HALIFAX, N.S. — Premier Stephen McNeil blasted “the reckless few” Nova Scotians who are ignoring social-distancing protocols Sunday as the province announced a dozen new cases of COVID-19, including one related to a long-term care facility in Enfield.
“People are still driving to parks and beaches,” a frustrated McNeil scolded at the completion of a COVID-19 update Sunday that confirmed the province now has 122 cases of the disease.
“Even after police put up yellow tape, which we all know means do not enter, they ignored it and went in anyway. We are certainly better than we were last weekend, but I am hearing stories of grocery stores packed with people, groups out playing sports. You are the reckless few and not only am I upset and Dr. Strang is upset, your fellow Nova Scotians are upset with you.
“We’ve had it, we’ve all had it. … Young children are so confused, parents are trying to explain to them why they can’t cross the street to play with best friends and why they can’t go out and play street hockey. Moms and dads are working hard to keep them safe and help them understand. When the reckless few blatantly disobey Dr. Strang’s orders, kids see you outside acting like everything is normal, you are confusing them, putting them in harm’s way.
“It’s not just children, it’s all of us. We want to come out of this, we are tired of being cooped up, but this is not going to end anytime soon if you, the reckless few, continue to break the rules.”
The premier said the single most important thing that Nova Scotians can do is physically distance themselves from one another as per the advice of the province, its chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, and public health officials from around the globe.
“I want to thank Nova Scotians, the majority of you are listening to advice to physically distance yourselves. The good doctor and I appreciate how hard you are working to help flatten the curve.”
For those still ignoring the warning, McNeil said it is time to turn the province’s authority up a notch from education to enforcement.
“Ticketing and towing, if necessary,” the premier said. “I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, that everyone would listen and so many of you are.
“But the reckless few, shame on you. If you can’t do your part, law enforcement will do it for you.”
Strang said the new case related to the Magnolia long-term care home in Enfield is a third case of a staff member testing positive at one of the province’s homes. On Saturday, it was announced that a worker at the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish and another at Lewis Hall, a private retirement living community in Dartmouth, had tested positive.
“Residents and family of staff of this third facility are being notified, public health is working closely with facility administrators and steps that were put in place at the two facilities (Saturday) are being put in place at this third facility (Magnolia).”
The test results from staff and residents of the first two homes identified have all come back negative, Strang said. The province stresses that there are no cases of COVID-19 among residents of its long-term care facilities.
“None of the facilities or any of the residents or (other) staff or close contacts are showing any symptoms,” Strang said. “Staff will be put off for 14 days of isolation, residents in the facility are being grouped and separated from the rest of the facility, what we call cohorting, and they are being monitored very closely.
“We now have a directive in all long-term care facilities that residents need to have their temperatures checked twice a day and in the three facilities where residents may have been exposed … they are being even more closely monitored and if they become symptomatic we will test them again.”
Strang said it is important to adhere to the restrictions imposed at long-term care facilities, including no visitors and no trips for residents into the community.
“These people are the most vulnerable for getting severe disease and even dying from COVID-19.”
Strang said the province’s 122 cases range in age from under 10 years old to their mid-70s.
The completed investigations show that the new cases are travel related or connected to earlier cases, he said.
“At this time, no cases show clear evidence of community spread,” Strang said. “We all need to be prepared that this will happen and may be happening right now.”
Strang said precautions taken by Nova Scotians, including staying home, practising good hygiene and self-isolating, are helping.
Three COVID-19 patients are being treated in hospital and seven earlier cases are considered recovered.
Strang said none of the cases reported on Saturday or Sunday are related to the group events such as parties and sporting events that have been publicly reported.
“That’s good news, we haven’t seen spread from those large group events.”
Nova Scotia has tested 4,731 people whose results are negative, Strang said, including almost 800 tests in the last 24 hours, four times as many as the province was able to test in a 24-hour period last week.
Health-care workers, the elderly and people with underlying conditions are the most vulnerable, Strang said.
“All those groups need our help, they need us to help them stay safe so it’s really important that if you are on self-isolation, you stay on self-isolation. Even if you have just been asked to social-distance like all Nova Scotians and you start to feel unwell, it’s important to go home and isolate yourself until you figure out what’s happening and if you need help you can call 811.”
Strang joined the premier in berating those who don’t listen to what they are being asked or told.
“We have to take this seriously,” he said. “We all are at risk. There are people who are at greater risk of getting this disease, severe illness and dying but we are seeing around the world, even young people who were previously healthy, some of them get very sick and are dying. Everybody is at some risk. This is a serious disease. It makes people seriously ill and it kills people.”
Meanwhile, a Halifax Regional Police officer is being tested for COVID-19 and a number of others are in quarantine as a precautionary measure.
A family member of the officer undergoing testing came in contact with someone with the virus, according to a Halifax Regional Police news release issued Friday evening. The force said it became aware of the situation Friday evening.