N.S. tightens COVID-19 rules as Omicron cases found amid St. FX outbreak
N.S. announced more than 100 cases per day the last 4 days in a row
Physical distancing and capacity restrictions are back in Nova Scotia as the province continues to battle an outbreak of COVID-19 at St. Francis Xavier University and the first confirmed cases of the omicron variant in the province.
"The reality is cases across the country are up and we hoped to be immune here in Nova Scotia but we're not," Premier Tim Houston said during a briefing on Monday.
Nova Scotia reported 114 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with 55 cases in central zone, 52 cases in eastern zone, five cases in western zone, and two cases in northern zone. Six people are in hospital, including two in intensive care. There are no hospitalizations in eastern zone, which includes St. FX and the Antigonish area.
Forty previously reported cases have been confirmed as Omicron variant cases by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. They all came from the Antigonish area, Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said Monday. He added that delta variant cases were also identified as part of the St. FX outbreak.
The recent rise in cases is due to an outbreak at St. FX following events related to the annual X-Ring ceremony at locations both on and off-campus. On Saturday the university's president, Andy Hakin, apologized for the school's role in the outbreak.
Hakin also said in a statement to the community late Sunday that he is among those infected.
Strang said it's possible the outbreak at St. FX is connected to an outbreak at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. He said the Dalhousie men's rugby team travelled to Kingston to participate in the Canadian University Men's Rugby Championship, which was held Nov. 24-28. He said authorities in Ontario subsequently declared an outbreak at that event, and there is potentially a link to St. FX.
No hospitalizations so far
Strang said the case numbers connected to the Antigonish outbreak are more than he anticipated.
"I think what we're actually seeing is how transmissible and how easily this Omicron virus can spread," he said.
Houston said people are testing positive between two to three days of exposure. He said most of the symptoms people have been reporting are mild and — despite rumours — there have been no hospitalizations.
Houston said schools will remain open.
The province also confirmed an outbreak at Parkland Antigonish, a retirement community. Two residents and two staff have tested positive so far. One staff member from Mary's Court, a licensed long-term care neighbourhood, has also tested positive.
All staff and residents are fully vaccinated. All residents of Mary's Court have had a third dose of the vaccine. Public Health is working with the facility to prevent more spread.
Tighter restrictions take effect Friday at 9 a.m.
Recreation facilities, stores and malls, museums and libraries cannot run at maximum capacity unless physical distancing can be maintained.
There will be a limit on informal gatherings of 20 people, indoors and outdoors. Bars and restaurants will have a limit of no more than 20 people per table.
"Pick your 20 closest family and friends and keep that group consistent," said Strang.
"Twenty is plenty."
Strang said the restrictions will be reassessed in January.
All close contacts must now isolate
Strang said Friday that given the increase in cases and the high number of recent exposures, all close contacts of positive cases must now isolate until they receive a negative PCR test, regardless of vaccination status.
Previously, people who were fully vaccinated didn't have to isolate if they were exposed.
Testing is available to people experiencing symptoms, those who are asymptomatic, people who have been at an exposure site or are a close contact of a positive case.
The Antigonish COVID-19 Testing Centre is open on Monday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for asymptomatic community members.
Nova Scotia Health is also offering COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the following locations for anyone aged five to 11 who is receiving their first or second dose:
- North Grove at 6 Primrose St. in Dartmouth on Monday, Dec. 13, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Keshen Goodman Library at 330 Lacewood Dr. in Halifax on Wed. Dec. 15 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Cape Breton University at 1250 Grand Lake Rd. in Sydney on Monday, Dec. 13, to Wednesday, Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- St. FX University, Keating Centre Conference Room at 1100 Convocation Blvd. in Antigonish on Thursday, Dec. 16, and Friday, Dec. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Parents are asked to bring their child's health card and a piece of identification if they have it.
N.S. Health contacting people who have had COVID-19
Nova Scotia Health is getting in touch with Nova Scotians who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to find out whether they are still experiencing symptoms and to support them with their recovery.
"We know post-COVID-19 symptoms can have a significant impact on people's health and wellness, and they may not know where to go for help," said Ashley Harnish, a health services manager with Nova Scotia Health.
"This proactive outreach is just one of the ways we are trying to support patients as they recover and remind them there are people and supports in place when they need them."
Staff will call people who are 16 and older and ask screening questions. The call will come from an unknown number and will take about five minutes. Callers will try twice, but will not be able to leave a voicemail for privacy reasons.
If the call is missed, people can complete the online screening.
Those who are under 16 and experiencing ongoing COVID-19 symptoms should contact the IWK Health Centre.
The province added several school exposures on Monday:
- Atlantic Memorial Terence Bay Elementary in Shad Bay
- Basinview Drive Community School in Bedford
- Beechville Lakeside Timberlea Junior Elementary in Timberlea
- Burton Ettinger Elementary in Halifax
- Cunard Junior High in Halifax
- Halifax West High in Halifax
- Hammonds Plains Consolidated in Hammonds Plains
- Kingswood Elementary in Hammonds Plains
- LeMarchant-St. Thomas Elementary in Halifax
- Lockview High in Fall River
- Ridgecliff Middle School in Beechville
- Rocky Lake Junior High in Bedford
- Waverley Memorial Elementary in Waverley
- École Beaubassin in Halifax
- École Secondaire du Sommet in Halifax
- Cobequid Educational Centre in Truro
- Spring Street Academy in Amherst
- Valley Elementary School in Valley
- Chedabucto Education Centre/Guysborough Academy in Guysborough
- Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School in Antigonish
- Saint Andrew Junior School in Antigonish
- St. Andrews Consolidated School in St. Andrews
- Tamarac Education Centre in Port Hawkesbury
The province maintains a list of school exposures here.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
- New Brunswick reported two deaths and 100 new cases on Monday. The province has 1,048 active cases, with 41 people in hospital, including 14 in intensive care.
- Newfoundland and Labrador reported two cases Friday. The province has 13 active cases.
- Prince Edward Island reported seven cases on Sunday. The province has 37 active cases.
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