Nova Scotia

10% of COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia stem from community spread

The Nova Scotia government says it is expanding the list of symptoms being screened for COVID-19, as about 10 per cent of the province's 342 cases have been contracted by community spread.

There are now a total of 342 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said the province is looking for community spread of COVID-19 by testing 'in a very aggressive way.' (CBC)

The Nova Scotia government says it is expanding the list of symptoms being screened for COVID-19, as about 10 per cent of the province's 342 cases have been contracted by community spread.

"This is based on as we get more and more experience globally, as well as in Canada, understanding what are the symptoms," Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer, said during a press conference on Wednesday.

In a press release, the province says 32 new cases were identified on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the union representing Halifax Transit workers confirmed a bus driver tested positive for COVID-19.

The government says it has also expanded the list of symptoms being screened for COVID-19. They are:

  • Fever.
  • New or worsening cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny nose.
  • Headache.

If you have two or more of those symptoms, visit 811's website to determine if you should call 811 for further assessment.

With the expanded testing, Strang assured 811 has enough people in its assessment centres to handle the requests.

"Quite frankly, they said to me, 'We're up for the challenge of testing as many Nova Scotians in this as necessary,'" Strang said.

He said testing is a key part of the strategy to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Strang said the number of cases appearing in Nova Scotia is because of the province's testing strategy.

"I really firmly believe that we have a very kind of gold standard of a testing strategy," Strang said. 

"We have lab capacity, we've opened up access and now we're looking for it in our in Nova Scotia communities in a very aggressive way."

10% of cases assumed from community spread

Strang said historically, 90 per cent of Nova Scotia's COVID-19 cases have been linked to travel or contact with a known case, while 10 per cent so far are believed to be from community spread.

"What we're seeing more recently is that even though someone might be a contact of a known case, that known case may well be from spread in the community," he said.

"We have more of our recent cases that are under investigation where it's not as clear-cut that there's a clear explanation, and therefore we may end up concluding there is community spread."

Strang said while there is evidence of community spread, it's not widespread, except in communities that were singled out on Tuesday: Enfield, Cherry Brook, East Preston and North Preston.

"And that's not a reflection of those communities, it's just an honest, truthful reflection of where this is an active disease within a part of our province," Strang said.

The Nova Scotia government says it is expanding the list of symptoms being screened for COVID-19. (Nova Scotia Health Authority)

Strang said many of the positive cases are contacts of others who tested positive. He said because those people have been in self-isolation and are testing immediately, "they have minimal to no contact with the rest of the community."

On Tuesday, the province confirmed its first death from COVID-19.

Strang confirmed that patient had initially tested negative for COVID-19.

'This has to stop'

Strang said it's very important people don't call 911 to report they have COVID-19 symptoms. He said calling 911 won't get "faster attention."

"This has to stop," Strang said.

Strang called on the public to act responsibly.

This map shows the breakdown of known COVID-19 cases by health zone as of Wednesday. The health authority says two staff members in the Eastern Zone, seven in Central and one in the Northern zone have tested positive for COVID-19. (Province of Nova Scotia)

"It's unfortunate that I have to say this. I almost had to shake my head thinking I have to talk about this publicly, but it's happening enough that I feel I need to," he said.

The 342 confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90. Eleven people are currently in hospital, five of whom are in an intensive care unit. Seventy-seven individuals have now recovered.

Premier's message to parents, caregivers

Premier Stephen McNeil concluded the press conference by noting the 32 positive cases identified on Tuesday mark a single-day record for Nova Scotia.

"No matter where you live, no matter your race, no matter your religion — everyone must follow public health protocols," McNeil said. "The virus does not discriminate, and if you do not follow the rules, it will follow you."

McNeil then turned his attention to parents caring for children at home. He said four weeks in, he understands how difficult it is to stay inside.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil noted the 32 new cases of COVID-19 mark a record in terms of daily case numbers. (CBC)

"To moms and dads and primary caregivers, I know how hard this is for you," McNeil said. 

"You're trying to keep your children entertained, you're trying to turn your kitchen into a classroom. In the middle of all that, some of you are trying to work from home. And most of all, you're trying to keep your kids indoors.

"This is a tough job and I'm sorry that you're having to deal with this, but Dr. Strang and I need your help."