COVID-19 outbreak at long-term care home linked to religious gathering

Outbreak at a nursing home in Pugwash; 281 cases in Nova Scotia as of Tuesday

The spread of COVID-19 from a multi-day religious gathering is connected to the increase of community spread in Nova Scotia and an outbreak at East Cumberland Lodge long-term care home in Pugwash, where four residents and one staff member tested positive.

On Monday afternoon, Barbara Adams, minister of seniors and long-term care, and Dr. Shelley Deeks, deputy chief medical officer of health, held a briefing about the influx of COVID-19 cases in the province, primarily in the Northern and Western zones.

“I fully expect we will see more cases at the facility,” Deeks said. “The good news is that vaccination coverage of residents and staff is very high.”

Adams said 96 per cent of the staff at East Cumberland Lodge are vaccinated, and all residents are fully vaccinated. They are in the process of rolling out booster doses of the vaccine to residents in long-term care throughout the province. Contact tracing and testing is ongoing.

“We’ve also seen secondary transmission related to a faith-based gathering that occurred in late October. Unfortunately, some of the secondary transmission is the source of the outbreak at East Cumberland Lodge in Pugwash,” Deeks said.

Deeks confirmed a staff member as the source of exposure in connection to the religious event. She would not disclose whether this person attended the gathering, or comment on their vaccination status.

East Cumberland Lodge is now closed to all visitors. Unvaccinated staff are not required to isolate from residents and vaccinated staff at this time, but Adams said this is something they will consider depending on test results. There are no new COVID-19 restrictions for the community.

“This current situation underlies the importance of getting vaccinated,” Adams said. “We continue to strongly encourage all Nova Scotians to make the right choice to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”

In a news release on Tuesday, Nova Scotia confirmed 13 more residents and another staff member from East Cumberland Lodge have tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 17 residents and two staffers have now tested positive. One resident is in hospital.

Strang talked to faith leaders

At a COVID briefing on Friday, Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, announced an increase of cases after a faith-based gathering that occurred in late October, where proof of vaccination was not monitored. Strang said the majority of cases involved unvaccinated people.

According to Nova Scotia’s vaccine mandate, proof of vaccination for a religious service is not required. For additional events including bible studies, youth groups, and multi-day events, proof is required.

The organizers of the religious gathering have not been penalized, and Strang said Friday there is no plan to do so. He said he reminded faith leaders to follow provincial COVID-19 guidelines. Proof of vaccination must be monitored at events other than weekly religious services. Masks need to be worn at all times during services where vaccination is not required.

Strang said the organizers have not been fined because he is “more focused on moving forward and dealing with these communities in a constructive, positive way.”

On Monday, Adams said they need to look at fines as “one of the options moving forward.”

As of Tuesday, Nova Scotia has 281 active cases of COVID-19. Of these cases, 10 people are in hospital and two in intensive care. The province also reported one death. Since Aug. 1, there have been eight deaths.

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