Nova Scotia to increase testing in communities with COVID-19 'clusters'
Mobile centres and at-home testing will also be done
Nova Scotia is ramping up testing in communities with "clusters" of COVID-19, as 26 new cases have been identified in the province.
Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, said in a briefing Sunday that temporary assessment centres will be established in communities where the virus is present.
"Coronavirus is here in Nova Scotia. It is in our communities," Strang said.
"Expanding our testing options means we have the ability to act quickly if we see clusters of disease in communities ... and ensures we're able to accommodate vulnerable Nova Scotians and those living in hard-to-reach locations."
Strang said the first centre will be set up in Elmsdale, N.S. Testing in that community will be done out of the Lloyd E. Matheson Centre, but Strang advised that temporary centres will still require an appointment made through 811 and will not accept walk-in patients.
The centres will remain open based on the spread of the disease and community need.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority has also established a mobile assessment centre which can be moved between communities.
At-home testing will also be done by two designated EHS paramedic units, one in the Halifax Regional Municipality and the other in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
Starting Monday, the QEII Health Science Centre's microbiology lab in Halifax will operate on a 24-hour schedule to process more than 1,000 tests a day.
The province now has 262 positive cases of COVID-19 and 9,510 negative tests.
An employee at the NSLC on Portland Street in Dartmouth is also included in the new cases. The employee last worked at the store on Friday, the same day the store closed abruptly after learning of a potential exposure. NSLC is advising customers to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
Cases have been identified in individuals under 10 and over 90, including two staff at Nova Scotia hospitals and two long-term care employees.
Six people are now in hospital with the virus and 53 have recovered.
Two new cases among long-term care employees
Two of the new cases include staff at two long-term care facilities.
The individuals are employees at Arborstone Enhanced Care in Halifax and Harris Hall in Dartmouth, which are both owned by Shannex.
An additional case was confirmed at Shannex's Jubilee Hall-Concorde Hall in Quispamsis, N.B.
Last week, Shannex announced one case among employees at its private retirement-living community in Dartmouth. An employee at the R.K MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish also tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
It was also confirmed last week that three staff and two residents at the Magnolia resident care home in Enfield have also tested positive.
Health-care workers exposed
Two cases of COVID-19 have been identified among staff at Nova Scotia hospitals — the IWK Health Centre in Halifax and Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow — and some health-care workers have been ordered to self-isolate because of close contact with their infected colleagues.
A spokesperson for the IWK said the infected staff member is a health-care worker, and hospital staff were investigating any possible exposure to patients.
The case at the IWK is not expected to impact patient care or service delivery.
The health authority has not released the role of the staff member from Aberdeen Hospital who tested positive for the virus. The NSHA says it is not aware of any direct patient contact in this case.
Service disruptions at Aberdeen Hospital
The NSHA said the case at Aberdeen Hospital has caused a stoppage of all surgical, and labour and delivery services.
Patients with urgent and emergency orthopedic needs are being sent to the Halifax Infirmary, and emergency general surgery cases are being diverted to Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro.
Labour and delivery care will be transferred from Aberdeen to Colchester East Hants or St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, depending on the patient's location.
However emergency care services as well as pediatric care, prenatal and postnatal outpatient visits continue at Aberdeen Hospital.
The health authorities confirmed the cases Sunday, two weeks after Premier Stephen McNeil declared a state of emergency, ordering citizens to stay home as much as possible and to keep a distance of two metres from other people.
Under the public health measures, police have the authority to ticket anyone who fails to abide by physical distancing orders or who continues to use parks, trails and beaches, most of which are now closed.
In his near-daily COVID-19 updates, McNeil has been doling out stern warnings for the public to abide by the restrictions, calling those who flout the orders "reckless."
Protecting health-care professionals
Strang said the province is working with health-care professionals to minimize their risk of contracting COVID-19.
"What we're putting in place is, as much as possible, staff don't work in multiple facilities or with multiple organizations. That can present some challenges staffing-wise but we're trying to minimize the number of facilities that one individual would work in," he said.
He said that long-term care facilities have been asked to separate residents who are sick within the facility, rather than transferring them to hospital, to prevent the spread.
Staff will be designated to only work with those individuals, and individuals needing acute medical care will be transferred to hospital.
"In our acute-care hospitals, people are well aware of the need for them to closely monitor their symptoms, to not come to work if they're feeling unwell in any way," he said.
Dozens of tickets issued for flouting public health orders
Last week, McNeil ordered police to increase enforcement. Ahead of the weekend, he appealed for people to "stay the blazes home."
The plea struck a chord with many, who turned the phrase into memes, songs and merchandise, but it apparently didn't affect everyone. On Saturday, Halifax police told CBC News they'd handed out dozens of tickets for violations under the Emergency Management Act and the Health Protection Act.
Fines for those violations range from almost $700 for individuals to up to $10,000 for businesses.
Strang asked individuals who have summer cottages to remain at one location, rather than going back and forth. He also advised people not to drive unless necessary.
"If we have more and more people driving around, having to stop for gas, all those things — the more movement of people we have around Nova Scotia — it creates a substantive increased risk for all of us," he said.
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