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Feb. 26 update: Nova Scotia reports 10 new cases, returns to restrictions in Halifax area and beyond

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A medical technician prepares a rapid COVID-19 test sample, at a pop-up testing site in the Richard Murray Design Building in Halifax Tuesday November 24, 2020. Hundreds of students lined up for rapid testing.
TIM KROCHAK PHOTO
A medical technician prepares a rapid COVID-19 test sample, at a pop-up testing site in Halifax in November, 2020. Nova Scotians are encouraged to get tested as case numbers increase. - Tim Krochak / File

Ten new cases are being announced in Nova Scotia on Friday, bringing the total number of cases announced this week to 25.

Nine cases are in the central health zone: three are under investigation, five are close contacts of previously reported cases, and one is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

One case is in the eastern zone and is also related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. The travellers are self-isolating, according to a news release from the Department of Health and Wellness. There are 35 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. One person is currently in a hospital's intensive care unit.

At a live briefing Friday, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said cases with an unknown source have been identified in Dartmouth, Bedford, Spryfield, Peninsula Halifax, Sackville, and Beaver Bank. 

"In many of our cases the broad list of contacts tells us that people are continuing to socialize and act as if we're not in a pandemic," he said. "We all need to take all the public health measures seriously even if we don't feel personally at risk."

Strang said the cluster that public health had been monitoring in the western part of Annapolis Valley seems to be contained. There has also been great uptake for testing in the area. 

Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang urged people to continue following public health protocols. They're photographed at a live briefing on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. - Communications Nova Scotia
Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang urged people to continue following public health protocols. They're photographed at a live briefing on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. - Communications Nova Scotia

Return to restrictions 

In response to the rise in case numbers, Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Strang announced tighter restrictions in areas of Halifax Regional Municipality and neighbouring municipalities. 

"We have done this before and it worked," said Strang. "We are now moving even more quickly than we did in December to resolve this outbreak. What we're working to avoid is ... situations such as Newfoundland has faced recently."

Newfoundland and Labrador has been grappling with a sharp increase in cases since mid-February. The variant first identified in the U.K., also known as B.1.1.7, is responsible for the outbreak in the provine.

As of 8 a.m. on Saturday, the areas of HRM up to and including Porters Lake, as well as the communities of Enfield, Elmsdale, Mount Uniacke and Hubbards, will undergo the following restrictions until at least March 27. In a news release sent Friday evening, the province added Lantz to the communities where restrictions apply.

  • restaurants and licensed establishments must stop service by 9 p.m. and close by 10 p.m. 
  • faith-based gatherings can have 150 outdoors or 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 100 indoors
  • wedding ceremonies and funerals can have 10 people including the officiant but there can be no wedding receptions and no funeral visitation or receptions
  • sports events, special events, arts and culture events and festivals are not permitted
  • sports practices and training and arts and culture rehearsals can have 25 people without physical distancing but there can be no games, competitions, tournaments or in-person performances and there can be no spectators
  • there can be no more than 25 people involved in a virtual performance, including performers and the people managing the recording or livestream
  • business and organized club meetings and training can have 25 people – physical distancing is required except when emergency responders need to be closer than two metres for training
  • residents in long-term care homes can only have visits from their designated caregivers and can only leave for medical appointments or for a drive

Nova Scotians are also being asked to avoid non-essential travel within the province, especially to and from restricted areas of HRM, Hants and Lunenburg counties. 

"We had hoped we would not be back in the situation where these restrictions are necessary. We understand that they are disruptive but they are absolutely critical to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Strang said in a news release.

“Everyone needs to behave with the same caution as they did last spring when the virus first arrived in Nova Scotia.”

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said at a live briefing on Friday, Feb. 26 that there have been no flu cases confirmed in the province this year. Anyone with flu or cold symptoms is likely to have COVID-19. - Communications Nova Scotia
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said at a live briefing on Friday, Feb. 26 that there have been no flu cases confirmed in the province this year. Anyone with flu or cold symptoms is likely to have COVID-19. - Communications Nova Scotia

Restrictions previously put in place across the province still remain. For example, gatherings will contniue to be limited to 10 people.

"We'll continue to watch the epidemiology and if it continues to climb the next week, we will certainly be looking at whether further restrictions or expanding to other geographic parts of Nova Scotia will be necessary," said Strang.

Mandatory testing for rotational workers

Nova Scotia Health Authority's labs completed 2,797 Nova Scotia tests on Feb. 25. 

There were 1,870 tests administered between Feb. 19 and 25 at the rapid-testing pop-up sites in Halifax, St. Peter's, New Minas, Port Hawkesbury and Eastern Passage.

Effective Monday, domestic rotational workers will be required to get three tests through out their modified quarantine. Parents ans children whose child custody arrangements require travel outside of Nova Scotia and P.E.I., will also have to get tested. More information about the province's new child custody protocols will be available on novascotia.ca/coronavirus.

Strang said he's seeing people go to work with cold and flu symptoms, but it's very likely that they're symptoms of COVID-19.

"I've been working for 20 years and this is the first year we have zero lab-confirmed cases of influenza. Very low numbers of other cold viruses around," he said. "So even if you have a single mild symptom, like a sore throat, or maybe a sore throat and a stuffy nose, that could be COVID."

He added that people with even one symptoms should stay home and book a test.

Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has completed 202,939 tests. There have been 545 positive COVID-19 cases and no deaths.

How to get tested

Provincial health authorities strongly encourage Nova Scotians to seek asymptomatic COVID-19 testing; particularly if they have had several social interactions, even within their own social circles. Appointments can be booked at covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca, by choosing the asymptomatic option.

Book an online test on the self-assessment website if in the past 48 hours you have had or you are currently experiencing:

  • fever (i.e. chills/sweats) or cough (new or worsening)

Or two or more of the following symptoms (new or worsening):

  • sore throat
  • runny nose/nasal congestion
  • headache
  • shortness of breath/difficulty breathing

Call 811 if you cannot access the online self-assessment or wish to speak with a nurse about your symptoms.

Nova Scotians can find accurate, up-to-date information, handwashing posters and fact sheets at novascotia.ca/coronavirus.

Businesses and other organizations can find information to help them safely reopen and operate at novascotia.ca/reopening-nova-scotia.

Nebal Snan is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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