N.S. reports 9 new cases of COVID-19; public school holiday break extended
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. With eight previously reported cases now considered resolved, the number of active cases in the province has risen from 64 to 65.
Nova Scotia Health says five of the new cases are in Central Zone. Two of the cases are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. The people are self-isolating as required. One case is a close contact of a previously reported case. One case is under investigation.
Three new cases are in Western Zone. Two of the cases are close contacts of previously reported cases. The other case is under investigation.
One new case is in Northern Zone and is under investigation.
Also, a school-based case was identified today, Dec. 11, at Shannon Park Elementary in Dartmouth.
The school has been closed since a previous case was announced on Tuesday, and students are now expected to return next Wednesday, Dec. 16. Students will continue to learn from home during the closure and families will receive an update on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
As with any positive case, public health will be in touch with any close contacts of this case and advise of next steps. Everyone who is a close contact will be notified, tested and asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
HOLIDAY BREAK EXTENDED FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil also announced Friday that Nova Scotia public school students will have an extended holiday break due to COVID-19.
The last day of classes will be Dec. 18 and classes resume Jan. 11, a week later than the previous return date of Jan. 4.
School-based staff will be returning to schools on Jan. 4 for five days of professional learning.
"This year has created unprecedented challenges for our school system. I want to thank teachers, administrators, parents and students who are all working hard to follow the protocols. As well, thank you to the cleaning staff who work tirelessly to sanitize our schools," said Premier Stephen McNeil. "Out of an abundance of caution, we are extending the holiday break. We have seen COVID-19 cases rise in other provinces after holidays, and there is the potential for the virus to join even small gatherings of family and friends. This precautionary measure will allow us to identify cases before students return to class."
Nova Scotia Teachers Union President Paul Wozney welcomed the decision.
"It looks like just maybe they heard us a little bit on this one," Wozney said.
During the week of Jan. 4, principals, teachers, support staff, specialists and early childhood educators will be in school for professional development, learning on behalf of their students in areas such as inclusive education, social emotional learning and technology.
"Knowing that there's going to be week dedicated for the purpose of equipping teachers with some of the tools and training necessary, that if they have to make the shift, they're going to have support to make it," Wozney said.
Four positive cases have been identified in three Central zone elementary schools in the past week; Two cases were identified at Dartmouth's Shannon Park Elementary on Friday and Tuesday, one case was identified at Eastern Passage's Tallahassee Community School on Thursday, and one case was identified at Dartmouth's Ian Forsyth Elementary on Sunday.
"We have had a successful school year so far and we want it to continue," said Zach Churchill, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. "By setting aside five days of professional development for staff, we are giving them an opportunity to prepare for the rest of the school year, and to think about how they can support student learning and well-being until the end of June."
Anyone who visited or worked at the following locations on the date and time listed below should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days, following the day of exposure. Should any COVID-19 symptoms develop, they must self-isolate and take the online self-assessment or call 811 to get tested.
- Atlantic Superstore (394 Westville Road, New Glasgow)
- Dec. 6 between 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Symptoms may develop up to, and including, Dec. 20
- Canadian Tire (Highland Square Mall, 699 Westville Road, New Glasgow)
- Dec. 6 between 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Symptoms may develop up to, and including, Dec. 20
- West Jet Flight WS 254 on Dec. 9
- From Toronto to Halifax arriving at 12:48 a.m. on Dec. 10
- Passengers in rows 15-21 and seats A, B, & C are more likely to have had close contact
- Symptoms may develop up to, and including, Dec. 24
OUTBREAK AT POULTRY COMPANY
Experiencing an outbreak at Eden Valley Poultry, a processing plant in Berwick, N.S.
All employees and staff have been tested, and a ‘number’ of positive cases have turned up. N.S. Health is still waiting for 300 test results to come in.
“There is no evidence of community spread but we have to act fast. We are announcing today that this plant will be shut down for two weeks, and starting immediately we will enhance our testing throughout the valley.”
McNeil says the province will be opening mobile testing units and pop-up testing throughout the valley.
“It’s not easy to shut down any company and this chicken plant is a large employer and a big part of our food supply chain. But we have to do what we have to do to protect employees and communities and prevent any further spread.”
VACCINATION TO BEGIN NEXT WEEK
Nova Scotia will begin vaccinating frontline health-care workers and long-term care staff against COVID-19 next week, said Strang during Friday's update.
Strang added that a successful dry-run of the Pfizer vaccine happened on Wednesday, which is described as a practice run of shipping the boxes, making sure it's received, stored properly and hooked into the controls and monitoring systems.
“All of this is designed to test and refine our approach before the first shipment of vaccines even arrives. It is a complicated operation, especially with the Pfizer vaccine given its unique storage and handling requirements, but I hope people can see that we are absolutely ready to receive vaccine and start administer that,” said Strang during Friday's briefing.
Strang says the province is slated to receive 1,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 15, and will receive weekly shipments of the vaccine for the first three months of 2021, for an expected total of 150,000 doses, which is enough to immunize 75,000 people.
The first doses will be given to long-term care residents and staff, frontline health care workers who are closely involved in the COVID-19 response, and older Nova Scotians in the community beginning with those 80 and over.
"These groups fall into one of two high-risk categories. They are either vulnerable to severe COVID-19 because of their age, or they are critically important in assessing and treating COVID-19 patients," said Strang.
Strang says the province plans on receiving more vaccines in the spring, and will then prioritizes immunizing health-care workers and other essential workers.
"I know people are eager to get a COVID vaccine and that's encouraging, but we need people to be patient, and to understand that this is going to be a months long process," said Strang. "We expect it will be summer until we are able to offer vaccine to the broader community."
NO PLANS TO LIFT RESTRICTIONS YET
As for the extra restrictions in place for Halifax and parts of Hants County, they remain until Dec. 16 and more are expected for the holidays.
"There will be other restrictions and protocols that we will put in place for Christmas," McNeil said.
Details on those are expected next week.
Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 1,859 Nova Scotia tests on Thursday.
There were 1,330 tests administered between Dec. 4-10 at the rapid-testing pop-up sites in Halifax, Wolfville, Bedford and Truro.
Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has conducted 83,565 tests and confirmed 313 positive COVID-19 cases. Of those, 248 cases are considered resolved, leaving 65 active cases. No one has died during the second wave. Cases during the second wave range in age from under 10 to over 80.
Since the start of the pandemic, Nova Scotia has completed 206,743 tests, and reported a total of 1,402 cases of COVID-19. Of those, 1,280 cases are now considered resolved and 65 people have died as a result of the novel coronavirus.
The province's confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.
Fifty-seven per cent of cases are female and 43 per cent are male.
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: 71 cases
- Central Zone: 1,183 cases
- Northern Zone: 88 cases
- Eastern Zone: 60 cases
STATE OF EMERGENCY EXTENDED
The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, has been extended to Dec. 27, unless the government terminates or extends it.
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:
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose/nasal congestion
SELF-ISOLATION AND MANDATORY MASKS
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.
Anyone who travels to Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic region for non-essential reasons is required to self-isolate for 14 days and must fill out a self-declaration form before coming to the province. Travellers must self-isolate alone, away from others. If they cannot self-isolate alone, their entire household must also self-isolate for 14 days.
Residents of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are not required to self-isolate when travelling to Nova Scotia, but they must be prepared to provide proof of their place of residency at provincial borders.
Visitors from outside the Atlantic region who have already self-isolated in another Atlantic province for 14 days may travel to Nova Scotia without having to self-isolate again.
It is mandatory to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces in Nova Scotia.