N.S. reports six new cases of COVID-19, prepares for first doses of approved vaccine
Active case count dropped Wednesday from 78 to 71
Nova Scotia has 71 known active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, including six new cases in the central zone.
The province reported the latest cases in a news release, which says four are close contacts of previously reported cases and one is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada, with the individual self-isolating. One of the six new cases is still under Public Health investigation.
Nova Scotia Health laboratories completed 1,954 tests on Tuesday. The province had previously been reporting the number of rapid tests daily, but said Wednesday it would be reporting those figures weekly starting this Friday.
The active case count of 71 marks a decrease, down from 78 on Tuesday.
"I'm pleased to see that the number of cases linked to social gatherings has gone down significantly," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang in the news release.
"This is an indication that restrictions are working. We need to continue to follow all the public health measures to ensure that this trend continues as we work to flatten the curve."
Premier Stephen McNeil said in the news release that Nova Scotians should "remain vigilant and continue to follow all the public health measures and restrictions, including limiting social contacts and travel."
On Tuesday, Strang said two cases had been identified at a large poultry facility in the Annapolis Valley, which was closing to test other staff. McNeil said Wednesday that rapid testing had begun at that facility and no other cases had yet been identified.
At a media availability Wednesday, McNeil said Health Canada's approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine was cause for optimism, and the province was continuing to prepare for distribution.
Nova Scotia is expecting one batch of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month, with regular weekly allotments starting in January.
The newly approved vaccine has to be transported and stored between -80 C and -70 C, and right now the only freezer in the province that can accommodate those temperatures is in Halifax. As such, the first doses will have to be administered in the central zone. McNeil said anyone tapped for priority access who is outside the Halifax area will be brought in to receive their dose.
The first people in Nova Scotia to receive the vaccine will be frontline health-care workers, as Strang announced Tuesday. A national committee on vaccines recommends that health-care workers at risk of COVID-19 exposure, long-term care staff and residents, and people over the age of 80 should be the priority candidates for vaccination.
McNeil said Nova Scotia chose to target frontline health-care workers first because they are the ones most likely to transmit to long-term care residents and the elderly.
"We will be providing it to residents in long-term care, but quite frankly the residents who have gotten COVID is because someone else has brought it in," said McNeil Wednesday.
Clinical trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine show it to be 95 per cent effective in preventing people from getting ill, but it's not yet clear how much it curbs transmission.
"We wanted to make sure that we protect [health-care workers] so that they could continue to care for and look after those of us who may require health care outside of COVID," McNeil said.
Cases in the Atlantic provinces
Newfoundland and Labrador announced Monday it would be at least a month before it rejoins the Atlantic bubble. Anyone arriving in that province from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island has to self-isolate for 14 days.
P.E.I. announced Thursday that its travel restrictions within the region would stay in place until at least Dec. 21.
The latest numbers from the Atlantic provinces are:
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case Wednesday and has 20 active cases.
New Brunswick reported one new case Wednesday and has 74 active cases. Three people are hospitalized and in intensive care.
P.E.I. reported no new cases Wednesday and has 14 active cases. The province introduced sweeping restrictions Monday, with all gyms, libraries, bingo halls and casinos closed for at least two weeks and restaurants closed to indoor dining.
Walk-in testing available for ages 16 and up
Walk-in COVID testing is available for people aged 16 and up with no symptoms at the Zatzman Sportsplex in Dartmouth from Thursday through Sunday.
Those in the age range are welcome if they have no symptoms, have not been at an exposure site identified by Public Health, or are not a close contact of a person with COVID-19.
The testing method will be the standard swab, not the rapid test.
Asymptomatic people can access rapid testing on Wednesday and Thursday at the Lebrun Centre in Bedford from 1:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Rapid testing is for people aged 16 and up, and should only be sought out by those who have not recently travelled, have not visited a potential exposure location and have not been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Anyone with one of the following symptoms should visit the COVID-19 self-assessment website or call 811:
Cough or worsening of a previous cough.
Anyone with two or more of the following symptoms is also asked to visit the website or call 811:
Shortness of breath.
With files from Associated Press