All schools in Halifax Regional Municipality and surrounding area to close Tuesday
Person in their 20s hospitalized with COVID-19, premier calls it a 'wake-up call' for young people
More than 50,000 students will be learning from home for at least the next two weeks, after the Nova Scotia government announced Monday that all schools in the Halifax area will close as the region deals with unprecedented daily numbers of COVID-19 cases.
The province also said public restrictions will be tightened in regions outside the central health zone in hopes of preventing further spread of COVID-19.
There were 66 new cases announced Monday, which marked the most new cases announced in a single day since the start of the pandemic. There are 323 known active cases in the province. Five people are in hospital, including two in intensive care.
The school closures announced Monday affect pre-primary to Grade 12 public schools in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, and schools in the Enfield, Elmsdale and Mount Uniacke areas of the Chignecto Central Regional Centre for Education. A number of francophone schools in the Halifax area will also close.
"Keeping kids in school is one of our key priorities in our COVID response, but also recognizing there may be times when you can no longer do that," Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, told a media briefing.
Strang said COVID-19 is having a significant impact on the school system.
There have been cases in schools that can be traced back to the community, he said. As well, many staff members have been forced to isolate because they are awaiting test results or they're a close contact of an infected person.
All school field trips and school-organized activities that bring students from different schools together, such as sports and music, have been stopped immediately.
Case connected to Dartmouth High
Public Health issued a news release Monday evening saying one person connected to Dartmouth High has tested positive for COVID-19. It's recommended that all staff and students get tested out of "an abundance of caution," the release said.
Public Health will contact anyone who was identified as a close contact of the person who tested positive.
Premier Iain Rankin said the province is also keeping an eye on a cluster of cases in Cape Breton schools. So far, no students have tested positive and most schools are still open, but the province will act swiftly if needed.
"COVID is back and it wants to stay," Rankin said at the briefing.
Late Monday evening, a COVID-19 case connected to Sydney Academy was disclosed. It's unclear whether the case involved a student or staffer. The school will be closed until Friday and will undergo a deep cleaning Tuesday. All students and staff are being urged to get tested, regardless of whether they have COVID-19 symptoms.
The restrictions announced last week for Halifax Regional Municipality, Hubbards, Milford, Lantz, Elmsdale, Enfield, Mount Uniacke, South Uniacke, Ecum Secum and Trafalgar remain in place.
New restrictions start Tuesday
The following restrictions will take effect 8 a.m. Tuesday for the rest of the province, until at least May 20:
- A gathering limit of 10 total, both indoors and outdoors.
- No social events, special events, festivals, arts/cultural events, sports events, wedding receptions, or funeral visitation or receptions.
- Faith gatherings limited to 25 per cent of indoor capacity to a maximum of 100 or 150 outdoors, with physical distancing.
- Wedding and funeral ceremonies hosted by a recognized business or organization can have 10 people, plus officiants.
- Maximum of 25 people, with physical distancing and masks, for meetings or training hosted by a recognized business or organization.
- Maximum of 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors for sports practices and training but no games, competitions or tournaments.
- Maximum of 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors for arts and culture rehearsals but no in-person performances.
- Virtual gatherings and performances can be held with a maximum of 25 people in one location, with physical distancing.
- Restaurants and licensed establishments operate at 50 per cent capacity, provide service until 11 p.m. and close for seated service by midnight.
- Casino Nova Scotia in Sydney, VLTs and First Nations gaming establishments operate at 50 per cent capacity, provide food and beverage service until 11 p.m. and close at midnight.
- Licensed and unlicensed establishments and organized clubs can operate at 50 per cent to host activities such as darts, cards, pool and bowling following their sector plans and guidelines for these activities.
- Retail businesses and malls can operate at 50 per cent capacity and must follow other public health measures.
- Personal services such as hair salons, barber shops and spas can operate but cannot provide any services that require the client to remove their mask.
- Indoor fitness facilities like gyms and yoga studios and sport and recreation facilities like pools, arenas, tennis courts and large multipurpose recreation facilities can operate at 50 per cent capacity.
- Outdoor fitness and recreation businesses and organized clubs can operate with 25 people and physical distancing.
- Maximum 50 people for businesses and organizations offering a wide variety of indoor recreation activities, such as indoor play areas, arcades, climbing facilities, dance classes and music lessons.
- Museums and libraries can operate at 50 per cent capacity.
- In private indoor workplaces such as offices or warehouses, masks are mandatory in all common areas, places where there is interaction with the public, areas with poor ventilation, and areas where distance cannot be maintained.
- Visitors, volunteers and designated care providers are allowed at long-term care facilities.
- Visitors are allowed at homes licensed by the Department of Community Services under the Homes for Special Care Act and residents can have community access.
- All adult day programs for persons with disabilities funded by the Department of Community Services are open.
- All adult day programs for seniors remain closed provincewide.
People should avoid travel outside their own community unless it is absolutely necessary such as for school, work, health care, child care, child custody, legal requirements or family visitation.
When asked exactly what "community" entails, Strang said people should use common sense and stick as close to home as possible.
"We need to limit the virus's ability to spread by reducing the opportunities for people to come together," said Strang in a news release.
Halifax Transit, provincial court changes
On Monday, Halifax Transit announced that bus service might be impacted in the coming days based on current staff availability.
All riders are encouraged to check for possible delays or cancellations on the transit website or Twitter account before they head out. Ferry service is expected to continue as scheduled.
The provincial court of Nova Scotia also announced changes Monday. Beginning immediately, all in-person court proceedings in all areas of Nova Scotia are suspended until at least May 21, except for the court in Wagmatcook First Nation where the suspension will remain until at least May 28.
During this time, judges in certain locations may still require in-person attendance of local counsel for contested bail hearings. All other in-person appearances will be adjourned and rescheduled.
This directive does not affect scheduled or new court matters that can be done remotely by telephone, videoconferencing or a combination of the two technologies. These matters will proceed, unless the presiding judge orders otherwise.
Person in their 20s in ICU
Of the 66 new cases announced Monday, 60 are in the central zone, including eight at various schools. Three cases are in the eastern zone, one of which was identified Sunday at Jubilee Elementary in Sydney Mines. Two cases are in the western zone, and one is in the northern zone.
Rankin said one of the people in ICU is in their 20s. It's the first time a young person in Nova Scotia has been in ICU related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
The premier said it's a "wake-up call" to the younger population.
COVID-19 testing remains available to anyone who wants it, with or without symptoms. Public Health is asking anyone who has been contacted about a potential exposure, has been at a potential exposure site or has experienced symptoms of COVID-19 to get a lab test.
Microbiology labs across the province processed 11,335 tests Sunday — another record-setting number.
Testing capacity is increasing at provincial labs to accommodate large numbers of people turning out for swabs. Strang said labs will soon be able to process up to 15,000 tests per day. Those are in addition to the rapid tests that are done at pop-up sites.
Rapid testing is available to anyone 16 and up who does not have symptoms. There are rapid testing sites this week around HRM and in Cape Breton.
People asked not to book routine blood work
Due to the high volume of COVID tests being processed by Nova Scotia Health laboratories, the health authority is asking people in the central and eastern zones to not book appointments for routine blood collection. Anyone with existing appointments in the next two weeks is also asked to cancel them.
People who need tests for immediate diagnosis or management of chronic illness, like those receiving chemotherapy, should continue with their appointments.
Appointments can be cancelled through the link included in patients' appointment confirmation.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
- Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases Monday for a total of 28 active cases. One person is in hospital with the virus.
- New Brunswick reported seven new cases on Monday. There are 122 known active cases. Seven people are in hospital, including three in intensive care.
- P.E.I. announced two new cases on Monday for a total of 11 active cases. No one is currently hospitalized.