered all 430 workers to self-isolate for 14 days. The plant had been scheduled to re-open on Monday December 28. 

The poultry plant is co-owned by the Chicken Farmers of Nova Scotia, an influential group. The president of that association publicly urged the Department of Health to reconsider the 14-day shutdown citing economic hardship for Valley poultry producers. 

The Department of Health appears to have been won over. Last Thursday Health Minister Leo Glavine — who is also the representative in the legislature for the Berwick area — indicated a limited recall of workers was being considered. A “kill and chill” operation which will allow Christmas turkeys and chickens to be placed in freezers and processed at a later time essentially prevents farmers from losing money. 

Eden Valley plant manager Werner Barnard says 106 employees — approximately one-quarter of the usual workforce — will start work tomorrow and continue this week. 

The company’s public statement says only workers who have had a second negative COVID test will be returning to work. And they must continue to stay home when they are not on shift until their 14 days of self-isolation end on Christmas Eve. The workers have also been vetted to make sure they were not “close contacts” of those who got COVID. The statement continues:

This approval was granted with the understanding that we will continue to follow stringent health and safety measures,” says the statement from Eden Valley. “We have strict health and safety protocols in place to mitigate any risks and our plan has been thoroughly vetted and approved by Public Health.

In addition to our strict screening, masking, and cleaning protocols, we have implemented these additional safety measures:

• Each department has been assigned to isolated areas of the plant, with designated start and end times to eliminate cross-cohort activity.

• Additional Compliance Officers have been identified to monitor and enforce strict adherence to our safety protocols.

• Only approved personnel have access to our building, and a company-approved mask must always be worn (unless eating or drinking in approved lunchroom areas).

Some may question whether this is a reasonable accommodation by Public Health or whether the government is playing favourites.

Vaccine rollout

At a COVID briefing today, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said that another 3,900 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine will arrive in Nova Scotia this week.

Also this week, four additional COVID-19 vaccine storage sites will be set up — at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Colchester East Hants Health Centre, Valley Regional Hospital, and Yarmouth Regional Hospital. The Cape Breton and Valley hospitals will each get 1,950 doses of the vaccine the week of Jan. 4, with the vaccine arriving at the other sites as soon as possible after.

Strang said that in Halifax, all the frontline hospital workers who might come in contact with COVID patients and who wanted to be vaccinated have been vaccinated, and now nursing home workers are starting to be vaccinated. He said that the vaccination program is moving faster than anticipated.

And further good news is expected: Nova Scotia is preparing to receive the first batch of the Moderna vaccine, just as soon as Health Canada approves it. Strang expected that to happen before the end of the year.

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

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

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1 Comment

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  1. A couple of days early? Reduced workforce? Can this possibly be a decision made through undue influence? Call me cynical but this plant would have been closed for Christmas anyhow. They could have, and should have not re-opened until December 28th or, if two days holiday had been given to staff, December 29. I’m scratching my head on this one and it’s giving me a headache.