Nova Scotia

N.S. reports 123 COVID-19 cases Friday, mostly connected to St. FX outbreak

As of Friday, 114 cases have been reported at the Antigonish, N.S., university.

As of Friday, 114 cases have been reported at the Antigonish, N.S., university

A total of 114 COVID-19 cases have been linked to St. FX so far this week. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang reported 55 new cases at St. Francis Xavier University Friday, bringing the total number connected to the school up to 114.

The province reported 123 COVID-19 cases total on Friday. Fifty-six cases are in the central zone, 60 cases are in the eastern zone (which includes Antigonish), six in the northern zone and one case in the western zone. So far, the province has not identified any cases of the Omicron variant, but tests are being sent to the national lab for review.

The first case at St. FX was reported Tuesday.

Watch Friday's briefing with Dr. Strang:

Earlier this week, Strang said 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 on Dec. 4 and 5.

The president of the university said the school-sanctioned events followed public health guidelines. Strang said there is an investigation underway to determine whether any public health protocols were broken, but he had no updates on Friday. 

Strang said some of the new cases in the central zone are likely linked to the St. FX outbreak because many people travelled from other locations for the X-Ring ceremony. He added that some students living in Antigonish who tested positive have Halifax listed on their health card, meaning they are counted in the central zone.

This week dozens of exposure notifications tied to the Antigonish area were issued.

A handful of cases reported in P.E.I. and two cases in Ontario have also been linked to the St. FX outbreak so far, Strang said.

Student supports

In an email, a spokesperson for St. FX said the university is supporting students who have been in close contact with people who are confirmed cases.

Some of the measures include moving students with roommates or students living in buildings with shared bathrooms to an apartment on campus.

The university says it moves students to quarantine when they need to isolate because they're symptomatic or tested positive through a rapid test and are awaiting the results of a PCR test, or because they tested positive with a PCR test.

Students living in residence who are isolating will have meals delivered to their doors.

A nurse with the university will check in with students on a daily basis. The university said it would support an isolating student until they are cleared by public health. Public health can also assess whether a student has the ability to isolate off campus.

Finally, off-campus students will be able to have groceries delivered through the university's Neighbours Helping Neighbours program.

St. FX has a teaching program and Strang said student teachers have been pulled from classrooms. He said there are no plans to close any schools at this time due to the Antigonish outbreak. Three schools in the area were the subject of exposure notices on Dec. 9:

  • Chedabucto Education Centre/Guysborough Academy, Guysborough
  • Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School, Antigonish
  • Saint Andrew Junior School, Antigonish

Strang said anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 has been asked to identify and contact people they've been in close contact with.

Anyone identified as a contact, regardless of vaccination status, must self-isolate for 72 hours and book a PCR test. If the test is negative, they no longer need to self-isolate.

Strang said Public Health staff are experiencing a backlog in carrying out extended contact tracing due to the volume of  cases. Staff are helping people identified as initial contacts of positive cases to do their own contact tracing and encouraging people to isolate right away if they are a potential contact, rather than waiting for Public Health to get in touch. 

Strang expects to see more cases in the days ahead, but said people shouldn't be too alarmed by the numbers.

"We're probably getting close to or at the peak of our cases and then we should start to see things decrease," he said.

Strang said most of the people connected to St. FX who contracted COVID-19 had at least one dose of the vaccine and that so far, all the cases have been mild.

"It shows the protective effect of the vaccines, especially against severe illness," he said.

Atlantic Canada case numbers

  • New Brunswick reported one death and 143 new cases Friday. The province has 971 active cases, with 70 people in hospital, including 34 in intensive care.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported two cases Friday. The province has 13 active cases.
  • Prince Edward Island reported seven cases on Friday. The province has 31 active cases.

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