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COVID-19 outbreak strikes St. Francis Xavier University

22 new cases announced in Nova Scotia; school holiday break extended by two days

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caption Premier Tim Houston and chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, at Tuesday's COVID briefing.
Abby McLeod

The province’s chief medical officer of health expects an outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University will produce “additional cases in the coming days.”

At the time of Tuesday’s COVID briefing, Dr. Robert Strang did not yet have specific numbers. But the university announced that 12 members of the “campus community” had tested positive for COVID-19.

This comes after the university hosted X-ring ceremonies last weekend. Strang said the formal events hosted by the university “were closely following public health protocols around requiring proof of vaccination, masking where necessary.”

St. F.X. cancelled classes Tuesday, but in a statement said that “students and faculty should prepare for exams to begin on Thursday as per schedule.” The school does not require students or faculty to be vaccinated to be on campus.

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Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston hinted the issue likely lies with unsanctioned off-campus events.

“If you weren’t following the rules … we’re going to find you and we’re going to fine you,” Houston said.

As of Tuesday, 81.7 per cent of Nova Scotians are fully vaccinated.

Of the 22 new cases announced provincewide on Tuesday, 18 are in the central zone and four are in the northern zone. There are 147 known active cases.

School break extended

The holiday break for public schools will be extended by two days, a decision Houston attributed to the Department of Education. Schools will now open on Jan. 6 instead of Jan. 4.

Strang said that school-aged children are making a big impact on COVID trends.

Nearly 45 per cent of children in the newly qualified 5-11 age group have received a first dose of the vaccine or have their first appointment booked, he said.

Many cases in the province over recent weeks have been associated with unvaccinated children, Houston said. The premier is hoping that the increase in vaccinations within the 5-11 age group will address this in some capacity.

The government is expanding rapid test availability this month, specifically to children in public schools.

‘Be cautious’

Strang advised people not to travel outside of the province for the holiday season, though no restrictions have been implemented.

“We all need to be cautious over the holidays regardless of our vaccination status to protect our loved ones and our communities,” Strang said.

Strang said the province is waiting on more information about the Omicron variant and how it “behaves” before making any changes to public health guidelines. What we do know is that “the way we protect ourselves hasn’t fundamentally changed,” he said.

Though mRNA vaccines are the premier choice for most people as recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, a small number of viral vector vaccines, like those from Johnson and Johnson, will be made available to those who are opposed to mRNA vaccines.

“It’s better that they get some protection from a J-and-J or AstraZeneca vaccine than no protection at all and remaining unvaccinated,” Strang said.

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About the author

Abby McLeod

Abby is a reporter completing her Bachelor of Journalism at the University of King's College. Born on P.E.I. but raised in Ontario and educated...

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