N.S. reports 287 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number since start of pandemic
6 people are in hospital with COVID-19, including 2 in intensive care
Nova Scotia announced 287 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest number reported in one day since the pandemic arrived in the province.
It is the seventh day in a row the province has announced more than 100 new infections.
The previous highest daily case count was 227 new infections on May 7.
Of the new cases, 191 are in the central zone, 57 are in the eastern zone, 24 are in the northern zone and 15 are in the western zone. Six people are in hospital with COVID-19, including two in intensive care.
Positive cases notified by text
Public Health has started notifying people who test positive by text message due to a backlog in contacting positive cases. About 85 per cent of positive cases are able to be notified this way, said a Health Department spokesperson. Text messages will advise positive cases to self-isolate, to notify their close contacts and register for Public Health's daily check-in service.
After sending a text message, Public Health then calls positive cases to assess if they are higher priority cases and pass along information about isolation. As of Wednesday afternoon, Public Health still needed to call 430 people to triage their cases.
Schools to close on Friday
On Wednesday, the province announced the last day of public school classes for the year will be Friday due to the impact of the rising number of COVID-19 cases on staffing levels and the number of students attending class. Students had been expected to remain in the classroom until Dec. 21.
The province added nine more school exposures on Thursday:
Astral Drive Junior High in Cole Harbour.
Atlantic Memorial Terence Bay Elementary in Shad Bay.
Ellenvale Junior High in Dartmouth.
Hammonds Plains Consolidated in Hammonds Plains.
Springvale Elementary School in Halifax.
Antigonish Education Centre in Antigonish.
Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School in Antigonish.
St. Andrews Consolidated School in St. Andrews.
Strait Area Education and Recreation Centre (SAERC) in Port Hawkesbury.
The province maintains a list of school exposures here.
Public Health announced on Wednesday that Hammonds Plains Consolidated in Hammonds Plains would move to at-home learning. The school has closed and will reopen with students returning to class Jan. 6.
What we know about the Omicron variant
On Monday, Nova Scotia announced it had identified 40 cases of Omicron — the latest COVID-19 variant of concern — all of which are related to the current outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, told CBC Radio's Information Morning earlier this week that Ontario is calling a men's university rugby tournament held in Kingston, Ont., at the end of November a "super-spreader event," and a team from Dalhousie attended the event. There could potentially be a link between the Kingston tournament and the St. FX outbreak.
Some parts of the country, including Ontario and P.E.I, have opened up booster shots for everyone 18 and up. On Thursday, Nova Scotia's Opposition Liberals called on the government to do the same.
Plans for boosters
But Premier Tim Houston said Nova Scotia has no plans to speed up plans to offer the booster by age groups. Currently, people aged 60 and up, front-line health-care workers and designated caregivers can book the shots.
He said given the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that a booster of mRNA vaccine be offered at an interval of six months after the primary series, most Nova Scotians won't be eligible until January anyway. The province requires people to wait 168 days after their second dose to get a booster.
He said he doesn't foresee any supply constraints that would mean people are waiting for months after they're eligible.
"We're following NACI guidance. We see no reason to veer from the NACI guidance. Other jurisdictions may have veered away from it but we're not," he said.
Houston and Strang will be holding a COVID-19 briefing Friday afternoon at 2 p.m.
Questions about travel plans
On Wednesday, the federal government advised people to avoid non-essential travel outside the country, which prompted lots of calls to travel agents.
"A lot of people are wondering if it's safe to travel, if they still can travel," Myranda Miller, a branch manager at Maritime Travel, told CBC News.
Out of the dozens of clients she's heard from, she said only one person has cancelled and another switched their dates. Airlines have not cancelled departures.
"The other people have said that they are going to go ahead with their plans. They feel they can control their environment and they're making their own decisions," she said.
She recommended that people check the terms of their medical and travel insurance to ensure coverage.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
- New Brunswick reported 177 new cases on Thursday, a new record high. The province has a record high 1,237 active cases, with 41 people in hospital and 15 in ICU.
- Newfoundland and Labrador reported 13 new cases on Wednesday. The province has 34 active cases.
- Prince Edward Island reported 10 new cases on Thursday. The province has 49 active cases, the highest active case count recorded in the province since the pandemic was declared.
- Be 'ready to pivot' domestic holiday travel plans amid rapidly spreading Omicron variant, medical experts say
With files from Amy Smith