HALIFAX -- Last week, Nova Scotia announced that businesses or organizations ordered to close under the public health order could reopen on June 5.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, says he is encouraged by the number of enquiries public health has received since that announcement.

“It means that many Nova Scotia businesses and organizations are looking for information. They want to do the right thing. They want to ensure that whenever they choose to open that they are doing it safely for their customers, for their staff, employees and volunteers,” said Strang during a news conference in Halifax Tuesday afternoon.

Reopening plans

In order to reopen, Strang says businesses and organizations forced to close under the public health order must follow the plan developed by their sector association.

“Even if you are not a current member of that association you need to follow that plan. Those associations have said they are prepared to help people who are in their sector, but who may not currently be members,” said Strang.

Sector plans must be approved by occupational health and safety, the department of labour and advanced education, and public health.

“Those plans need to address how you are going to adhere to the basic public health protocols of physical distancing, sticking to the appropriate number of people if physical-distancing can not be adhered to,” said Strang.

“How to work and interact with customers in a safe manner, protocols around cleaning, handling and cleaning of equipment, how employees can be prepared to return to work, and basic communication with both employees and customers so everyone is aware of the details of the plan.”

For some sectors, such as restaurants and bars, there are additional requirements in the public health order.

“We are working directly with those sectors so they are aware of those specific requirements,” said Strang.

If your business was ordered by public health to close and you do not have a sector association, Strang says you are expected to develop your own plan and submit it to government for approval.

“As those plans are approved, we’re asking people to post them on their own website. We are then linking to those from the government website. It’s an important way that we can demonstrate to the public what the plans are so they have confidence around safe reopening,” says Strang.

Businesses that were not ordered by public health to close should also have a written plan; however, the plan does not need to be submitted for approval.

“Having a written plan will help you think about the risks in your operation, put measures in place to address them, and it will be something you can use to communicate to your customers and clients that you are understanding and respecting their safety and the same for your employees,” said Strang.

June is an important month

Strang says the number of COVID-19 cases will be closely monitored as the province begins to reopen on June 5.

“The month of June is going to be very important as we watch our epidemiology, knowing that it takes up to two weeks between exposure and showing symptoms.” says Strang.

“So, we open up on June 5, it will be a week after that that we will really be starting to watch and see what we are detecting.”

Strong surveillance and easy access to testing are key to keeping an eye on the level of COVID-19 in communities, according to Strang.

“We are not expecting to have zero, as we introduce more we will likely get more cases. The question that I am more interested in is, are we able to detect those cases early? Are we able to lock them down so that we prevent further spread, and do they stay as sporadic, isolated cases? That’s our goal.”

No new cases

Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and only five active cases of the virus at Halifax’s Northwood long-term care home.

This is the third day since Friday that Nova Scotia has reported no new cases of COVID-19.

The QEII Health Sciences Centre's microbiology lab completed 532 Nova Scotia tests on Monday.

To date, Nova Scotia has 42,861 negative test results, 1,057 positive COVID-19 test results and 60 deaths.

Fifty-three of the deaths have involved residents at Northwood, which has seen the most significant outbreak of the virus.

The province reported no additional deaths on Tuesday.

Negative results emailed

Strang announced Tuesday that Nova Scotians are now able to receive their negative COVID-19 test results by email.

“This is for people who have a Nova Scotia health card. When you go in for a test, you will be given the option to agree, if your test is negative, to have it sent to you by email,” said Strang.

“If necessary, public health will still phone people with negative results if that is their desire. We certainly will need to follow up with everybody with a positive result. They need to be followed up with a phone call from public health so we can start giving you advice about isolation and identifying your contacts and quarantining people as necessary.”

Strang says results are usually delivered within 48 to 72 hours and people who are waiting for test results must self-isolate.

992 people recovered

The province says eight more people have recovered from the virus, for a total of 992 recoveries. This would leave five active cases in the province.

Northwood is currently reporting five active cases of the virus, involving three residents and two staff members.

The province says one more person has been released from hospital. There are now five people in hospital, with two patients in the intensive care unit.

The province’s confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Sixty-two per cent of cases are female and 38 per cent are male.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority’s central zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality, has seen the largest number of cases.

  • western zone: 54 cases
  • central zone: 907 cases
  • northern zone: 45 cases
  • eastern zone: 51 cases

Nova Scotia COVID map June 1Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate at home, away from the public for 14 days.

Anyone who travels outside of Nova Scotia must also self-isolate for two weeks.

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, has been extended to June 14.

List of symptoms expanded

Last month, the province expanded the list of symptoms for which it is screening.

Anyone who experiences one of the following symptoms is encouraged to take an online test to determine if they should call 811 for further assessment:

  • fever (i.e. chills, sweats)
  • cough or worsening of a previous cough
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle aches
  • sneezing
  • nasal congestion/runny nose
  • hoarse voice
  • diarrhea
  • unusual fatigue
  • loss of sense of smell or taste