As Nova Scotia announced 10 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, it also confirmed that it’s expanding testing for the novel coronavirus in the province.
This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia to 51. The province said Tuesday that the cases are all travel-related or connected to previously-reported cases.
Several of the new cases are connected to groups or families who have returned to Nova Scotia after travelling outside Canada.
There is still no community spread of the novel coronavirus at this time, but Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health says he expects that will change.
“We can expect we will soon see community spread. That’s why we’ve taken the actions we’ve taken,” said Dr. Robert Strang during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
The 51 affected individuals range in age from under 10 to their mid-70s. The provincial government wouldn’t confirm the exact age of the child diagnosed with COVID-19.
Two people have been hospitalized as a result of the virus. One person has since been released and one remains in hospital.
One person has recovered from the virus and that case is now considered resolved.
The Nova Scotia government won’t release details about where the cases are located, but it says cases have been confirmed in all parts of the province.
Public Health has been in contact with the affected individuals and is working to identify others who may have come in close contact with them.
Those people are also being urged to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for two weeks.
Nova Scotia expands COVID-19 testing
So far, there have been 2,474 negative test results and 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province.
Strang said Tuesday that lab capacity has doubled, which means the lab at the QEII Health Sciences Centre can now conduct 400 tests a day. Presumptive cases no longer have to be sent to Winnipeg for confirmation and can now be confirmed in Nova Scotia.
Strang said, with the increased capacity, health officials can now test all the close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“We’re not just putting them in isolation and see if they get sick, we’re testing them right away,” he said.
As the number of cases continues to rise, the Nova Scotia Health Authority says laboratory services will have to scale back non-urgent work in order to focus on testing and critical operations. Out-patient blood collection services will also be reduced.
The NSHA says the follow six hospitals are now prepared to care for COVID-19 patients should they need to be hospitalized.
QEII Infirmary site
Dartmouth General Hospital
Yarmouth Regional Hospital
Cape Breton Regional Hospital
St. Martha’s Regional Hospital
Colchester East Hants Health Centre
Nova Scotia in state of emergency
The province remains in a state of emergency, which gives the government broad powers to do whatever it deems necessary to protect Nova Scotians during the pandemic.
Under the orders, Nova Scotians are being urged not to leave the province, and to only leave home for essential items and services.
Borders are tightened to travellers at all entry points and are being closely managed. Anyone entering the province will be stopped, questioned and told to self-isolate for two weeks.
There are exemptions for people who work in essential services, such as the transport and health-care sectors, who must cross the border for work. There are also exemptions for people travelling into Nova Scotia to access essential health services, like chemotherapy.
Nova Scotians and businesses that don’t practice self-isolation and social-distancing could face fines of $1,000 for individuals and $7,500 for businesses.
Social gatherings of more than five people are prohibited under the state of emergency.
Don't call 911 to report citizens breaking the rules
While police are able to ticket individuals and businesses that aren’t abiding by the rules, officials are urging Nova Scotians not to call 911 to report when someone isn’t practising self-isolation or social-distancing.
They recommend talking to that person to see if they need assistance. If that’s not the case, reports should be made to the local police department – not 911.
Strang noted that people also shouldn’t call 911 if they have questions about COVID or testing.
“It’s really important, first of all, that 911 is there for emergencies. If you’re concerned about COVID and COVID-testing, use the 811 online assessment tool and, if necessary, call 811,” he said.
Be honest about recent travel history
Anyone calling 911 to report a health emergency should be honest about their recent travel history.
“We have had cases of people calling 911, and at least one circumstance of someone coming in and into a hospital, where they have not been truthful about their travel history,” noted Strang. “We need to be honest and truthful about travel history. You need to share that with your health-care provider right up front.”
Anyone who has travelled outside of Nova Scotia must self-isolate for 14 days, as the province works to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Anyone who has travelled outside of the province, or has been in close contact with a traveller, and is experiencing symptoms such as fever or a new cough, is asked to complete an online questionnaire before calling 811.
As for 811, the province said it has increased staff and technology and is now answering 50 per cent more calls.
“We have added 53 nurse and telehealth associates to handle the volume of calls and training another 40,” said Premier Stephen McNeil during Tuesday’s news conference. “We’re also doubling our phone bank. We have 79 lines when we started. In the next 48 hours, we’ll have 138 lines.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Natasha Pace