'They don't continue to climb': N.S. encouraged by daily rate of new COVID-19 cases
Average number of daily new positive cases has been around 30 in recent days
Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health says the latest COVID-19 numbers provide some "good news" about the province's response to the pandemic, but reiterated it is too early to think about relaxing restrictions.
Dr. Robert Strang said the average number of new positive cases per day has averaged around 30 in recent days, and he was comforted that "they don't continue to climb."
Strang said about two per cent of tests are coming back positive.
"That tells me our process around broadening testing is working," he said.
Strang made the comments at Monday's coronavirus update, after the province announced 29 new cases of the virus, bringing the provincial total on Monday to 474 positive cases.
Also Monday, the Nova Scotia Health Authority announced a man from the Halifax area died due to complications from COVID-19, marking the third-known death in the province due to the virus.
Admiral Long Term Care Centre in Dartmouth confirmed the man was one of its residents, and that he had died in its COVID-19 isolation unit on Monday.
"Tragically, another family is grieving the loss of a loved one as result of COVID-19," Premier Stephen McNeil said in a news release.
"As I offer to them my heartfelt condolences, I want to emphasize to all Nova Scotians that we cannot afford to become complacent. Life is precious and we must all work together to protect those who are dear to us."
Admiral said it had one additional employee who tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday.
All staff who have tested positive are at home in self-isolation. The other resident who has tested positive is in isolation as well.
The 29 new cases were identified Sunday, when the QEII Health Sciences Centre's microbiology lab completed 947 tests.
There have now been 15,580 negative tests in Nova Scotia.
So far, 101 people have recovered from the virus.
Strang said some of the province's projections for the virus would be released "very soon."
The federal government and many other provinces have recently released epidemiological modelling, including best and worst-case scenarios for the number of cases and deaths over the coming months.
McNeil and Strang have been asked about the modelling repeatedly at their near-daily updates and have said that as a small province, Nova Scotia doesn't have the same resources to produce the information as quickly as other jurisdictions.
On Monday, Strang said Nova Scotia was in the final process of getting modelling reports into the "right format" for public consumption.
"Certainly, we're not going to hide numbers. The numbers will be the numbers and we will present, always, the truth to Nova Scotians," Strang said.
"It's also important that this is communicated in a way that ... it's understandable, that's not confusing and that actually helps Nova Scotians to understand the picture of what they're facing in our communities."
The health authority announced Monday it would mandate all long-term care workers to wear surgical masks whenever working with residents. McNeil said he was confident in the province's supply of masks after securing 300,000 of them from the federal government. McNeil also said he was expecting an order from his "friends" in China in the next few weeks.
Northwood numbers double
Northwood, a long-term care facility in Halifax, now has 16 residents and 10 staff who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The number of infected residents doubled since Sunday.
According to a statement, the residents' symptoms range from "very mild to moderate," but most people are displaying very mild symptoms.
The infected residents have been moved to an isolated floor dedicated to treating patients with the virus.
Northwood said it is doing its own testing for residents and staff, allowing them to get their results faster. They are testing anyone with symptoms, as well as close contacts.
Strang said the situation at Northwood was concerning, but said he has confidence in Northwood's executive director of long-term care, Josie Ryan.
"She has a ton of expertise in infection control and managing outbreaks in the long-term care setting. So while I'm concerned about the residents, I am very comfortable that everything that could possibly be done within Northwood is being done."
Dartmouth communities of 'particular concern'
Strang said an outbreak of COVID-19 in a group of communities east of Halifax, including North Preston, East Preston and Cherry Brook, is of "particular concern."
Members of those communities said Strang and the premier stigmatized them when addressing the outbreak last week, saying they felt singled out and wrongfully depicted as reckless rule-breakers.
On Monday, Strang said social supports were in place to enable the province to "wrap our arms around this community" where the coronavirus is having a "substantive impact."
The health authority opened a primary assessment centre in North Preston last week to address the outbreak in that area.
The president of NSGEU, the province's largest health-care union, wrote an open letter to McNeil and Strang asking them to address issues with the working conditions at the assessment centre, including inadequate space for physical distancing and poor ventilation.
Strang said those issues should be brought up with local health authority officials, not him or the premier.
Expanded symptoms list
The province recently expanded the list of symptoms being screened for COVID-19. They are:
- New or worsening cough.
- Sore throat.
- Runny nose.
McNeil said the expansion was leading to a "doubling down" on testing. Health authority labs have been operating 24/7 since last week.
"The more we test the more COVID we find, and that is a good thing. It protects us all," McNeil said Monday.
What Nova Scotians can do
He said Nova Scotia was far from being "out of the woods" and urged the public to continue to follow public health protocols.
Nova Scotians are encouraged to:
- Practise physical distancing of at least two metres from other people.
- Stay at home as much as possible.
- Pick up groceries or medication only once a week.
- Limit essential gatherings to no more than five people.
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.