N.S. reports no new COVID-19 cases, gathering limit increased to 10
18 cases of the virus are still active
With no new case of COVID-19 being reported for the first time since March 15 in Nova Scotia, the province is increasing the number of people allowed to gather from five to 10.
"Today we come before you with good news. No new cases to report. Zero. That's exciting," Premier Stephen McNeil said at a press briefing on Friday.
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health said zero cases is a "significant and encouraging milestone."
The new gathering limit is effective immediately, but physical distancing — except among members of a household or family bubbles — is still required.
The limit is the same indoors and outdoors, with an exception for outdoor weddings and funeral services, which can have 15 people.
"I hate to be a damper on these joyous events, but at this time we need to make sure that the numbers are limited so the officiant is the only extra person and if you want a photographer or a DJ or something like that, they would be included in your number of 10 indoors and 15 outdoors," Strang said.
The 10-person limit applies to:
- Social gatherings.
- Arts and culture activities like theatre performances and dance recitals.
- Faith gatherings.
- Sports and physical activities.
Strang said for faith gatherings, safety precautions are required. He said passing around a collection plate is not allowed. Strang said singing is highly discouraged because "people singing can significantly increase the spreading of respiratory droplets, [which] increases the risk of transmitting the virus that causes COVID-19."
It also applies to businesses that are too small to ensure physical distancing.
Reopening timelines announced for campgrounds
The province also announced timelines for the reopening of more businesses:
- Starting June 5, private campgrounds can open for all types of campers. But they can only operate at 50 per cent capacity and must ensure public health protocols are followed.
- Provincial campgrounds will open to all Nova Scotians June 15, with the reservation line opening June 8. Those campgrounds will operate at a reduced capacity.
- Pools can begin maintenance work to prepare for reopening, likely in time for summer.
- Sleepover camps are not permitted this year.
Two things not changing are the requirement of self-isolating for 14 days when people visit Nova Scotia, and the household bubble is not expanding.
"I know some of this is confusing. People say, 'I can go to a restaurant and there will be 10, 20, 30 people in that restaurant as long as the tables are kept apart.' That seems to be OK, but they can't go hug their grandparents or they can't go practise with their soccer team," Strang said.
"It's important that people understand we recognize those, but this is about taking measured steps so we can reopen the economy, loosen restrictions in a carefully, measured way."
In a news release Friday, the province said the microbiology lab at the QEII Health Sciences Centre completed 1,034 tests on Thursday.
Why daycares are reopening later
McNeil addressed why daycares aren't reopening at the same time as many other businesses on June 5.
He said he wanted daycares to reopen at the same time as everything else, but public health made a recommendation against it, so the date was moved from June 8 to 15.
"When public health comes to me and says the plan is not ready and they need another week, why would I go against that? That is about the safety of our children," McNeil said.
He said "too many provinces" reopened daycares too soon and "look what's happened in those provinces."
"Some of you are saying, 'Why didn't you change the date of the economy?' Because people have to get back to work to pay the bills and take care of their families," he said.
McNeil acknowledged the 10-day difference "will be long for people going back to work right away and [who] need child care."
Respect employees having child-care issues
McNeil asked businesses to "please respect" employees who have "issues with child care" over that 10-day period.
"We need to take care of each other, we need to be kind to each other, we need to support each other as our province tries to come back from COVID-19," he said.
McNeil closed the briefing by addressing people who are asking about expanding their household bubble and "get the long-awaited hug."
"A hug is a beautiful and dangerous thing," McNeil said. "Close contact means so much to us, but it is the very thing that could set our province back."
McNeil said people can "hang out" now and grandparents can "watch your grandchildren play." But to protect everybody, he said hugs, kisses and handshakes are off limits.
"Stay six feet apart a little longer," he said. "If we continue to flatten the curve, we'll be able to lift up your spirits by taking down more restrictions."
There remain 18 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, 14 of which are residents and staff at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax. There are eight people in hospital, including three people who are in the intensive care unit.
Northwood remains the only long-term care facility in the province with active cases.
In an interview Friday, Northwood CEO Janet Simm said it was the first day "in a number of weeks" the facility had no new cases to report.
"So we're celebrating that within the facility," she said.
Fifty-nine people in Nova Scotia have died from the virus, 52 of those at Northwood.
Simm said 179 residents in Northwood had recovered as of Friday.
The state of emergency declared under the Emergency Management Act on March 22 has been extended to June 14.
Updated symptoms list
The list of COVID-19 symptoms recently expanded. People with one or more of the following updated list of symptoms are asked to visit 811's website:
- Fever (chills, sweats).
- Cough or worsening of a previous cough.
- Sore throat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Muscle aches.
- Nasal congestion/runny nose.
- Hoarse voice.
- Unusual fatigue.
- Loss of sense of smell or taste.
- Red, purple or bluish lesions on the feet, toes or fingers that do not have a clear cause.
With files from Shaina Luck and Michael Gorman