Restrictions announced last month to help stem the spread of COVID-19 have been extended, as Nova Scotia reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, including one at a Halifax-area school.
Those restrictions, which include stopping dine-in service at restaurants and closing gyms, museums and libraries, were announced on Nov. 24. They were supposed to stay in place for at least two weeks.
On Friday, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said those restrictions will be extended until at least Dec. 16. as daily new cases remain in the double digits.
“We need more time with the existing restrictions in place to see these numbers come down, and be certain that they will stay down,” said Strang.
“I know this is especially hard as we enter the holiday season, but that’s precisely why we’re doing what we’re doing now. I can’t make any promises about where we’ll be in three weeks, but what I can tell you is that the more we buckle down and stay tight right now, and for the next couple of weeks, the better position we’ll be to be able to have some slight relaxation as we enter the holiday weeks.”
Eleven of the 15 new cases are in the province’s central health zone, including the case at Citadel High School. Three cases are in the northern zone and are close contacts of previously reported cases. The other case is in western zone and is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.
The province currently has 117 active cases.
There have been a series of possible exposure notifications in Nova Scotia. A running list of active exposures is available here.
New case at school
One of the new cases was found at Park West School in Halifax. The school sent a notice to parents Friday stating it will be closed until Dec. 10 as a precaution.
It did not specify if the infected individual is a student or staff member, but contact tracing is underway.
Staff have also been asked to work from home.
Public Health also sent a notice to parents who may have had a child exposed to the virus at the school on Nov. 30, Dec. 1 or 2.
Staff or students receiving the letter have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days regardless of a negative test result.
It said household members of a close contact do not need to self-isolate.
“We are working with the Halifax Regional Centre for Education and the school to make sure all necessary steps are taken to support a return to school for students. your school will provide more details,” the notice said.
The school has about 90 staff and 850 students in primary to Grade 9.
There have been several other cases reported in Halifax area schools, including one that was identified Thursday at Citadel High School.
Strang said the province continues to work with Ottawa on administering the first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, which is expected to be the first product approved by regulators for use in Canada.
He said Health Canada is expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine as early as next week, with Nova Scotia expecting the first allotment of vaccines in early January. Small weekly amounts are expected to arrive for the first 12 weeks of the year.
“There’s a lot of detailed work between now and January,” said Strang. “Things are moving very quickly on the vaccine rollout, lots more to come.”
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization released its final directive Friday recommending who should be first in line for the COVID-19 vaccine. It said seniors, long-term care residents and staff, and health-care workers should be the first ones to get the vaccine.
Strang said it’s up to the provinces to determine exactly how the vaccine will be rolled out, and he and his team are “working diligently” on that.
He said the province has acquired an ultra-low-temperature freezer to store the first amounts of the vaccine, and Ottawa will provide another freezer later on.
McNeil added other freezers could come from the private sector, as well.
Testing for rotational workers
On Friday, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the province will begin a new testing strategy for rotational workers.
Rotational workers who have been out of province are now able to get tested six-to-eight days into their self-isolation. McNeil said they would need to continue to self-isolate for 14 days even with a negative result.
“This will not change any of the restrictions, but it does offer a level of reassurance if they don’t have COVID,” he said. “And if they do, it will help us contain the virus quicker.”
COVID-19 in the Atlantic provinces
The latest numbers from the Atlantic provinces are:
Anyone with one of the following symptoms should visit the COVID-19 self-assessment website or call 811:
- Cough or worsening of a previous cough.
Anyone with two or more of the following symptoms is also asked to visit the website or call 811:
- Sore throat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Runny nose.