Nova Scotia

N.S. reports 7 new COVID-19 cases as first doses of vaccine expected next week

First shipment of 1,950 doses will be prioritized for front-line health-care workers who are at the greatest risk of coming into contact with COVID-19, including staff at COVID-19 care units and in long-term care.

1 new case reported at Shannon Park Elementary in Dartmouth

Free, rapid COVID-19 test sites have been set up around Halifax Regional Municipality. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including one at a Dartmouth school.

The number of active cases in the province dropped to 78 from 90 reported the day before. The province said no one is in hospital with COVID.

Two of the new cases were reported in the western health zone and identified as close contacts of previously reported cases.

Another case was in the northern health zone and related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. That person has been self-isolating as required.

The final four cases were in the central health zone. The province said two of those cases are close contacts of previously reported cases.

One case remained under investigation, while the other case was connected to Shannon Park Elementary in Dartmouth. That person did not attend school Tuesday and has been self-isolating.

The school is expected to remain closed to students until Monday, Dec. 14 to allow for deep cleaning, testing and contact tracing. Students are learning from home in the meantime.

An update is expected to be released on the weekend for families and students.

First vaccine shipment coming next week

The premier said Tuesday he expects Nova Scotia's first doses of the vaccine to arrive by Dec. 15.

"The first shipment will include 1,950 doses, which will be administered within days, pending Health Canada's approval," he said. "We will start with front-line health-care workers who are at the greatest risk of coming into contact with COVID."

That would include staff at COVID-19 care units and in long-term care. McNeil said weekly shipments would then go to long-term care home residents.

Strang said the vaccine needs to be kept at –70 C and the manufacturer has said the first doses must be delivered very close to the storage freezer.

He said 150,000 doses are expected by March, which could vaccinate 75,000 people. The two doses are given a month apart.

Everyone could be vaccinated by fall 2021

The second phase of vaccines would go to people aged 80 or older. That age threshold would drop by five-year increments for subsequent vaccination phases.

"It will most likely be the summer of 2021 before we can start offering vaccines to the broader community," said Strang.

By fall, he said everyone could be immunized, calling it "good news." But Strang cautioned the introduction of a vaccine doesn't mean people can drop their guard. 

A third wave could be worse and lead to even tighter restrictions, he said.

"We're going to have to continue to wear masks and keep our distance from others, we're going to have to continue to stay home if we're unwell and keep a strong focus on hand washing and cleaning common surfaces."

This ultra low-temperature freezer is the type that will store the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. (Communications Nova Scotia)

He said the number of close contacts per positive COVID case has dropped significantly in recent days.

"Most of our new cases are connected to previously known cases, or to travel outside of Atlantic Canada," he said. "It's getting back to more the pattern we saw before the beginning of the second wave."

He said to keep that trend going, the newer restrictions would stay in place until at least Dec. 16. He said the Department of Labour reported "exceptional" compliance from businesses during its more than 70 spot checks.

Two of the new cases announced Tuesday were workers at a large poultry facility in the Annapolis Valley, said Strang. He didn't name the company but said it had told its workers why it was shutting down.

He said about 450 people work at the plant and Public Health would arrange testing starting Wednesday.

"We're on top of this," said Strang. 

Cases in the Atlantic provinces

Newfoundland and Labrador announced Monday it would be at least a month before it rejoins the Atlantic bubble. Anyone arriving in that province from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island has to self-isolate for 14 days. 

P.E.I. announced Thursday that its travel restrictions within the region would stay in place until at least Dec. 21. 

The latest numbers from the Atlantic provinces are:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case Tuesday and had 28 active cases.
  • New Brunswick reported five new cases Tuesday and had 82 active cases. Three people were hospitalized and in intensive care. 
  • P.E.I. reported no new cases Tuesday and had 13 active cases. The province introduced sweeping restrictions Monday, with all gyms, libraries, bingo halls and casinos closed for at least two weeks and restaurants closed to indoor dining.

Walk-in testing available for ages 16 and up

Walk-in COVID testing is available for people aged 16 and up with no symptoms at the Zatzman Sportsplex in Dartmouth from Thursday through Sunday.

Those in the age range are welcome if they have no symptoms, have not been at an exposure site identified by Public Health, or are not a close contact of a person with COVID-19.

The testing method will be the standard swab, not the rapid test.

Symptoms

Anyone with one of the following symptoms should visit the COVID-19 self-assessment website or call 811:

  • Fever.
  • 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.
  • Headache.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Runny nose.

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