Premier Stephen McNeil (l) and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID update, July 24, 202. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

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The flurry of advisories of potential COVID exposures over the weekend is related to a cluster of nine interrelated cases in Clayton Park, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said at a news briefing today.

“We are at a tipping point right now here in Nova Scotia,” said Strang. “I had a very anxious weekend. We are at a critical tipping point that we all need to pay attention to.”

The origin of the Clayton Park cluster is still unknown, said Strang, although Premier Stephen McNeil suggested it was related to travel. “We do know one [case] is connected to travel outside of the Atlantic bubble,” said McNeil. “People came here and did not isolate alone. They quarantined at a residence, perhaps with best intentions, but exposed others in the household.”

One of our cases is related to somebody who was symptomatic but still chose to go out and socialize,” said Strang. “We know that there were two people from two different parties right at the bar, at the same bar, the same place. I don’t think we know how much interaction those people had, but they were in the bar at the same place. So we have a single case of somebody, their only risk for having it is them being in the same location as somebody from a known cluster.”

That bar appears to be the Bitter End on Argyle Street. Strang said that all people who had attended three locations at certain times should call 811 and get tested. Those locations and times are:

Bitter End, Monday, Nov. 2, between 9pm and closing.
All Nations Full Gospel Church (Worshiping at Saint Andrew’s United Church, 6036 Coburg Road, Halifax) on Oct. 25 at 6:00 p.m.
Montana’s BBQ and Bar (196B Chain Lake Drive, Halifax), Oct. 25 from 6:00 p.m. to closing.

Public Health is expediting testing for people who were at those locations, with priority booking at the Halifax Infirmary, said Strang.

Additionally, although Strang stressed that none of the new cases are people of school age, he said Public Health is alerting schools in the Clayton Park area.

“My team was communicating with Education today,” said Strang, “What we’ve said is we’re closely watching this. There are potentially implications for schools. And what we’ve said is that you need to be prepared that in some time, in the coming days or weeks, or a week or so, that there may be a need to — and I qualify this — there may be a need to enhance restrictions or even go to a blended model. So we’re just putting them on the alert. We’re not there yet. It’s not necessary, but we’re putting it on the alert that we may need to be going in that direction.”

Households of travellers must now also self-isolate

People who travel into the Atlantic Bubble have been required to self-isolate for 14 days, but their immediate household members were not so required. However, as a result of the unsettling increase in new cases, the province is changing that policy such that household members must now also self-isolate.

That means that anyone traveling into Nova Scotia from outside of Atlantic Canada must isolate alone for 14 days,” said Strang. “And if they’re coming into the province and they don’t have that option of isolating alone, they have to stay in a residence, whether it’s an apartment or a house, then everybody in that location then needs to start a 14 day isolation period.

“Let’s say a person went to stay at a hotel for five days and then went to start to live with relatives on Day Six, that person then has eight more days of isolation,” continued Strang. “[But] the other people he or she has possibly exposed, they don’t just have to isolate for the remaining eight days. They actually have to isolate for a full 14 days. So people need to understand if they are taking people into their home and living with travellers in a quarantine period, they are imposing a full 14-day isolation period on themselves and the rest of their house. If they choose to do that, it means their kids can’t go to school, people cannot go to work, you can’t go shopping, go to the grocery store. So that sounds harsh, but it’s necessary.”

Additionally, while there has not yet been a change in policy, Public Health is looking to increase restrictions on essential workers and rotational workers. In particular, McNeil said he envisions a new provincial policy on rotational workers similar to Newfoundland’s, where testing is required after five days.

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

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