NS COVID-19 Update for 31 March 2020


Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health confirmed, 20 new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Tuesday, bringing our total to 147.

Although community spread has been concluded as the cause of one case, most of the confirmed cases — 96%, according to Strang — have been related to travel or a known case.

But this needs some further consideration.

Dr. Robert Strang

Dr. Robert Strang and his tie, Coronavirus Update, 31 March 2020

CBC reporter Roberto Rocha published an excellent piece on pandemic data today that is helping me think about Nova Scotia’s statistics.

He spoke with Greta Bauer, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Western University, who addressed the notion — which we’ve been entertaining since we discovered our first case in this province — that all our cases until very recently were travel-related or connected to known cases. Bauer says:

That’s not a finding; that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What she means is that by focusing on testing on people who have traveled and those in contact with people who have traveled, we’ll obviously find more cases related to such people. Bauer also reminds us that today’s totals offer a glimpse into the past, not the present, because they represent people who contracted the disease as long as 14 days ago.

I recommend the article and also the video it links to from the Kahn Academy.

Strang says there is one case that they’ve concluded must have resulted from community transmission and a “handful” still under investigation. In response to a reporter’s question, he said they haven’t resorted to “geomapping” yet to trace the movements of confirmed cases. She then asked whether people should track their own movements, in case they were diagnosed, and he thought that was a good idea. (Apparently, if you test positive, Public Health will want to know where you’ve been for the past 14 days.)

I’m not sure how I feel about this, on the one hand, I can see why it might be practical, but on the other, I find it kind of dystopian to be asked by the government to track myself. I’ll have to give it some thought.

There are now four healthcare workers who have tested positive for COVID-19, but three of these are the long-term care facility members we’ve already been told about and none is involved in front-line care.

The two residents of long-term care facilities who’ve tested positive are in isolation. I noted that the upper end of the age range of confirmed cases has changed from “mid-’70s” to “over 80.” Strang noted that such facilities have “outbreak” plans in place already for respiratory diseases like seasonal influenza.

No new stats on hospitalizations and recoveries were offered so I have left yesterday’s numbers in place.

Premier Stephen McNeil said the State of Emergency — which, by law, lasts 14 days unless extended or terminated early — will be extended beyond April 5.


Numbers, please

Here are the states presented on Tuesday:

Total new cases: 20

Total cases: 147

Total hospitalized: 4

Total recovered: 10

Total positive and negative tests: 5,910 

Age range of patients: under ten to over 80

(Note: Dr. Strang said the province will begin breaking down COVID-19 cases by health zone, information that will be made available in the form of a map on the province’s COVID-19 website.)



Strang made a point of warning Nova Scotians about hucksters, con artists and flimflam men (my terms, not his) offering products to “boost your immune system 200%” or cure COVID-19.

While serious work is being done to find a vaccine (including right here in Nova Scotia) and experiments are underway with existing drugs, the people conducting these experiments are unlikely to call you up or email you and offer to sell you something they’ve discovered. Don’t be fooled!

This applies to people trying to sell you masks and gloves, too.

Strang urged everyone to make the government’s COVID-19 information site their “source of truth.”



Strang says the province has “enough” personal protection equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers for now, but there are “areas of concern” (he didn’t elaborate) and the province has been working within the federal government’s procurement system while also working with Nova Scotia Business Inc to look at the capacity of Nova Scotia businesses to produce PPE.

In response to a reporter’s question about the need to wear gloves, Strang said that it’s not necessary and that people who wear gloves are probably not washing their hands enough and may develop a “false sense of security” because of them. Instead, he recommending doing what you have to do — touching the ATM pad or the card machine (but not your face) — and then washing your hands really well when you get home.

If you do wear gloves, it is DEFINITELY not necessary that you throw them on the ground when you’re done with them.

Medical glove lying on ground.

I did not discard this glove.


Rent deferral

Asked about a mall owner who apparently told his tenants he wasn’t deferring anyone’s rent because he couldn’t defer everyone’s (because some businesses didn’t meet the criteria for the province’s COVID-19 Rent Deferral Support Program), Premier Stephen McNeil said he found that “quite frankly” unreasonable and called on all landlords  to work with their tenants.

He also said that his government is “putting the final touches on some additional programs” (which makes them sound like craft projects — I expect the relevant documents to be covered in sparkles and heart stickers) and that businesses who take advantage of the rent deferral program can also apply for these as-yet-to-be-revealed programs.

Tim Bousquet just noted on Twitter that the COVID-19 Rent Deferral Support Program (CRDSP) for small businesses is “supported by an indemnity fund totaling $5 million” which, he says, is tiny given there are 30,00 small-to-medium-sized businesses in this province. I am going to trust him on that figure because I haven’t got time to look it up.



Dr. Strang said hiding in your summer cottage might not be a bad idea if you are “self-sufficient” but he warned vulnerable people to consider that if they were to become sick, accessing medical care could be a challenge.

As for out-of-province or country cottagers, Strang said they should not be coming to Nova Scotia at this time. The premier says when such people are stopped at the border, they are advised to go home but are permitted to come in if they agree to self-isolate.


Shared custody

Parents sharing custody of children should check with their lawyers, said Strang, but from a public health perspective, it’s best if the children stay in one place.

“Every time the child is moving back and forth, we’re increasing the chance of bringing the virus between two homes,” Strang said.

NS Premier Stephen McNeil

NS Premier Stephen McNeil, Coronavirus Update, 31 March 2020


Spare a thought

It struck me that the province’s plan to keep students and teachers safe while allowing them to continue their teaching and learning from home depends upon placing at least two groups of people at risk of catching (or spreading) the virus.

First, the SALTWIRE network will deliver education packages to students without internet access via its flyer delivery service.

Why flyer delivery is considered an essential service at a time when people are actively discouraged from shopping (and many stores are closed) is beyond me. The mail service is operating and mail carriers are both better paid and better protected  than the flyer deliverers, why not simply mail the packages? If it’s really down to cheapness, it’s rotten. (At the very least, they should pay the fly delivery people appropriately and do all they can to keep them safe.)

Second, Education Minister Zach Churchill says his department is working with the Health Department to determine:

…if educational assistants can provide respite for parents who need it. The minister said officials want to hear from parents, students and teachers as the plan progresses.

Educational Program Assistants or EPAs, work with special needs students (and are paid less than teachers). Why would the province think it a good idea to send them into homes where they could either contract or spread COVID-19?

This makes no sense to me and I hope he gets an earful from the parents AND the EPAs (although I notice the latter are not on the list of people he wants to hear from.)


Tomorrow’s Distraction

Ashley MacIsaac and Guests Quarantine Ceilidh with Chris Babineau, Maynard Morrison, Bette MacDonald and more!

Time: 8:30 p.m. AST.

“Get your toilet paper and your bingo markers out.”

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