Nova Scotia reported 63 new COVID-19 cases Sunday: the highest number of new cases in a day since the pandemic began.
The previous provincial record was 55 new cases on April 23, 2020 -- almost exactly one year ago.
Three of Sunday's new cases are in the Eastern Zone, one identified Saturday at Breton Education Centre in New Waterford, N.S.
Two are in the Western Zone, and one in the Northern Zone.
MOST SCHOOLS REMAIN OPEN
Fifty-seven of the new cases are in the Central Zone. Four were identified Saturday at the following schools:
Caledonia Junior High
Prince Andrew High School
Astral Drive Elementary School
Citadel High School
Each of those schools reported one case.
In Sunday's media conference, Premier Iain Rankin said while the affected schools will temporarily close for deep cleaning and contact tracing, all other schools will remain open. Rankin added that the situation will be monitored.
"We have to consider the environment that children are in, is a positive thing for them, for their own mental wellbeing." said Rankin in Sunday's briefing. "If at all possible, kids should be in school."
"So, we’ll continue to make sure that we’re listening to that, and the parents that have said that they want their kids in school." added Rankin.
Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang added his thoughts on schools remaining open: "Schools are not driving transmission of COVID," he said. "Communities are where COVID transmission is happening."
Partially in response to an incident widely circulated on social media, where 22 people were ticketed for allegedly violating COVID-19 protocols, Rankin announced fines for violation will now be doubled.
"We were relieved to hear that the police acted quickly and issued fines," said Rankin. "But, the current fine does not seem to be enough of a deterrant."
The fines for gathering in violation of the Health Protection Act, originally costing $1,000, are now doubled to $2,000.
Rankin also acknowledged the work of those who are obeying the current health orders.
"I also want to thank the majority of Nova Scotians that are listening to public health protocols," he said. "And, showing up in droves to get tested. Dr. Strang and I are grateful for those who are coopoerating with the protocols, and seeing the long lines of people getting tested is heartwarming."
NOVA SCOTIANS URGED TO STAY IN COMMUNITIES
Also announced Sunday, Nova Scotians are being urged to stay within the communities they live in.
"If you live in the Annapolis valley, you cannot go to Cape Breton," said Rankin. "If you want to go to a park for a hike, go to a park in your own community."
He added that residents should only be leaving the communities they live in for essential purposes, such as medical or legal appointments, and work.
As of Sunday, the reccomendation is not law -- but Rankin said they will be working to get an order signed.
"We need to assume that all cases are variant cases and they spread more quickly and more easily," said Dr. Strang. "People are becoming positive after having moderate exposure to someone with the virus and we didn't see that during wave one or two. We must stay close to home, reduce our social circles, physically distant and get tested."
Also Sunday, Nova Scotia's gathering limit has changed for areas outside Halifax. The limit is now ten people, for indoors or outdoors.
The gathering limit remains five in the HRM, as well as the communities of Hubbards, Milford, Lantz, Elmsdale, Enfield, Mount Uniacke, South Uniacke, Ecum Secum and Trafalgar.
Rankin said these restrictions will be revisited on May 20.
‘NEAR-FULL LOCKDOWN’ RESTRICTIONS IN EFFECT
As of 8 a.m. Friday, the Halifax area has been placed under a four-week "near full-lockdown" designed to contain the outbreak of the virus in that area.
Rankin issued the "circuit breaker" order after officials reported 38 new infections Thursday, including five cases at Halifax area schools.
The new restrictions limit outdoor and indoor gatherings to five people and prohibit large gatherings, including social events, festivals, sports and wedding receptions.
People are asked not to travel into or out of the Halifax area unless absolutely necessary.
Also Friday, several schools in the Dartmouth area moved to virtual learning for two weeks to contain case numbers.
N.S. COVID-19 CASE DATA
There are now 263 active cases of COVID-19 in the province.
As announced Saturday, the province is no longer including “exposure category” (travel, close contact, etc.), citing increased investigations.
The province says there is evidence of community spread in Nova Scotia’s Central Zone.
Public Health says the province’s other zones, Eastern, Northern, and Western, are being monitored for signs of community spread.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 7,520 tests on Saturday, and 502,922 since the beginning of the pandemic.
There have now been 2,053 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia. Of those, 1,723 have recovered and 67 people have died due to the novel coronavirus.
There are currently five people in hospital due to COVID-19, with none in intensive care units.
There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Central Zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.
The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.
Western Zone: 136 cases (11 active cases)
Central Zone: 1,632 cases (210 active cases)
Northern Zone: 147 cases (11 active case)
Eastern Zone: 138 cases (31 active cases)
The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to May 2, 2021.
Nova Scotia's COVID-19 online dashboard provides an update on the amount of vaccines that have been administered to date.
As of last update on Friday, 260,788 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. According to the province, 18.9 per cent of the eligible population have received vaccines as of Tuesday, with 3.4 per cent having received a second dose.
As of last update on Tuesday, the province has received a total of 320,200 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since Dec. 15, 2020.
NOVA SCOTIANS ENCOURAGED TO SEEK ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING
Public health is strongly encouraging Nova Scotians to seek asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, particularly if they have had several social interactions, even with their own social circle.
COVID-19 tests can be booked through the provinces online self-assessment COVID-19 tool, or by calling 811.
People can also visit one of Nova Scotia’s many rapid pop-up testing sites that continue to operate throughout the province.
COVID ALERT APP
Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is available in Nova Scotia.
The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
LIST OF SYMPTOMS
Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:
Shortness of breath
Runny nose/nasal congestion
This is a developing story. It will be updated throughout the day.