Nova Scotia

Fourth person dies from COVID-19 in Nova Scotia as cases rise to 606

A woman in her 80s in Cape Breton is the fourth known person to have died in Nova Scotia because of COVID-19, the province announced Friday.

Provincial state of emergency has been extended until May 3

'Hang in there, follow the rules and we can beat this thing together,' said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil at the April 17, 2020, COVID-19 briefing. (CBC)

A woman in her 80s in Cape Breton is the fourth known person to have died in Nova Scotia because of COVID-19, the province announced Friday.

The province announced 27 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 606 confirmed cases. The province also extended its state of emergency to noon on Sunday, May 3. The state of emergency was first declared on March 22.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said Nova Scotia hospitals are not overwhelmed with cases of COVID-19.

"If we can keep doing the things that we're doing, we should be able to stay within that situation. But it's only a result of all of the efforts that every Nova Scotian has done to allow us to be in that place," he said.

Strang said if Nova Scotia stays on course, restrictions may be loosened up "slowly and progressively," then "as we get into summer, hopefully we can start to have a bit of more of a normal life."

But Strang later added that there is no hard timeline for when restrictions would be lifted.

"I think the message needs to be that we need to have several more weeks of really strong restrictions before we can start to consider loosening things up at this point," he said.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said there is no hard timeline for when restrictions around physical distancing would be lifted in the province. (CBC)

The QEII Health Sciences Centre's microbiology lab completed 966 Nova Scotia tests on Thursday.

There are currently 11 people in hospital, with five of those in the intensive care unit.

Strang said Nova Scotia is just behind Alberta in terms of per capita testing. He said all evidence says aggressive, widespread testing is a key component of getting ahead of the virus.

As of Thursday, there were eight licensed long-term care homes in Nova Scotia with cases of COVID-19, including 55 residents and 43 staff.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority's COVID-19 map for Friday, April 17, 2020. (Province of Nova Scotia)

A total of 177 people have recovered from COVID-19. To date, 19,506 people have tested negative in the province.

"I know it's getting harder and harder to follow these health protocols, but if we want to win, we got to play by the rules," Premier Stephen McNeil said.

"So hang in there, follow the rules and we can beat this thing together."

Non-urgent surgeries need to wait

Strang said even though hospitals are currently able to handle cases of COVID-19, it's too soon to say when non-urgent surgeries would resume.

He said he doesn't want changes made "prematurely."

"We are a few more weeks before we can confidently say we have hit our peak and we're starting to go down," Strang said.

Racial data

Some historically black communities in the province — North Preston, East Preston and Cherry Brook — have been singled out by the province as being areas of concern over the number of COVID-19 cases in them. Additional testing sites have been set up in those communities.

When asked if the province would be collecting COVID-19 data based on race, Strang said there's been "a long-standing conversation" within the health system about working with the black community on that.

To collect that data, Strang said it requires individuals to be willing to have a cultural or racial identification attached to their health card number.

Strang said Nova Scotia's black community would have to consent, but added the issue is currently on the back-burner as the province deals with the virus.

Potential exposures

On Friday, the Nova Scotia Health Authority announced two possible COVID-19 exposures in the Halifax region:

  • The Giant Tiger store at 114 Woodlawn Road in Dartmouth on April 13 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Anyone exposed to the virus on that date may develop symptoms up to and including April 27.
  • Bob's Taxi in Dartmouth between April 4 and April 15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is only one car in the fleet with a confirmed exposure and precautions are being taken with the driver. Anyone exposed to the virus may develop symptoms up to and including April 29.

Symptoms to look for

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.

COVID-19 enforcement

Police forces around Nova Scotia have been busy handing out tickets to people caught violating state of emergency measures.

  • On Friday, Nova Scotia RCMP said it had charged a total of 134 people with offences related to the provincial state of emergency.
  • Halifax Regional Police have issued 114 tickets for the same reason.
  • Cape Breton Regional Police have issued a total of 70 tickets so far, all of which are for failing to comply with physical distancing rules.