Students in Nova Scotia will have an extended holiday break this year from Dec. 18 to Jan. 11 out of an “abundance of caution,” the premier says.
Premier Stephen McNeil announced the change at Friday’s provincial COVID-19 briefing along with nine new cases of the virus.
“Christmas is coming and we are concerned that, if family and friends gather, even in small groups, COVID could show up,” McNeil said. “If COVID decides to join Christmas gatherings, cases can be identified before kids return to school.”
The decision to extend the break was made to reduce the likelihood of post-holiday rises in case numbers, like those seen in other provinces after Thanksgiving, McNeil said.
Another case of COVID-19 was announced at Shannon Park Elementary School. The school has been closed because of a previous case and is expected to reopen on Wednesday. Students will learn from home until then.
Asked whether the cases linked to schools have prompted him to reconsider whether younger children should wear masks in school, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health said the evidence doesn’t suggest a need for that.
“The evidence continues to be that younger ages aren’t as great a risk of transmitting the virus as older kids,” Dr. Robert Strang said. “Even though there’s a second case in one school, there’s no evidence yet that the two cases are linked.”
Strang said the children who tested positive were likely exposed outside the school.
Eden Valley outbreak
McNeil also announced four COVID-19 cases related to an outbreak identified at Eden Valley, a poultry processing plant in Berwick. The plant was closed Wednesday after two cases were identified and will remain closed for another two weeks.
Strang said Nova Scotia Health has tested everyone who works at the plant.
“Our approach is to take the precautionary approach to always err on the side of caution — doing what’s necessary to stay out front of this virus,” Strang said. “So, like always, we’re taking strong action early.”
Nova Scotia Health is awaiting the results of the tests, Strang said, and will conduct repeat testing “in about a week’s time.”
Strang said while there is no evidence of community spread, Nova Scotia Health is working to open a primary assessment centre in Berwick and will implement mobile and pop-up rapid testing in the Annapolis Valley.
With the nine new cases announced Friday, Nova Scotia now has 65 known active cases of COVID-19 with no hospitalizations. Three of the new cases are in the western zone, one is in the northern zone and five are in the central zone.
Three of the cases are close contacts of previously reported cases, two are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada and three are under investigation. The other case is the one identified at Shannon Park Elementary.
Anyone who is experiencing one of the following symptoms should complete an online self-assessment or call 811 to determine if they should be tested:
- New or worsening cough
Anyone with two or more of the following symptoms should also be assessed:
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
About the author
Simon Smith is a multimedia journalist with The Signal in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is an avid traveller and is interested in local news, business,...