a man gesturing
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID briefing, Dec. 13, 2021. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Jump to sections in this article:
Overview of today’s cases
Vaccination
Demographics
Testing
Potential exposure advisories

Nova Scotia announced 114 new cases of COVID-19 today, Monday, Dec. 13.

By Nova Scotia Health zone, the new cases break down as:
• 52 Eastern
• 55 Central
• 5 Western
• 2 Northern

Over the weekend, Dalhousie University reported that six students living in dorms have tested positive, and today the Dept. Of Health reported that there is an outbreak at Parkland Antigonish, a seniors living community — two residents and two staff members at the retirement home have tested positive, as has a resident at the associated Mary’s Court neighbourhood. At a briefing this afternoon, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said that all the Dal and Parkland cases are connected to the outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University.

(Dalhousie this afternoon ceased in-person exams.)

At least 40 recent cases have been confirmed as the Omicron variant, said Strang.

The very good news is that despite the large number of new cases, there has not been a corresponding increase in hospitalizations. In fact, the number of people in hospital with the disease has decreased — to six, two of whom are in ICU (down from eight and three, respectively, on Friday).

At the COVID briefing today, I had this exchange with Strang:

Bousquet: Dr. Strang, your attitude and your demeanour this time around compared to previous outbreaks, it strikes me that you’re less worried, that you see this as kind of an evolution of the pandemic that’s going on in a more positive direction. Is that a fair assessment?

Strang: Well, I’ll qualify that a bit. I think it is the evolution of the pandemic and essentially we can be perhaps not as acutely worried because of vaccines. Vaccines is what allows us to be in this position, so anybody who doubts the importance of vaccines better give their head a good shake. But I’m not not worried as well; this always concerns me, these types of events, because if we don’t manage them well, if Nova Scotians don’t step up to the plate — and I have no reason to believe they won’t — but there’s always the risk that we’ve gone for so long, people are tired, people are fatigued and they just want to just get on with life, and that we just ignore the need to pay attention to COVID protocols. That would be a mistake. So I am worried — well, not worried, but I’m concerned — that if we don’t respond yet again, this has the potential to have significant negative impacts. But at the same time, I’m confident that yet again, we will respond and do what’s necessary to keep things to control to the level that vaccines will protect us and minimize severe illness, minimize any risk on the health care system.

It’s that concern that led Strang to reimpose some “short-term” Public Health restrictions.

Schools

Effective tomorrow (Tuesday, Dec. 14), the following restrictions apply at schools until the holiday break:

  • school sports are limited to team skills training only
  • no assemblies and no holiday concerts
  • no mixing of classes, including a pause on activities like Reading Buddies
  • essential visitors only in schools
  • masks are required indoors and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained
  • limited access to cafeterias

Fully vaccinated community members can use school gyms and theatres after hours if operationally feasible.

Starting Friday (Dec. 17) at 9am, and lasting until at least the new year, the following restrictions will be in place:

Physical distance and mask requirements

  • physical distance of two metres (six feet) is required indoors and outdoors, except among people in the same household or a consistent social group of up to 20 people
  • places like fitness and recreation facilities, retail businesses, malls, museums, libraries and personal services like hair salons can operate at the maximum capacity possible with physical distancing
  • food establishments and liquor-licensed establishments must have physical distance between tables and a limit of 20 people per table
  • people must be seated to remove their mask for eating or drinking; all other mask requirements for indoor public places remain, including wearing them when seated for other activities
  • masks are required in areas of workplaces where physical distance cannot be achieved, as well as common areas, areas where people are serving the public and areas with poor ventilation
  • individuals, businesses and organizations all have responsibility for ensuring mask requirements are followed and can all be subject to enforcement action

Gathering limits

  • indoor and outdoor informal gatherings, typically at home, are limited to 20 people from the same household or consistent social group; physical distance and proof of full vaccination are not required; masks are not required except in indoor public places
  • gathering limits of 50 per cent of capacity to a maximum of 150 people indoors and 250 outdoors apply to social gatherings, regular faith services, weddings, funerals and their associated receptions and visitation, special events, meetings, training, festivals, and audiences for sports events and arts and culture events (like performances and movie theatres) that are hosted by a recognized business or organization, including faith organizations
  • a limit of 60 participants indoors and outdoors applies to sports practices, games, and regular league play; tournaments are not allowed; physical distance is not required, and masks are recommended when possible indoors and outdoors
  • a limit of 60 participants indoors and outdoors applies to professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances; competitions are not allowed; professionals must have a plan for their workplace; physical distance is not required, and masks are recommended when possible indoors and outdoors
  • children age 11 and younger continue to be restricted from entering Nova Scotia to participate in sports and arts and culture events and from participating in them outside Nova Scotia
  • specific organizational plans will be considered for large venues such as Scotiabank Centre, Halifax Exhibition Centre and Halifax Convention Centre.

Long-term care

  • a limit of two visitors at a time with long-term care residents; it does not have to be the same two visitors each time
  • it is strongly recommended that visitors have a rapid test within 24 hours of the visit
  • visitors can have quick close contact like a hug but then need to stay physically distanced for the rest of the visit
  • the requirement for visitors to wear masks and be fully vaccinated, except for end-of-life visits, remains
  • residents can only leave the facility for overnight visits if they are fully vaccinated and it is strongly recommended that they have their booster dose as well.

What we’re doing now is is really a short term measure,” said Strang. “Don’t ask me to define short term, but it is a short term measure, while we understand much more around the science of this variant.”

“And if we can confirm that it generally produces milder illness and there’s at least reasonable coverage from the vaccine, then in the new year, [we may be] in a very different position that we may be able to say, OK, we can become a little bit more relaxed again,” Strang continued. “But it would be premature or it would be wrong for us to take that relaxed position now; there’s just too many unknowns and I’m not prepared, and I don’t believe the premier is prepared, to take that risk and put more vulnerable Nova Scotians and our health care system at risk”


Vaccination

Over the last three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), 10,033 doses of vaccine are newly reported as administered:
• 3,866 first doses
• 490 second doses
• 5,677 third doses

In total, there have been 1,681,621 doses of vaccine administered, which break down as:
• 53,528 people with only the first dose
• 790,778 people with the second dose but not the third
• 46,537 people with three doses

By end of day yesterday, 87.7% of the entire population (including young children) have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 82.2% have received at least two doses.

Vaccination appointments for people 5 years of age and older can be booked here.

People in rural areas who need transportation to a vaccination appointment should contact Rural Rides, which will get you there and back home for just $5. You need to book the ride 24 hours ahead of time.


Demographics

Since Friday, 199 cases have been entered into the provincial COVID dashboard (this underreports the total). Those cases by age cohort:
• 24 aged 0-11
• 26 aged 12-19
• 119 aged 20-39
• 23 aged 40-59
• 6 aged 60-79
• 1 aged 80+

The active cases across the province (as reported on the dashboard, not as announced) are distributed as follows:

Central Zone
• 105 in the Halifax Peninsula/Chebucto Community Health Network
• 24 in the Dartmouth/Southeastern Community Health Network
• 48 in the Bedford/Sackville Community Health Network
• 0 in the Eastern Shore/Musquodoboit Community Health Network
• 0 in the West Hants Community Health Network
• 44 not assigned to a Community Health Network
Total: 221

Eastern Zone
• 4 in the Cape Breton Community Health Network
• 4 in the Inverness, Victoria & Richmond Community Health Network
• 107 in the Antigonish & Guysborough Community Health Network
Total: 115

Northern Zone
• 13 in the Colchester/East Hants Community Health Network
• 6 in the Pictou Community Health Network
• 14 in the Cumberland Community Health Network
Total: 33

Western Zone
• 5 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network
• 1 in the Lunenburg & Queens Community Health Network
• 4 in the Yarmouth, Shelburne & Digby Community Health Network
Total: 10


Testing

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 3,882 tests Friday, 4,766 tests Saturday, and 5,304 tests Sunday. This does not include the antigen tests administered at the pop-up testing sites.

This morning, the province announced that self-testing kits will be available at libraries throughout the province. The kits come in packs of five, and there’s a limit of one pack per person. Some libraries had not yet received their testing packs by this afternoon, and other libraries had long lines and had run out. But packs will continued to be delivered to libraries.

Additionally, pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites:

Tuesday
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate, 4-6pm

Wendesday
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-4pm
Alderney Gate, 11am-2pm

You can volunteer to work at the pop-up testing sites here or here. No medical experience is necessary.

You can also get PCR testing at the Nova Scotia Health labs by going here. Appointments can be made for the IWK, or for various locations in each of the health zones (appointments may not be available at each site).


Potential exposure advisories

Many school-connected case notifications issued since Friday, and many potential COVID exposure advisories, especially in Antigonish.. I’m frankly behind on updating the map, but hope to be caught up by the morning.

We’ve collected all the active advisories for potential COVID exposures on bus routes and flights here. I’ll be adding schools to the map tonight.

The updated potential COVID exposure advisory map is below; you can zoom in and click on the coronavirus icons to get information about each site.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. We’ve already seen Delta outbreaks on naval vessels with 100% vaccination rates, as well as a population that is younger and fitter than average. I’m reminded of the story of King Canute, who 1000 years ago, faced with social collapse and the waning of European paganism and the rise of Christianity, wisely decided to gather his followers, go to the beach and order the tide to not come in.

    I’m not a doctor and you should follow public health directives. But that doesn’t mean not asking questions.

    1. I believe Canute’s point was that even greatest of kings have their limitations. Same goes for vaccines. That was made clear from the outset.