Nova Scotia's top doctor says shooting rampage prompts need to 'mourn safely' amid COVID-19
'COVID-19 is not going to pause because of our pain,' says chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang says those mourning the victims of Sunday's shooting rampage that began in Portapique, N.S., need to do so with public health restrictions in mind.
"COVID-19 is not going to pause because of our pain," said Strang at the Monday COVID-19 update.
Nova Scotia announced 46 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, bringing the total to 721.
Strang said it remains important to limit gatherings to no more than five people, and to maintain physical distancing at any gathering. He said people need to "mourn safely."
Large crowds gathered in Elmsdale, N.S., Monday to welcome home Const. Chad Morrison after he was released from hospital. He was injured while responding to the shooting. Strang said those kinds of gatherings should not be happening.
He said all tributes should be done virtually.
"I'm sorry to have to say this, I know it's difficult," said Strang.
He said that when COVID-19 passes, the community will be able to come together and mourn.
Premier Stephen McNeil echoed Strang's comments, and suggested honouring the victims of the shooting by tying Nova Scotia tartan scarves around trees, or displaying them in windows or on balconies.
"It may not seem like enough, but for now it's a way for all of us to come together, without coming together," said McNeil.
The new COVID-19 cases were tested Sunday by the microbiology lab at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.
Twelve people are being treated for the virus in hospital, with four in intensive care.
Majority of new cases from Northwood
Forty-six marks the largest daily jump in positive cases in the province to date, and the large majority emerged at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax.
Over the weekend, the death toll in Nova Scotia due to COVID-19 rose to nine, and five of the people who have died were residents of Northwood. The province introduced an emergency plan for the facility Sunday in response to the outbreak.
The plan includes moving residents who have recovered from the virus out of the facility and into a recovery unit in a hotel, which Strang said will lighten the load for workers at Northwood and help them contain the virus within the facility.
On Sunday, McNeil said one person had been moved to the recovery unit.
At a news briefing Monday, Northwood CEO Janet Simm said two more residents were approved to move to the recovery unit, and she expected eight more would be moved by the end of the week.
Simm said 31 of the new cases announced Monday were Northwood residents, and five were Northwood staff, making for a total of 111 residents and 40 staff afflicted by the virus.
Northwood is in the process of testing every resident and staff member, Strang said, and it will retest anyone who has tested negative.
'We will expect to see more cases'
"Unfortunately, we will expect to see more cases," Strang said about Northwood.
In a news release Monday, the province said there are now nine long-term care homes and seniors facilities with cases of COVID-19.
Strang said eight of those are "well-contained," with Northwood being the exception.
McNeil said the outbreak at Northwood and the prevalence of the virus at long-term care facilities in general were reasons for reflection on the way long-term care is provided.
"From our perspective, when COVID-19 is controlled and we're able to move back to some level of normalcy, we'll certainly be looking at how do we provide long-term care," he said.
Strang said there's been a perception that community spread is occurring because COVID-19 is moving from the community into long-term care homes. In fact, he said community spread results in workers unknowingly taking the virus into homes.
'Intensive' efforts focused on Dartmouth communities
With 248 cases now listed as recovered, Strang said the overall pattern of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia showed a downward trend. But, he added, "it's too early for us to say we're clearly coming out of the woods."
Strang has repeatedly said that Northwood and a group of communities east of Dartmouth are his two main concerns when it comes to containing the virus in Nova Scotia. Those two areas still require "intensive" public health attention, he said Monday, and the whole province will have to remain vigilant with public health measures.
There is a "heavy push" to test as many people as possible in the communities of North Preston, East Preston and Cherry Brook, Strang said. Public health has identified a cluster of coronavirus cases in those areas, with many of the cases attributed to community spread.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority has set up three primary assessment clinics in those communities.
Strang said public health was also starting to see more community spread in Dartmouth North.
Strang said the killings have prompted requests from journalists outside the province asking if they can come to the province to cover the matter. He said those requests have all been turned down.
Symptoms to look for
The province's list of symptoms being screened for COVID-19 are:
- New or worsening cough.
- Sore throat.
- Runny nose.
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.
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With files from Elizabeth McMillan