Nova Scotia

4 more COVID-19 deaths in Nova Scotia, all linked to long-term care homes

The Nova Scotia government announced four new deaths related to COVID-19 at long-term care homes on Thursday. Three of the deaths happened at Halifax-based Northwood, while the other was at Harbourstone Enhanced Care in Sydney.

55 new cases of COVID-19 announced Thursday

Nova Scotia announced 55 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total of confirmed cases to 827 in the province. (Communications Nova Scotia)

The Nova Scotia government announced four new deaths related to COVID-19 on Thursday, all of which are connected to long-term care homes.

Three of the deaths happened at Halifax-based Northwood, while the other was at Harbourstone Enhanced Care in Sydney. The new deaths raise the province's total to 16.

"We want to extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families and let them know, as they are dealing with this issue, we as a province are struggling with their loss as well," Premier Stephen McNeil said at a press briefing on Thursday.

COVID-19 is taking a particularly strong toll on long-term care homes in the province. Of the 55 new cases announced Thursday, 24 of them are connected to long-term care homes.

Nowhere has the problem been more significant than at Northwood, where there have now been 11 deaths.

Northwood officials plan to hold a press conference on Monday at 1 p.m. AT to discuss the planning and response to COVID-19.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said Thursday the majority of Northwood's 140 COVID-19 cases are mild.

"I don't at all mean to diminish the serious nature of COVID-19, but for many people, even the frail elderly in Northwood, they are able to, with appropriate health supports, battle off this infection and recover," he said.

Testing at Northwood

Strang said he expects testing of Northwood residents and staff to be completed by Thursday and Friday, respectively. The increase in testing is expected to bump up the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Last weekend, the province announced it was relocating a team of 40 health-care workers from the Halifax Infirmary to try to help Northwood cope with the outbreak. Residents who recover from the illness are now being moved to a hotel.

Thursday's numbers bring the province's overall total to 827 confirmed cases ranging in patients younger than 10 and older than 90. There are now 358 recovered cases in the province. Ten people are currently in hospital, with four of those in ICU.

Why more females are contracting COVID-19

Fifty-nine per cent of the people who have contracted COVID-19 in the province are females, and Strang said there are two reasons why.

"Predominantly, there's a significantly higher proportion of women in long-term care facilities than men. That's simply a factor of our demographics that women tend to outlive men," he said.

Strang also said more women work in long-term care facilities than men.

Three of the four new COVID-19 deaths in Nova Scotia announced Thursday were at Northwood in Halifax. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Cases have been identified in all parts of the province.

"We know that two-thirds of these tests came from within the Nova Scotia Health Authority's central zone, which is the Halifax and West Hants [area]," Strang said.

"About 100 tests also came from each of the three other Nova Scotia Health Authority zones. This shows the need for ongoing testing across the province."

'Slow and deliberate' lifting of restrictions

Strang said there are no immediate plans to lift any COVID-19 restrictions, but he said it would be "slow and deliberate" when it does happen.

"I know lots of people are just anxious to know what life will look like a month from now, three months from now," Strang said.

He said the province is working on a plan about the gradual lifting of restrictions that will be discussed with the premier and his staff next week, but the plan is something "we all have to be comfortable with."

Nova Scotia chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said there are no immediate plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions in the province. (CBC)

Strang said the plan's goal is to prevent the province's most vulnerable people from contracting COVID-19.

He said it's important Nova Scotians follow public health protocols. He said people need to use common sense and stop looking for loopholes.

"It's not just for our own health, but for the health of of your elderly neighbour, for the health of your sister, a brother who is a health-care worker, for your friend who is a cashier in the grocery store or for your father or mother who has congestive heart failure or some other serious chronic condition," Strang said.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil ended Thursday's COVID-19 briefing by highlighting supports available to Nova Scotians who are 'reeling from the tragic events of last weekend,' as well as the COVID-19 deaths in the province. (CBC)

"Staying home, maintaining social distancing and following public health directives, ultimately, is about saving lives. It's about caring for one another by putting someone else's health first."

On Wednesday, the QEII Health Sciences Centre microbiology lab, which is now operating 24 hours a day, completed 921 tests.

The province recently expanded the list of symptoms being screened for COVID-19. They are:

  • Fever.
  • New or worsening cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny nose.
  • Headache.

Anyone with two or more of those symptoms should visit 811's website for a self-assessment questionnaire to determine if 811 should be called for further assessment.

Coping with tragedy

McNeil ended the press briefing by highlighting supports available to Nova Scotians who are "reeling from the tragic events of last weekend," as well as the COVID-19 deaths.

He encouraged people to stay in touch by phone and video messaging. But for people who need a little more support, he said both kids and adults can contact the Kids Help Phone by texting "NSStrong" to 741741.

The provincial mental health crisis line is also available at 1-888-429-8167.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority's COVID-19 map for Thursday, April 23, 2020. (Province of Nova Scotia)

"Everyone deals with a tragedy in their own way, and no one way is the right way," McNeil said.

"So do what you have to do, but whatever you do, you don't have to do it alone. Remember, you have support, you are loved and we will ge through this together. We are stronger together."