'Think local, buy local': N.S. premier encourages residents to support local as businesses reopen
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil provides an update on COVID-19 during a news conference in Halifax on April 29, 2020.
HALIFAX -- As Nova Scotians count down the days until the province reopens, Premier Stephen McNeil is thanking them for working hard to follow protocols and flatten the curve.
“We haven’t had a lot of good news in this province in the last few months, but when I wake up and see the low numbers and feel the level of relief and gratitude, knowing what all of you have been doing to keep Nova Scotians safe,” said McNeil during a news conference on Wednesday.
“We have said all along that we are in this together and you have proven that every day.”
Most businesses that were forced to close at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March can reopen on Friday.
The premier is reassuring Nova Scotians that COVID-19 testing will continue and immediate action will be taken if there is a spike in cases.
“I know many of you are nervous but we have to get our economy moving again. We are taking it slow, we are reducing capacity, protocols will be in place, and we need everyone to follow them. I believe we all understand the importance of self-distancing and wearing a mask,” said McNeil.
“What’s really important is for all of you to support your local businesses. They need you and they want to welcome you back. So think local, buy local, support local. That makes us Nova Scotia strong and Nova Scotia proud.”
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, says every sector that was closed down under the public health order has submitted their reopening plans. However, not all of them have had final approval.
“There are a few that are in the final stages. I have a number of emails and plans that I have to approve later today, but we are in a place that everybody has a plan at least somewhere in the process. The majority have already been sent back and approved,” said Strang.
Customer experience will be different
When businesses reopen, Strang says the customer experience will be different and expectations should be adjusted accordingly.
“Whether you are going to a restaurant, whether you are going to a hair salon, whether you continue to go shopping, your experience will look different,” said Strang.
“Certainly in restaurants we know you can expect tables to be further apart, so that they can maintain that six-foot social distancing. There are other public health measures that support better handwashing, controlling how people move around in a restaurant or a bar space, and limitations on the type of activities that can happen in terms of entertainment and dancing.”
Bubble rules still apply
Strang also clarified that, at this time, they are not ready to have people from multiple households come together at a single table at a restaurant.
“The physical distancing requirements and the rules around household bubbles and family household bubbles haven’t changed and they pertain to restaurants and bars, like everywhere else,” said Strang.
“While people may be at tables in up to groups of 10, unless they can be separated by six feet while they are at that single table, which is not likely, they have to be people from the same household or household bubble.”
Public health is working with business and community partners to create environments that support public health requirements.
“At the end of the day, there is an obligation and a need for all Nova Scotians to participate and follow those public health requirements that are being put in place in all our public spaces and retail and business places,” said Strang.
“One of the critical things is that, people need to understand that if you are not feeling well, then it is not the time to go out. You may have COVID-19. If you meet any of the symptoms, if you are not sure, do the 811 online assessment, but if you are not feeling well it is critically important that you not go out and potentially expose others to COVID-19.”
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
When the pandemic hit, the federal government introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), designed to help people who lost income due to COVID-19. The program is available until Oct. 3 and provides successful applicants with $2,000 a month for up to four months.
As businesses prepare to reopen in Nova Scotia, one of the challenges presented is the reality that some employees who receive CERB are making more to stay home than go to work.
“I strongly encourage all Nova Scotians to take the opportunity to go back to work. While it may have a short-term impact, your hard work and effort in the business you are working with will determine the long-term future of that business and, quite frankly, your long-term employment,” said McNeil.
“Let’s not look at this in the short term, let’s look at this in the long term. Every business needs its employees to go back to work to help with the viability and that means that that business will be there for years to come, not just for a few months when we know that CERB program is going to run out.”
With businesses reopening on June 5, and daycares not far behind, many Nova Scotians are wondering about the status of public schools.
“We haven’t started a conversation yet about public schools. It’s coming very soon,” said Strang.
“I know we’ve got some meetings coming up in the next couple of weeks. Understanding that we are very busy focusing on getting to Friday and then we are focusing on working on our daycares who are coming soon, so we haven’t had a detailed conversation yet about schools, but we need to get there.”
New case in eastern zone
For the first time in over three weeks, a new case of COVID-19 has been identified in Nova Scotia’s eastern zone.
The province last reported a new case of the virus in the eastern zone on May 10. The eastern zone now has 52 cases of COVID-19.
Strang said Wednesday that the person who tested positive had travelled outside of Nova Scotia.
"Fortunately, this individual followed public health protocol and was in self-isolation from the time they returned to the province, and had minimal exposure at the time they may have been infectious," said Strang.
The province isn’t reporting any additional cases, or deaths, at this time.
The QEII Health Sciences Centre's microbiology lab completed 639 Nova Scotia tests on Tuesday.
To date, Nova Scotia has 43,340 negative test results, 1,058 positive COVID-19 test results and 60 deaths.
Fifty-three of the deaths have been at Halifax’s Northwood long-term care home, which has seen the most significant outbreak in the province.
A Halifax law firm is proposing a class-action lawsuit against the facility, claiming normal standards of care weren't met to protect against infection from COVID-19.
993 people recovered
The province says one more person has recovered from COVID-19, for a total of 993 recoveries.
This would leave five active cases in all of Nova Scotia. However, Northwood is still reporting five active cases involving three residents and two staff members.
During the pandemic, there has been confusion over the number of recovered and active cases reported by the province, which don’t always match up with the numbers reported at Northwood.
Strang has explained that the data from long-term care homes comes from a different data source than the one used by public health and is on a different timeline. As a result, the data doesn’t always reconcile.
Two more people released from hospital
The province says two more people have been released from hospital. There are now three people in hospital, with one patient 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.
The western, central and northern zones are reporting no additional cases at this time.
- western zone: 54 cases
- central zone: 907 cases
- northern zone: 45 cases
- eastern zone: 52 cases
Anyone 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.
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
- shortness of breath
- muscle aches
- nasal congestion/runny nose
- hoarse voice
- unusual fatigue
- loss of sense of smell or taste