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Students should not come home for holidays: Strang

As COVID-19 cases climb, the province urges people to avoid non-essential travel

4 min read
Person holding a suitcase with a mask hanging from its side.
caption Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health says students studying outside of the Atlantic bubble should not travel home for the holidays.
Alexander Johnson

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health says students from Nova Scotia studying outside of the Atlantic provinces should stay away for the holidays.

After announcing two new cases Friday, Dr. Robert Strang said it’s safest for those students to not come home for the holiday break in December.

“As tough as it is to say, the best choice would be for them to stay where they are at,” he said. “Now I recognize that’s not going to be possible for everybody, but right now, if they come back, you’re going to have to think about the implications of that for the household.”

Those implications could include everyone in a household having to self-isolate. The province announced Monday that non-essential travellers coming into Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic bubble must isolate alone. If that’s not possible, everyone in the home has to isolate for 14 days.

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The only exception is if the person self-isolating can stay in a completely separate space in the residence, like in a basement suite with its own bathroom, and has no contact with anyone else, Strang said Friday.

Strang said that with cases of COVID-19 rising in Canada and around the world, he expects to see more in Nova Scotia. Most new cases have involved people who travelled outside the Atlantic bubble, which is why provincial officials want people to avoid non-essential travel in and out of the bubble.

Strang said they can’t define what essential travel means, but “you need to ask yourself why you’re travelling, how important it is, why you’re bringing someone into the Atlantic bubble.”

Mental health

Many Nova Scotians study outside of the province. McGill University in Montreal alone has 106 full-time undergraduate students from Nova Scotia registered for the 2020 fall term.

Bryn de Chastelain is the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), a national organization representing post-secondary student associations across Canada. He said Strang’s caution against students travelling home is disappointing to hear but understandable.

“It’s very disappointing for many students who would love to be able to see their family and get a break from their studies and are now maybe feeling like that’s not the best thing for them to do from a public health perspective,” he said.

De Chastelain said the Atlantic bubble has made Nova Scotia one of the safest places in North America, so it makes sense to try to limit the number of students travelling there during the holidays.

He said CASA is hearing that students are most concerned about their mental health. They’re worried about the pandemic while also trying to get a degree with no certainty there will be enough jobs when they graduate.

“I think students are tired and are struggling to a degree, and I think it’s going to be important for students to be able to have time off at the holidays. And in a perfect world, I think it would be great if students had the option to be able to go home if that was something that they wanted to do,” de Chastelain said.

He expects most universities will have their residences open during the break like any other year, but he hopes students won’t be charged extra.

6 new cases

On Saturday, Nova Scotia announced six new cases of COVID-19, all in the Central Zone, which includes the Halifax Regional Municipality. All cases come from contact with previously reported cases. One is related to the COVID-19 exposure at the Bitter End Martini Bar and Restaurant in Halifax, while others are part of a new cluster of cases.

This is the largest single-day increase in cases since May 15. So far, there have been 33 cases in November, the most in a single month since May. There are currently 21 active cases in Nova Scotia.

Since March, Nova Scotia has tested 122,673 people and found 1,142 people positive for COVID-19. Sixty-five people in Nova Scotia have died from the virus.

The Nova Scotia government has also renewed the provincial state of emergency until noon on Nov. 29. A state of emergency gives the government the authority to issue orders that are necessary to protect people, property and the environment, like restricting travel or ordering evacuations. Nova Scotia has been under a state of emergency since March 22.

Exposure sites

Since Thursday, the province has issued warnings for 11 places where people may been exposed to someone with COVID-19:

  • Real Fake Meats on Gottingen Street in Halifax on Oct. 31 between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
  • Antojo Tacos and Tequila on Argyle Street in Halifax on Oct. 31 between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
  • Mountain Equipment Co-op on Granville Street in Halifax on Nov. 4 between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
  • Atlantic Superstore on Barrington Street in Halifax on Nov. 7 between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • Aerobics First on Quinpool Road in Halifax on Nov. 7 between 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
  • Economy Shoe Shop Bar & Restaurant on Argyle Street in Halifax on Nov. 8 between 8:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
  • John W. Lindsay YMCA gym on Sackville Street in Halifax on Nov. 9 between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
  • The Local Restaurant and Bar on Gottingen Street in Halifax on Nov. 9 between 4 p.m. and closing.
  • Pet Valu on Spring Garden Road in Halifax on Nov. 9 between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
  • East Preston Recreation Centre’s gym/basketball court on Brooks Drive in East Preston on Nov. 9 between 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.
  • Tim Hortons on Verdi Drive in Bedford on Nov. 12 between 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Anyone who was at those locations within those time frames should monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days from the time they were there. Nova Scotia’s alert page lists all of the places where there has been a potential exposure.


You should complete Nova Scotia’s online COVID-19 self-assessment if you have or recently had a fever or a new cough or a cough that’s become worse.

Or if you have or recently had two of the following symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath

You can also call 811 if you cannot access the website or are concerned about different symptoms.

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