Nova Scotia announced nine new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, all in the central zone, with one at an elementary school in Bedford.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the student is currently self-isolating and Bedford South School will be closed for cleaning and contact tracing. The school is expected to reopen by Dec. 3. Public health officials will be in touch with that person’s close contacts as part of their ongoing investigation.
Nova Scotia currently has 119 active cases of COVID-19. No new restrictions have been announced since the province’s last briefing on Tuesday.
The province has seen 175 new cases since Oct. 1, and 57 of those are now considered resolved. Strang said at Friday’s news conference that in retrospect, Oct. 1 marked the beginning of Nova Scotia’s second wave.
Rapid test sites
The province has been setting up rapid testing sites around the region, with the first one at the Dome nightclub a week ago. Since then, there have been rapid testing sites at Dalhousie’s Sexton Campus on Wednesday and Alderney Landing on Friday.
The rapid testing sites are intended for anyone who isn’t showing COVID-19 symptoms.
“We’re very much building the plane and flying it at the same time when it comes to asymptomatic testing as part of our outbreak response,” Strang said.
More than 1,100 people were tested on Thursday alone, and over 2,700 have been tested using the rapid testing method since Nov. 21.
Testing in long-term care
Rapid testing sites will soon be set up in three long-term care homes in Halifax and Dartmouth: Northwood’s Halifax campus, Saint Vincent’s Nursing Home and Ocean View Continuing Care Centre. Tests will be offered to staff, direct caregivers and volunteers who want one, every two weeks.
Over the next two weeks, Strang said, six more rapid testing sites will run in long-term care homes, with more to come later. The goal is to monitor and prevent the spread in these areas. As of now, no new cases have been identified in long-term care homes.
There are currently 1,058 open investigations by public health officials. Many of these are complex, Strang said.
“Each positive case the lab is identifying has an average of seven close contacts, but many of the cases have a lot more than that,” he said.
Just one week ago, Nova Scotia had 276 open investigations, with each case having an average of five to six close contacts.
Strang said public health is now facing a backlog in contact tracing due to a sharp increase in cases over the last week. Anyone who believes they may be a close contact of one of the identified cases should self-isolate at home and wait to get a call from public health.
“We’re getting to people as quickly as we can, but the volume of work is immense,” Strang said.
He said it’s been a “pleasant surprise” to see the cases stabilize over the last few days. There were 16 new cases identified Wednesday, 14 on Thursday and nine on Friday. However, Strang expects to see cases rise over the next seven to 10 days.
Earlier this week, anyone who works in or had attended a bar downtown after 10 p.m. was instructed to go online to book a test, even if they haven’t shown symptoms. Nearly 8,000 people have come forward to book a test.
Anyone who has gone online and done the asymptomatic online assessment should not call 811, but rather wait until they are contacted, Strang said. Only those who are asymptomatic and don’t work downtown or haven’t been to a bar downtown after 10 p.m. in the last two weeks should go for rapid testing.
No new restrictions
The province didn’t announce any new restrictions Friday, but Premier Stephen McNeil reiterated that anyone from outside the region should not travel to Halifax or Hants County for any reason other than education, work or medical needs. The province has also renewed the state of emergency, beginning Sunday.
McNeil did express concern about those who may try to come to the region for Black Friday shopping.
“Don’t forget, we’re strongly recommending that you travel for only essential purposes, and I’m sorry to say, shopping is not an essential purpose,” McNeil said.
He urged people to shop online or shop local this holiday season.
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.