Nova Scotia

12 cases of COVID-19 confirmed at St. FX with more expected in coming days

The university said in a statement that the campus members who've tested positive are experiencing mild symptoms.

University issued a statement late Tuesday saying plans for in-person exams will go ahead

A sign marks one of the entrances to the St. Francis Xavier University campus in Antigonish, N.S., in this photo. The university issued a statement Tuesday night saying 12 campus members have tested positive for COVID-19. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Public Health has confirmed 12 positive cases of COVID-19 among campus members at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., but there are no plans to reschedule in-person exams slated to begin this week, the university said Tuesday.

In a statement issued just before 8 p.m. AT, university president Andy Hakin said the campus members who've tested positive are experiencing mild symptoms and support services have been put in place for those required to isolate.

The statement went on to say that Public Health has not recommended any changes to the exam schedule, adding that exam settings are generally considered a lower risk environment because of physical spacing and limited interactions, in addition to mask wearing.

"While we know that news of these new cases will cause anxiety, please be assured that university officials continue to work closely with Public Health to monitor the overall status of the outbreak and receive their input and recommendations," said Hakin.

"The university continues to take its lead from their direction as we have done throughout the course of this pandemic."

Earlier Tuesday, the university announced it was cancelling on-campus classes for the remainder of the day after receiving word from Public Health of a single positive case. The school said it was expecting more cases in the coming days.

Hakin's statement did not speculate on the origin of the infections.

Strang anticipating cluster of cases

However, Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, told a news briefing earlier in the day that he was expecting a cluster of cases at St. FX related to the X-Ring ceremony and a number of sanctioned and unsanctioned events held over the past weekend.

If issues of non-compliance with public health mandates are discovered, health officials will work with their enforcement colleagues, said Premier Tim Houston.

"If you weren't following the rules we are going to find you and we are going to fine you," Houston said during the briefing.

Public Health is continuing to investigate and test people.

St. FX said in a notice that people on campus without symptoms who have been fully vaccinated do not need to isolate. Those who are not fully vaccinated or who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, regardless of whether they have symptoms, have been instructed to isolate immediately.

Testing opportunities

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should arrange for a PCR test at a local testing facility immediately.

A news release from Nova Scotia Health on Tuesday said its mobile testing unit would be in Antigonish on Wednesday and Thursday to provide PCR COVID-19 testing for people of all ages.

The mobile testing unit will be at the university's Keating Centre at 1100 Convocation Blvd. on Dec. 8 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

During Tuesday's news briefing in Halifax, the province announced 22 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 147 active cases. It's unclear how many of the 12 cases at St. FX were included in those numbers.

There were 11 people in hospital, including four in intensive care.

Premier applauds high vaccine uptake

Houston commended front-line workers and civil servants for their strong response to the province's vaccine mandate, noting more than 99 per cent of front-line workers and civil servants have had at least one dose of a vaccine.

He said there has been no widespread impact on the health-care system since the Nov. 30 vaccine deadline.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang speak during a COVID-19 briefing on Nov. 17, 2021. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Parents and guardians have also responded strongly to the vaccine for children, Houston said.

Strang said 29,000 children between five and 11 have already had their first dose of the vaccine or booked an appointment. 

Houston said he understands that some parents and guardians may have concerns about the vaccine, but that should not stop them from having their children vaccinated.

"The benefits of vaccine far outweigh any concerns about the vaccine on the part of parents," Houston said.

Christmas vacation extended

The premier said school vacation will be extended by two days to allow more time for children to be vaccinated. Classes will now resume on Jan. 6.

According to Strang, more testing kits will be distributed for children under 12 this week and take-home testing kits are being made available to children aged three to 11 outside the public school system.

Strang said the province continues to have new cases in the fourth wave of the pandemic, with ongoing transmission in the Halifax area, East Hants and Truro.

Booster shots

With regard to booster shots, Strang said Nova Scotia will be following the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

He said people who are 70 years old and older and residents of long-term care homes who are eligible should book an appointment for a booster shot.

People who are immunocompromised are already eligible for a third dose, he said, and will be eligible for a booster dose in 2022.

He said measures are being put in place for everyone 60 and older and front-line health care workers to receive a booster shot and other age groups will be eligible in the coming year using an age increment approach.

Strang urges caution during holidays

Strang said although mRNA vaccines offer the best protection against the virus, viral vector vaccines will be offered for those who, for whatever reason, do not want the mRNA vaccines.

The Johnson & Johnson's Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines will be available in limited quantities at locations across the province.

Strang also urged people in the 12 to 29 age group who have an appointment to get the Moderna vaccine to reschedule and get the Pfizer vaccine instead, as it has a lower incidence of myocarditis associated with it.

With the holiday season approaching, Strang said people need to continue to be cautious regardless of their vaccination status. 

He urged members of the public to continue what they've been doing over the past two years to protect themselves, and to avoid travel if possible.

"COVID-19 loves gatherings," he said. "Especially when people are not vaccinated."

Atlantic Canada case numbers

  • New Brunswick reported three deaths and 69 new cases Tuesday. The province has 752 active cases, with 47 people in hospital, including 18 in intensive care.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported seven new cases Monday, including those identified over the weekend. The province has 13 active cases and no one is in hospital with the virus.
  • Prince Edward Island reported five new cases on Tuesday. The province has 23 active cases.