Nova Scotia reports 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday
New restrictions for restaurants, gyms, long-term care facilities begin Thursday
Nova Scotia is reporting 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 102.
The new cases are all in the central health zone, the Nova Scotia Health Authority said in a release. The health authority's labs completed 1,621 tests on Tuesday. One person with COVID-19 is in hospital.
Late Tuesday night, the health authority issued 21 more potential exposure notifications. The active exposure sites in the greater Halifax area are listed here.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang announced many new restrictions for the Halifax area Tuesday as they reported 37 new cases of COVID-19 — the highest number of new cases announced since the spring.
The restrictions include stopping dine-in service at bars and restaurants and closing gyms, libraries, museums and casinos for at least the next two weeks. Masks will also be mandatory in common areas of multi-unit dwellings like apartments and condos.
A list of what's open and closed in the Halifax region can be found here.
Across the province, visitors — aside from volunteers and designated caregivers — will no longer be allowed to visit long-term care facilities, adult residential centres or regional rehabilitation centres licensed by the Department of Community Services.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said in-person visits with lawyers at the province's correctional facilities will be paused.
"With input from Public Health, we will reassess the situation in two weeks. Until then, provisions are in place to support meetings with lawyers by teleconference, as was done earlier this year," the statement said.
The new restrictions come into effect as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
McNeil said Tuesday the increasing numbers are a "wake-up call" for those who haven't "woken up to the second wave."
Rapid-testing pilots underway
A rapid-testing pilot that began in The Dome nightclub on Saturday in downtown Halifax will continue this week.
Wednesday afternoon, dozens lined up in the cold for a rapid-testing event outside a building on Dalhousie University's campus for the second day in a row.
Results from those tests can take as little as 15 minutes, but are less accurate than results from tests that need to be processed in a lab. Anyone who gets a positive result from the rapid test will get a standard test, and be sent home immediately to self-isolate while they wait for those results.
The goal of the public health initiative is to test as many people as possible who don't have symptoms, said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie.
She said out of the 604 people who were tested between 2 and 8 p.m. Tuesday, they found one presumptive case, which she described as a "really big win."
Barrett noted the one positive test makes up .16 per cent of the people they tested who had no reason to think they had COVID-19.
"So, let's suppose that that was the rate of COVID infection with people in the province who don't have symptoms. That's about 1,500 people in the province, and if those 1,500 people don't know that they have the infection, they're spreading to people around them," she said.
"Each person that we find early, and we're able to tell them that they're positive so that they can do the right thing and isolate, we have the ability to potentially divert hundreds of infections at a time."
Strang told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Wednesday that he's well aware of the need for expanded testing capacity. More than 4,000 people contacted 811 on Tuesday looking to be tested, he said.
Starting next week, Strang said they are bringing in a van with Public Health staff to make testing mobile.
When asked what needs to happen for Halifax restrictions to lift after two weeks, Strang said he'd have to see a "substantive" decrease in case numbers. He said he would also have to ensure that those who tested positive had not visited multiple places in one day.
Once Strang is satisfied with the current situation, restrictions would be lifted carefully and slowly like during the first wave.
"Even if we're successful, it'll be into January before we can really be back to where we were say a month ago," Strang said.
Rental increases capped
The province announced Wednesday it would be capping rental increases and banning so-called renovictions, which have left some renters out in the cold in the middle of a pandemic.
Effective immediately, rent increases are capped at two per cent per year without exception. The change is retroactive to September 2020 and will remain in place until Feb. 1, 2022, or whenever the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted.
Landlords will also be banned from evicting tenants for the purpose of renovating their buildings.
"Too many Nova Scotians are struggling to afford a place they call home," said Housing Minister Chuck Porter.
COVID cases in the Atlantic provinces
The latest numbers from the Atlantic provinces are:
- New Brunswick reported three new cases Wednesday and has a total of 94 active cases. Public Health is asking anyone who has travelled from Halifax back to New Brunswick to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days as a result of community spread in Halifax.
- Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case Wednesday and has 25 active cases. Effective Wednesday, anyone arriving in the province from within the Maritimes will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
- P.E.I. reported one new case on Wednesday and has two active case. As of Tuesday, anyone travelling to P.E.I. from other Atlantic provinces will have to quarantine for two weeks. Anyone who has returned from Nova Scotia or New Brunswick in the past week should limit their contact with others. As well, Islanders are being asked to not travel for the holidays.
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:
- Sore throat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Runny nose.
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With files from Haley Ryan and Information Morning