Nova Scotia

Province extends state of emergency 2 weeks; 20 new COVID-19 cases announced

Twenty new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia on Thursday. So far, there have been 193 positive test results and 7,446 negative test results. The province also announced funding for workers who don't qualify for EI.

N.S. announces $20M fund for workers who don't qualify for employment insurance

The alarming increase in COVID-19 infections is causing staffing shortages for employers throughout the Halifax region. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Nova Scotia has announced multimillion dollar grants, one for those out of work who don't qualify for employment insurance and another for small businesses, as COVID-19 cases continued to rise on Thursday.

The province announced 20 new cases, bringing the provincial total up to 193. There have been 7,446 negative test results so far.

Premier Stephen McNeil first announced the $20-million Worker Emergency Bridge Fund to help self-employed and laid-off workers who do not qualify for employment insurance.

During a press conference on Thursday, McNeil said the province would provide a one-time $1,000 payment to "bridge the gap between the layoffs and closures and the federal government's Canada Emergency Response benefit."

"The goal is to get money into the hands of the impacted workers as quickly as possible," McNeil said.

The province estimates this will help about 19,000 people.

$20-million grant to help small businesses

McNeil also announced another $20-million fund called the Small Business Impact Grant.

He said eligible small businesses will receive a sum matching their gross revenues either from April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000.

"It could be a hairdresser who's been working, or it might be a restaurant that has a large number of employees ... so we're really trying to address those businesses that were forced to close because of the health order," McNeil said..

Businesses run by a non-profit as a social enterprise are also eligible for the grant.

McNeil said the one-time, upfront grant can be "used for any purpose."

"If you are a small business that just opened in the midst of COVID-19 you can still apply and we will work with you," McNeil said. "We don't want to leave anyone behind."

The two new programs, worth $40 million in total, will come out of a $50-million fund that will be administered by Dalhousie University, the premier said. The goal is to begin processing applications early next week "to get cash out of the door as quickly as possible."

The province estimates the fund will help about 5,000 businesses.

An announcement on when the programs are ready for applications will come early next week, the province said in a news release. Information on how to apply will be posted to Nova Scotia's coronavirus website.

State of emergency extended

Nova Scotia announced on Thursday it has extended the state of emergency until April 19.

In a news release, the premier's office said the cabinet met on Thursday by teleconference and agreed to ask the lieutenant-governor to extend the state of emergency for another two weeks.

Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency on March 22 to help contain the spread of COVID-19. The state of emergency has been extended to April 19. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Nova Scotia first declared a state of emergency on March 22 to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

The order takes effect at noon on April 5 and lasts until noon on April 19.

More potential exposures

The Nova Scotia Health Authority said there was a potential COVID-19 exposure at Eagles Funeral Home in Westville, and the Alma Fire Hall.

"There was an individual who attended that event that was not symptomatic but subsequently became ill and tested positive," Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer, said at the press conference.

According to the health authority, the people who may have been exposed at the funeral home or fire hall are just past the 14-day period where they should self-monitor for signs and symptoms.

"If you were at those locations and you have developed any symptoms of COVID-19 since then, please call 811," the health authority said in a news release.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer, at a press conference on Thursday, April 2, 2020. (CBC)

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

Strang said 91 per cent of previous cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia had connections to travel or a known case.

He said there is one confirmed case of community transmission so far. Strang said nine per cent of Nova Scotia's cases are still under investigation.

"We are seeing more and more cases that is likely community transmission and that's likely to be confirmed in the days ahead," Strang said. 

"That is not a surprise. This is exactly how COVID-19 plays out."

Police enforce COVID-19 measures

A man was issued a summary offence ticket for failing to provide safe physical distancing to others at a bus shelter on Duke Street in Halifax.

Halifax Regional Police say the man was issued a $1,000 ticket for failing to comply with regulations.

Since Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency on March 22, Halifax Regional Police have issued seven summary offence tickets.

Six of those were in relation to people being in prohibited areas and one in relation to physical distancing, police say in a news release. 

During this period, Halifax police have responded to 620 COVID-19 related calls.

Cpl. Jennifer Clarke is the public information officer for Nova Scotia RCMP. (CBC)

Nova Scotia RCMP have been taking more of an enforcement approach to handling COVID-19 calls.

"[We think] the message needs to be a little bit stronger for people to understand that there are consequences to breaking the restrictions that have been set out," Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said.

On Tuesday, RCMP said members of the public had been threatening to deliberately cough on officers. Since posting about it on social media, Clarke said most of the messages have been in support of the RCMP.

Clarke said RCMP have received a number of reports from people calling to complain about neighbours violating the rules.

"It's pretty obvious to us that people are really afraid and it's hard to be home all the time, and it's hard to be quarantined. So if some people feel that others are not respecting the rules, then they are calling us," she said.

Don't call 911 to report those violating COVID-19 rules, Clarke said. She said to call the local detachment instead.

COVID-19 map

The province launched its COVID-19 map showing how many cases of the virus there are in each of the Nova Scotia Health Authority's four regions.

As of Thursday, the central region — which includes Halifax — had the most cases with 118.

The western region has 32 cases, the northern region 22 and the eastern region 21.

The location is based on where a sample was obtained for testing, not where the individual resides.

Five people are currently being hospitalized for COVID-19, while 16 people are listed as recovered.

Nova Scotia's COVID-19 map from Thursday, April 2, 2020. (Province of Nova Scotia)

Message to Nova Scotia kids

McNeil ended the news conference on Thursday with a message to children.

"It's OK to be scared, it's OK to miss your friends and it's OK to ask lots of questions," McNeil said. "We may not have the answers, but we want you to ask the questions."

The premier then offered some COVID-19 prevention advice: "Stay at home wash your hands."

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil at a press conference on Thursday, April 2, 2020. (CBC)

McNeil proceeded to name people in the community who are raising spirits. He specifically mentioned the Ultimate Online Nova Scotia Kitchen Party group on Facebook, and a few of the performers.

He also mentioned the brothers who created a weekly broadcast called East Coast Kids News.

"Thank you for representing Dr. Strang's protocols," McNeil said. "Every week you're doing an outstanding job."

With files from Amy Smith and Jean Laroche