School buses are seen in the parking lot of a hockey arena in Dartmouth on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. — Photo: Zane Woodford

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Overview
Schools
Vaccination
Demographics
Testing
Potential exposure advisories

Two more people have died in Nova Scotia from COVID-19. One was a man in Nova Scotia Health’s Northern Zone, and the other was a woman in the Central Zone. Both were in their 60s. They are the 73rd and 74th COVID deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Additionally, Nova Scotia announced 83 new cases of COVID-19 today (Wednesday, May 19).

Of today’s cases, 59 are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone, 19 are in the Eastern Zone, two are in the Northern Zone, and three are in the Western Zone.

There are now 1,262 known active cases in the province; 101 people are now in hospital with the disease, and 20 of those are in ICU; 164 more people are considered recovered today.

Because the numbers are so large, Public Health is no longer able to provide the cause of cases (i.e., travel related, close contacts, etc.) by the time the release comes out.

Here are the daily new case numbers and the seven-day rolling averages (today at 100) for the current outbreak, dating from March 28, the last day Nova Scotia had zero new daily cases:

Here’s the graph of daily new case numbers from the start of the pandemic in March 2020:

Here is the active caseload for the current outbreak:

And here is the active caseload from the start of the pandemic in March 2020, showing the primary associations of each of the major outbreaks:


Schools to remain closed to in-person classes, lockdown extended

During Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing, Premier Iain Rankin announced the government is extending the current province-wide shutdown and restrictions until the second week of June.

“We need to continue to follow these restrictions, so they’ll remain in place, and if we do that, then we’ll be able to be in a better place come mid-June,” Rankin said.

It’s not mentioned in the news release, but Rankin later referenced a date of June 9.

The remainder of the in-person school year is also cancelled, Rankin announced. Online classes will continue.

“To the students, I know that’s difficult that you won’t be able to go back in person and see your friends, and I appreciate that that’s going to be difficult, and I know that it was an adjustment to learn from distance through a computer screen and I know that’s taken a bit of a toll on parents,” he said.

The Department of Education will work with the Department of Community Services to provide support for families of children who are vulnerable outside of the classroom, Rankin said, presumably referring to families relying on food programming in schools.

Rankin acknowledged the difficulty of the lockdown for businesses, but said tighter restrictions now would make for a better summer. He said the government would release a flexible reopening plan at some point in the next week.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang pleaded with Nova Scotians not to gather over the upcoming Victoria Day long weekend.

“Our restrictions are geared towards reducing social activities and gatherings. That is where COVID thrives and the traditional kickoff long weekend for spring and summer is just a few days away,” Strang said.

“This long weekend cannot be the social occasion that we are used to. People cannot get together in groups, even outside.”

Dr. Robert Strang at the Feb. 19 COVID briefing. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Strang said a neighbour or friend — “just one” — can visit for a socially-distant chat. In parks, trails and beaches, people should stick to their households, he said, “But if you can maintain consistent physical distancing you can meet one or two other friends.”

Provincial campgrounds are closed, Strang said, and private campgrounds will only be open to seasonal campers.

“No short term camping will be allowed,” Strang said. “If you’re going to your cottage, your seasonal campsite and staying there for the season, that’s fine, a one-time trip is okay … If you’re privileged to have two home options, please follow this and choose one.”

Strang was asked later in the briefing about the risks of cottagers travelling between municipalities, and how the government would enforce the rule. He got frustrated:

It’s about movement of people. The more movement we have, the more chance the virus goes with you, and even if you may intend to go there, what happens if you get in an automobile accident or your car breaks down? There’s lots of things.

I think people should recognize that if they actually have a cottage or a second place to go, they are extremely privileged. There are many people that are struggling to maintain their home or losing their jobs right now. So if you have a second home, choose one of your homes and make that their permanent residence for the next few months, do not go back and forth. That’s not very much to ask when many people are struggling for a lot more. We have people struggling for their lives in hospital, so choose one place and stay there.

I may sound frustrated but I am. That is an extremely privileged position to be in and recognize that privilege … We’re not going to enforce our way out of this. It’s like everything else do the right thing because it’s the right thing to care for each other, recognize how privileged you are and … make the right choice.

Rankin and Strang also confirmed there is now community spread in the Sydney area, and urged people in Cape Breton Regional Municipality to get tested.

“The cases are predominantly among 20 to 30 year olds,” Strang said. “We need the increased testing to identify where, where the virus is in this area.”

Pop-up testing will be available at Centre 200 in Sydney on Thursday, Strang said, along with the existing testing sites.

Rankin and Strang addressed concerns around the process for rotational workers and permanent residents coming back into the province.

Strang announced permanent residents will be automatically approved for return after applying online, rather than having to wait. They’ll have to provide proof of residency upon arrival, with government-issued ID, a passport, a utility bill or a bank statement.

“If you show up at the border and you don’t have one of those documents, even if you have the automatic approval, you will be turned away, so pay attention to what the required documentation and ensure you have that with you,” Strang said.

Responding to a question from CTV, Strang confirmed that people who don’t have that documentation are essentially detained in the airport hotel until either they provide it or book a flight back out of Nova Scotia.

Rotational workers will now need to complete a full application process the first time they re-enter Nova Scotia, but will get expedited approval on subsequent trips. On the first trip, they’ll need to provide details about their worksite. The government will keep that information on file and workers will be approved within 24 hours on their next trip, Strang said.

There’s more information on the rotational worker protocol, and guidance on all restrictions here.


Vaccination

Yesterday, 6,481 doses of vaccine were administered

Ranking and Strang said Wednesday would be a record for vaccination, with 21,000 doses being administered.

“We plan to open up again later this week [to people under 30] and then finally next week to all the ages that are approved for the vaccine,” Rankin said, adding that he’s getting his first dose next week.

As of end of day yesterday, a total of 442,535 doses of vaccine have been administered, and 40,096 of those were second doses. This pie chart shows the percentage of the total population that has received one or two doses:


Demographics

This section will be updated later.


Testing

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 7,324 PCR tests yesterday. This figure does not include the antigen tests taken at the various pop-up testing sites.

You do not need a health card to get tested.

In response to increasing numbers of new cases of unknown origin in the Sydney and Bridgewater areas and in the Annapolis Valley, Public Health has increased testing at a number of sites, including the Acadia Festival Theatre in Wolfville; the Berwick Fire Hall; 210 Aberdeen Road, Bridgewater; the Membertou Entertainment Centre; Centre 200 in Sydney; and the Grand Lake Road primary assessment centre. Go here for details.

Also, in response to low-risk potential exposure advisories in the Parrsboro area, there will be testing at the South Cumberland Community Care Centre on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9:30am-3:30pm, but by appointment only.

Pop-up testing (antigen testing) is for asymptomatic people over 16 who have not been to the potential COVID exposure sites (see map below); results usually within 20 minutes. Pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites:

Tuesday
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Central Spryfield Elementary School, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate Public Library, noon-7pm
John Martin School (Dartmouth), noon-7pm
Credit Union Centre (Kingston), noon-7pm

Wednesday
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Central Spryfield Elementary School, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate Public Library, noon-7pm
John Martin School (Dartmouth), noon-7pm
New Minas Fire Hall, noon-7pm

Thursday
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Central Spryfield Elementary School, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate Public Library, noon-7pm
John Martin School (Dartmouth), noon-7pm
New Minas Fire Hall, noon-7pm
Centre 200 (Sydney), 3-7pm

Friday
Central Spryfield Elementary School, noon-7pm
John Martin School (Dartmouth), noon-7pm
Centre 200 (Sydney), 3-7pm

Saturday
Centre 200 (Sydney), 11am-4pm

Sunday
Centre 200 (Sydney), 11am-4pm

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

Public Health Mobile Units are available only for pre-booked appointments for PCR tests for people of all ages (results within three days). There are currently no mobile units scheduled.

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 listed below in each of the health zones (appointments may not be available at each site).

Also, as Strang alluded to, asymptomatic testing has been restored at the primary assessment sites listed below.

Central Zone
Bayers Lake (41 Washmill Lake Drive)
Burnside/Dartmouth Crossing (77 Finnian Row)
Canada Games Centre
Dartmouth General Hospital Drive-Thru (No Taxis)
Eastern Shore Memorial Hospital
Mayflower Curling Club
Musquodoboit Valley Memorial Hospital
Saint Mary’s University (Homburg Centre)
Twin Oaks Memorial Hospital (Musquodoboit Harbour)
Zatzman Sportsplex

Northern Zone
Lloyd E. Matheson Centre (Elmsdale)
Colchester Legion Stadium (14 Lorne Street, Truro)
Truro (625 Abenaki Road, with drive-thru at 600 Abenaki Road)
Truro Farmers Market Drive-Thru testing
Amherst (34 Prince Arthur Street) — moving to Amherst Stadium on Monday
Pictou County Assessment Center (678 East River Rd, New Glasgow)

Eastern Zone
Antigonish Market Square
Buchanan Memorial Community Health Centre (Neils Harbour)
Eastern Memorial Hospital (Canso)
Grand Lake Road Fire Hall (Sydney)
Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital
Membertou Entertainment Centre
Northside General Hospital (North Sydney)
Sacred Heart Community Health Centre (Cheticamp)
Strait Richmond Hospital (Evanston)
Victoria County Memorial Hosptial (Baddeck)

Western Zone
Acadia Festival Theatre
Acadia University Club
Berwick Firehall
Digby Station (7 Birch Street)
Liverpool PAC (157 School Street)
Roseway Hospital (Shelburne)
South Shore Assessment Centre (215 Dominion Road, Bridgewater)
Yarmouth Mariners Centre
Yarmouth Visitor Information Centre (228 Main Street)


Potential exposure advisories

Public Health only issues potential exposure advisories when they think they may not have been able to contact all close contacts at that locale. The large majority of potential exposure sites never make it onto a public advisory.

Potential COVID exposure advisories were issued last night for 13 sites, two bus routes, and three flights:

Anyone who worked at or visited the following locations on the specified dates and times should visit covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access, or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 you do not need to self-isolate while you wait for your test result. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate while you wait for your test result, as are the other members of your household.

• Fresh Cuts Market (1101 King Street, Bridgewater) on May 7 and 8 between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., on May 9 and 12 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., on May 13 between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and May 14 between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 28.

• Sobeys New Minas (9256 Commercial Street, New Minas) on May 10 between 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 24.

• *CORRECTION to location* Vogue Cleaners [NOT Snow White Laundry & Dry Cleaning] (470 Prince Street, Sydney) on May 12 and 13 between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 27.

• Costco Halifax (230 Chain Lake Drive, Halifax) on May 13 between 4:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 27.

• Atlantic Superstore (1225 Kings Road, Sydney River) on May 13 between 7:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 27.

• Walmart (80 Sydney Port Access Road, Sydney) on May 13 between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and May 14 between 7:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 28.

• McDonalds Herring Cove (331 Herring Cove Road, Halifax) on May 13 and 14 between 2:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., and May 15 between 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 29.

• Jake’s Variety Convenience Store (125 Portland Street, Dartmouth) on May 14 between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 28.

• Home Depot (368 Lacewood Drive, Halifax) on May 15 between 2:45 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and May 16 between 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 30.

• NSLC (117 Kearney Lake Road, Halifax) on May 15 between 3:00 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 29.

• Sherwin-Williams Paint Store (405 Sackville Drive Unit 5, Lower Sackville) on May 15 between 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 29.

• Kent Building Supplies (888 Sackville Drive, Lower Sackville) on May 15 between 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 29.

• Sobeys First Lake (80 First Lake Drive, Lower Sackville) on May 18 between 1:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, June 1.

Regardless of whether or not you have COVID-19 symptoms, any passengers who were on the following transit routes for at least 15 minutes on the named dates and times are required to self-isolate while waiting for their test result. If you get a negative result, you do not need to keep self-isolating. If you get a positive result, you will be contacted by Public Health about what to do next.

• Route 9B (Herring Cove), which runs from Mumford Terminal to Herring Cove & Oceanbreeze on May 15 between 2:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 29.

• Route 9B (Herring Cove), which runs from Herring Cove & Oceanbreeze to Mumford Terminal on May 15 between 7:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 29.

Anyone who was on the following flights in the specified rows and seats should visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

All other passengers on these flights should continue to self-isolate as required and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

• Air Canada 7556 travelling on May 9 from Montreal (1:15 p.m.) to Halifax (3:39 p.m.). Passengers in rows 16-22, seats A, C, D and F are asked to immediately visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 23.

• Air Canada 7560 travelling on May 13 from Montreal (7:05 p.m.) to Halifax (9:29 p.m.). Passengers in rows 19-25, seats A, C, D and F are asked to immediately visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 27.

• WestJet 3346 travelling on May 14 from Toronto (9:00 a.m.) to Halifax (12:30 p.m.). Passengers in rows 7-13, seats A, B, C and D are asked to immediately visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 28.

I’ve collected all the active advisories for potential COVID exposures on bus routes and flights here.

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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Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

Tim Bousquet

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

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6 Comments

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  1. Is there any information available as to whether the two victims of COVID-19 had been vaccinated, and if not, why not – access problems because of lack of transportation, advised against it because of pre-existing medical conditions, etc., etc., etc.?

    1. This is the second most asked question I get. Yes, I’ve asked it, and published the exchange I had with Dr. Strang on this Monday, May 10:

      Bousquet: Dr. Strang, recognizing that there’s been privacy issues and you couldn’t give these sort of details before, but unfortunately the numbers have been much larger, so I think those issues are not so much at play, can you — of the people who are in ICU, the people in hospital, the people who have died, can you give us an indication of what the vaccination status has been with those people?

      Strang: So I don’t have a breakdown of all the cases. What I do know is that we’ve had certainly some cases — and I don’t know whether any of them are in a hospital or not. We do know we’ve had some cases of people who were vaccinated — virtually all of them were people who became ill within a short period of time after getting vaccinated, which means they were exposed either before they got vaccinated or shortly after getting vaccinated. You have to be able to remember it takes two weeks in healthy people to get a full immune response. And especially if people are elderly or have underlying health conditions, it may take up to three weeks to get the maximum immune response. So if you’re exposed to COVID shortly after getting vaccinated, it’s not surprising at all that some people still get sick. We also know the vaccines aren’t 100%. So there may even be people who have had two doses of vaccine who are still getting COVID infection. But what we do know is that for them, their disease is in all likelihood going to be mild and that they’re going to be much less infectious and much less able to pass the virus on to other people.

      1. Thanks Tim! Another journalist asked the question again today (Friday). I hope journalists will continue to ask it until the answer becomes clearer. One would think that the numbers are small enough that it would be relatively easy for Nova Scotia Health to get the data and to aggregate it.

        Strang, in his response to you, only addressed one side of the issue – what are the implications if they have been vaccinated? If the deaths are of people who have not been vaccinated, then the “why not” question is important for discovering how to make the vaccination process better and for warning those who have not had vaccinations to move quickly to get them..

  2. It is quite ignorant to say that people with a cottage are ‘extremely privileged’. Many working stiffs have a cottage which has been handed down over several generations.

    1. Inherited wealth seems more privileged than earned wealth but maybe that’s my privilege showing.

    2. Yeah, I think it’s just his frustration showing. I can’t imagine answering all these questions on a daily basis for over a year now without losing it from time to time. I’m sure he has general opinions on who is doing the most complaining and maybe feels it is coming from the more privileged. Either way I think he is a good man in a tough position.