Nova Scotia

N.S. schools, daycares closing for 2 weeks after March Break amid COVID-19 outbreak

Schools and daycares in Nova Scotia will close for two weeks following March Break, Premier Stephen McNeil said in a news conference in Halifax Sunday afternoon.

Daycares in the province will close on Tuesday until further notice

There are three presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, said the cases are unrelated. (The Canadian Press)

On the day Nova Scotia reported its first presumptive cases of COVID-19, Premier Stephen McNeil announced schools and daycares in the province will close for two weeks following March Break.

"My messages to [parents] is, if we don't feel comfortable with opening schools, this will be extended," McNeil said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.

"Our No. 1 priority will be the public's safety and the health [and] safety of Nova Scotians and their children."

McNeil said daycares will be open tomorrow but will close Tuesday.

Public schools and daycares will be closed until at least April 3 and then will be reassessed. 

The news comes after the province announced three presumptive cases of COVID-19 earlier Sunday.

The three cases are related to travel and are not connected, said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, at a news conference in Halifax Sunday afternoon.

The cases include:

  • A 61-year-old woman from Kings County who travelled from Australia on March 8.
  • A man in his late 50s from the Halifax Regional Municipality who returned from California on March 13.
  • A man from the HRM in his 30s who travelled "extensively" throughout Europe and returned on March 10.

Strang also said the three infected people are in self-isolation at home and had minimal contact with others. Those who they did come in contact with are being asking to quarantine themselves for 14 days. 

These are the first presumptive cases in Nova Scotia.

A presumptive case means the microbiology lab at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax found a positive test result.

That result must still be confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. The province has done 415 other tests that were all found to be negative.

The news comes after P.E.I announced its first confirmed case Saturday and Newfoundland announced a presumptive case. New Brunswick has one confirmed and five presumptive cases.

Other provincial precautions

McNeil said the province is implementing preventive measures under the Health Protection Act, including closing long-term care facilities to the public until further notice. 

He said anyone returning to Nova Scotia from international travel must self-isolate for 14 days, even if they're not showing symptoms.

The two Casino Nova Scotia locations in Halifax and Sydney will close at midnight Sunday and bar owners can't operate their video lottery terminals, he said. Restaurants must also abide by the social distancing rule of two metres.

"If that means moving tables or seating, do so," McNeil said. 

McNeil also recommended that people work from home if they can.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority is also conserving medical supplies to prepare for more cases of COVID-19.

McNeil said the government has ordered 140 ventilators through the federal government to add to its existing 240. 

Strang said these precautions are necessary to prepare and prevent the spread of the virus.

"We have a bit of a luxury in Nova Scotia," he said. "We're the last province to identify cases and Atlantic Canada has not seen the level of spread we have seen in Ontario, Quebec and further west. We have a chance to get out in front of this."

He reminded Nova Scotians to frequently wash their hands, clean high-touch surfaces often, avoid touching their face and stay home when feeling unwell.

Testing for COVID-19

Health Minister Randy Delorey said 811 has been receiving calls from people who want to be tested but do not have symptoms.

He reminded people to reserve that line for people who are showing symptoms of a fever above 38 C and a cough. People may also fill out a questionnaire on the 811 website.

Gaynor Watson-Creed, the deputy chief medical officer, said tests may not be valid if a person without symptoms is tested.

"Prior to being symptomatic ... they may have a negative test but that doesn't mean that they won't still develop symptoms over time and, therefore, change to a positive test," Watson-Creed said.