Nova Scotia is reporting one additional death related to COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 28.
Gerald Edward Jackson, 84, died Tuesday evening at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax.
“We want to ensure that you know that we have our arms wrapped around you and want to support you,” said Premier Stephen McNeil during a news conference in Halifax Wednesday afternoon.
“This is a difficult time to lose a loved one, particularly with all the restrictions that we have around public health, but please know we are doing all we can with our partners to continue to support you.”
As of Tuesday, 10 licensed long-term care homes and seniors’ facilities in Nova Scotia had confirmed cases of COVID-19, involving 227 residents and 97 staff members.
Most of those cases are at Northwood’s Halifax facility. On Wednesday, Northwood reported a total of 281 confirmed cases, with 208 residents and 73 staff members affected by the virus. Those numbers are expected to increase in the coming days due to the incubation period.
Of the province’s 28 COVID-19 deaths, 22 have been at Northwood, which is the largest long-term care home east of Montreal.
“Until we’re out of the woods and are able to say there’s no longer any ongoing active illness in Northwood, given the patient population or the resident population, we have to anticipate that we might see ongoing deaths,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health.
However, Strang says he does see some positive news in the numbers, as it appears the situation at Northwood has stabilized.
“The situation, while it remains serious, has become very much under control. It is certainly stabilized,” said Strang.
“While we unfortunately have had 22 people in that facility die, we have to recognize that we’ve had 211 residents who have tested positive, the vast majority of them, with good care, have been able to recover or are recovering.”
Strang says 10 residents have recovered and moved to an off-site recovery unit.
“This is a challenging, difficult situation, but with the support of the rest of the health system we’ve been able to stabilize this and it’s now on a good path forward, still lots of, you know, hard work to be done,” he said.
“It will take a number of weeks before ... we’re actually completely out of the woods and declare the outbreak officially over.”
Northwood says all long-term care residents at its Halifax facility are being regularly tested for COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms.
As for the other nine long-term care facilities that have seen positive cases of COVID-19, Strang says they are seeing no new cases, and their outbreaks have also stabilized.
In order for an outbreak to be declared over, there has to be a 28-day period where a facility sees no new cases.
Signs that COVID-19 is slowing
The province is also reporting 20 new cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Nova Scotia to 935.
The QEII Health Sciences Centre's microbiology lab completed 905 tests on Tuesday and is operating 24 hours a day.
“Our testing numbers were up again yesterday and, to me, I take that as good news,” said Strang.
“We can’t make firm judgments based on any one day, but the fact that our testing volume was up again yesterday, and we have a relatively low number of positive cases, and the majority of those cases are associated with the Northwood outbreak, to me is a further indication that we are beginning to see a slowing down of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, which is very good news.”
To date, Nova Scotia has seen 27,486 negative test results.
What we know about the cases
The 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.
There are 11 people in hospital. Three of those patients are in intensive care units.
The province says 529 people have now recovered from the virus and their cases are considered resolved.
There are cases across Nova Scotia, but most cases have been confirmed in the central zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.
More information is available in an online map, which breaks down the cases according to the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s four zones.
All of the province’s 20 new cases were confirmed in the central zone. The western, northern and eastern zones are reporting no additional cases at this time.
Western zone: 54 cases
Central zone: 792 cases
Northern zone: 39 cases
Eastern zone: 50 cases
Most cases in Nova Scotia have been connected to travel or a known case, but there is community spread. As a result, travel has been removed as a requirement for COVID-19 testing.
The province has also expanded the list of symptoms for which it is screening.
Anyone with two or more of the following symptoms is asked to take an online questionnaire to determine if they need to call 811 for further assessment:
New or worsening cough
“Don’t wait if you feel that you have those symptoms,” said Strang. “Do the assessment. If you do have COVID, the sooner we test you and recognize it, the less the ability that it can be spread around.”
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days. Public health is working to identify and test people who may have come in close contact with the confirmed cases.
Anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia must also self-isolate for 14 days.
The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, has been extended to May 3. Schools will remain closed until at least May 19.