Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia announces 2 new COVID-19 deaths, first case of vaccine-induced blood clotting

Nova Scotia announced two new deaths and 17 active cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday as the province began to emerge from more than a month of lockdown.

Proof-of-vaccine plan coming for rotational workers

People lined up outside of bars on Arygle Street in Halifax to enjoy patios on the first day of Phase 1 of the province's reopening plan. (Pat Callaghan/CBC)

Nova Scotia announced its first case of the blood-clotting condition known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia on Wednesday, as well as two new deaths related to COVID-19.

According to a release, the person with the blood-clotting condition, also known as VITT, is a man in his 40s who received his first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine in early May. He developed symptoms about two weeks after vaccination, but received treatment and is recovering.

The province also announced two new deaths related to COVID-19. Two men, both in their 60s, have died in the central zone.

Seventeen new cases were announced Wednesday, as people headed to sun-soaked patios and lined up for haircuts on the first day following the province's month-long lockdown.

New info on third-wave deaths

The province said that as of last Thursday, 11 of the 13 people who died in Nova Scotia's third wave of the virus were not vaccinated.

The remaining two were partially vaccinated, said a Health Department spokesperson Wednesday. 

"It is to be expected that going forward, hospitalizations and deaths will more likely be breakthrough cases that have been vaccinated," said Marla MacInnis said.

However, since two doses of vaccine are more effective than one, she said there should be fewer breakthrough cases as people become fully vaccinated.

Updated data on breakthrough cases will be available Thursday.

Changes coming for vaccinated rotational workers

During a briefing Wednesday, Premier Iain Rankin said Nova Scotia is working on a plan that would allow rotational workers with two doses of vaccine to come into the province without isolating. Those with one dose may have to isolate for a week with regular testing.

Rankin said the rollout could happen within the next month and will eventually be extended to people who are not rotational workers.

As of Tuesday, 594,708 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Nova Scotia, with 43,776 of those being second doses.

About 56 per cent of the province's total population has had at least one dose.

As for a return of the Atlantic bubble — which allowed residents of the four provinces to travel freely within the region — Rankin said it was unlikely since those provinces are opening up to visitors from outside the region at different times. 

"I don't think you can call it a bubble," he said.

Newfoundland and Labrador plan to open to fully vaccinated Canadians without quarantine on July 1.

New Brunswick plans to open its borders to Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and parts of Quebec on Monday, depending on hitting vaccination targets and its COVID-19 caseload. On July 1, it plans to include Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada, if those travellers have had one dose of a vaccine.

P.E.I. is looking to open its borders on June 27 to other Atlantic provinces, and to the rest of Canada on Aug. 8, with no quarantines required for fully vaccinated travellers. 

Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health. (Communications Nova Scotia)

While Rankin said he doesn't think there's "excessive risk" allowing Atlantic Canadians to come into Nova Scotia — with June 30 as the target date — the premier said the government is keeping an eye on what other provinces are doing.

Province to provide AstraZeneca info 

On the vaccine front, given this week's announcement that Nova Scotians who've had one dose of AstraZeneca can choose either that vaccine or an mRNA option like Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna for their second dose, the province is sharing more information to help people make a decision.

On Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang noted that AstraZeneca is not as effective as a second dose as the mRNA options. He also said that VITT cases have been reported from those getting it as a second dose.

For those choosing Pfizer or Moderna, Strang said there's evidence that mixing vaccines in the second dose can lead to slight increase in minor side effects like fatigue along with soreness around the injection site.

Invitations to set an earlier date for a second dose of vaccine are coming soon, said Strang. The first will be for people vaccinated March 11-21.

Those whose first dose was AstraZeneca will get emails early next week inviting them to decide which vaccine they would like as their second dose.

Majority of new cases in central zone

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 4,254 COVID-19 tests on Tuesday.

Of the 17 new cases, 12 are in the central zone. Eight of these are close contacts of previously reported cases, two are related to travel, and two are under investigation.

Three cases are in the eastern zone and are close contacts. One case is in the northern zone and related to travel.

One case is in the western zone and is currently under investigation.

There were also 72 recoveries Wednesday, bringing the active total to 311.

People were lined up outside of First Choice Haircutters on Mumford Road in Halifax Wednesday morning on the first day of Phase 1 of the provincial government's reopening plan. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Phase 1 of Nova Scotia's reopening plan started Wednesday morning and is expected to last between two and four weeks.

People were lined up outside of First Choice Haircutters on Mumford Road in Halifax before the business opened on Wednesday morning.

Later in the afternoon, people donned shorts under sunny skies as they stood outside a bar on Argyle Street, waiting for a spot on a patio.

Nearby, Rankin enjoyed a patio lunch with his wife, Mary Chisholm, at Durty Nelly's Irish Pub.

Lara Cusson, owner of Cafe Lara on Agricola Street in Halifax, said people came out in "droves" on Wednesday.

"People were feeling safe and confident to spend time on a patio," said Cusson. "All the small businesses are making an effort to keep their businesses safer beyond what's required. I think the public are really appreciating that."

Lara Cusson of Cafe Lara in Halifax says people flocked to her patio on Agricola Street in Halifax on the first day of Phase 1 of the provincial government's reopening plan. (Héloïse Rodriguez-Qizilbash/CBC)

Greg Bishop was looking for a place to eat Wednesday afternoon on Argyle Street. He said he tried to get outside most days of the lockdown, but it was "nice to have choices of places to eat again."

Jess Noonan said she felt safe on Halifax patios.

"I'm half vaccinated and most people are [half vaccinated] now around the drinking age," she said. "I think it's a nice way to start the summer. I'm really excited about it."

People appeared to be in good spirits under sunny skies as they waited for a spot on a patio on Argyle Street in Halifax on the first day of Phase 1 of Nova Scotia's reopening plan. (Pat Callaghan/CBC)

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage was also spotted at a beer garden on the waterfront.

Strang said earlier this week he expects the first phase to last closer to two weeks, thanks to rapid improvement of the third-wave outbreak that began at the end of April. 

Unlike some other provinces, Nova Scotia's reopening plan does not have target dates for advancing between stages. Rather, it is dependent on virus epidemiology, vaccination rates, and health-care capacity.

The number of people in hospital has been dropping steadily for more than a week. On Wednesday, there were 38 people in hospital, including 15 in intensive care.

During Phase 1 of the provincial government's reopening plan, services like hair salons, nail salons, body art establishments and spas can open by appointment. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Wednesday also marked the first day back in classrooms for many students and teachers after more than a month of virtual learning. By Thursday, all schools are slated to reopen.

Phase 1 of the reopening plan allows restaurant patios to reopen, consistent groups of 10 to gather outside and retailers to reopen at reduced capacity, among other changes

One of the criteria for moving to Phase 2 of the reopening plan is to have 60 per cent of the population with at least one vaccine dose.

Atlantic Canada case numbers

  • New Brunswick reported 12 new cases Wednesday. The province has 142 active cases.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported 17 new cases on Wednesday for 90 active cases. There is one person in hospital with COVID-19.
  • P.E.I. reported zero new cases Wednesday and has four active cases.

With files from Michael Gorman