NS COVID-19 for 3 April 2020

Stay the blazes home

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, announced 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total to 207.

Strang said five people were in hospital and 21 considered cured of the illness.

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, daily update, 3 April 2020

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, daily update, 3 April 2020

In response to a question asked yesterday, Strang gave an update on the Magnolia residential care home in Enfield where three staff members and two residents have tested positive for the virus. Strang says they have discovered that in addition to an educational event for staff at the facility, there was a family gathering with out-of-province visitors. He says there have been no further cases connected to the facility.

Strang said they are starting to see “signals” of increasing community spread, but he does not believe the disease is “widespread” yet and said that how much it does spread in the next few weeks will depend on people staying at home unless they must be out for essential reasons, like grocery shopping, banking, getting gas or going to the pharmacy.

The chief medical officer said his communications staff are being “flooded” with “Can I do this?” and “Can I do that?” questions, to which he replied:

Stop looking for loopholes please, use your common sense.


Numbers, please

Here are the states presented on Thursday:

Total new cases: 14

Total cases: 207

Total hospitalized: 5

Total recovered: 21

Total positive and negative tests: 8,441

Age range of patients: under ten to over 80

(Further data visualizations)


Nova Scotia COVID-19 cases 3 April 2020



Strang again revisited the question of masks, reiterating that the Public Health Agency of Canada is in the midst of a literature review and will inform all of the country’s public health officers if the guidance on the effectiveness of masks for the general population changes. Strang stressed, however that given global and national supply challenges, surgical-grade masks should be preserved for healthcare workers who truly need them.

On the question of N95 masks, and the demand from the province’s nurses for the right to decide when they need to wear them, Strang said they were following infection control guidance on masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) and that, because the virus is not airborne but spread by droplets, there are “only specific situations” where N95 masks are required.

Given the supply “challenges,” Strang said — and the Premier echoed this — that using N95 masks where the evidence does not say they’re necessary means there could be a shortage in future “when we have more Nova Scotians in hospital.”


Rural broadband

Premier Stephen McNeil, in response to a question about the province’s efforts to “incentivize” private internet providers to connect rural users said 1,600 additional households have been connected, the work continues and there will be an announcement about this progress soon.

(I can’t be the only person who reads that sentence and thinks being “connected” and actually having access to broadband internet are too very different things in this province.)


Kitted out

In response to a question about Nova Scotia’s supply of COVID-19 testing kits (the reporter cited New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs’ announcement that his province may be just days away from running out of test supplies), Strang responded that the lab is “very comfortable we can continue to expand our testing.”

He said the province is testing a new type of swab — of which they have a generous supply — to make sure it performs as well as those currently being used for COVID-19 tests and the results are promising.

In other testing news, the microbiology lab can now do 1,000 tests per day and is looking to expand this, about which Strang will have more to say in the next few days.

Asked by the Examiner’s Tim Bousquet about discrepancies between the number of tests announced each day and the total of positive and negative results for Nova Scotia, Strang said some tests are inconclusive and must be performed again and some tests are done to help out neighboring jurisdictions. He said the Halifax lab has processed COVID-19 tests for St. Pierre et Miquelon and Moncton.



Strang was asked if our relatively mild influenza season — as of January 4, Nova Scotia had just 30 cases — was related to the pandemic lockdown, but said that was unlikely, given the measures were introduced as influenza season was ending. Instead, he suggested the lower numbers were due to a less severe strain of flu making the rounds this year.


Going home

The CBC’s Jean Laroche asked if families concerned about relatives in long-term care facilities should consider bringing them home.

Dr. Strang said families should consider very carefully whether they had the ability to provide the level of care required by their relative. They should also consider whether they were able to isolate the entire household. Strang said he’d be concerned such a move could put the individual at greater risk. He added that a person who becomes ill in an LTCF can generally be cared for there, whereas a person who was taken home and subsequently became ill might end up in hospital.

Laroche also asked if families were to take a relative home, would the province waive the 30-day bed hold now in place in such situations. The premier said they would lay out “the pros and cons” for the family, but work with them and the facility operator to ensure an “appropriate transition.”

Nova Scotia has recorded just two cases of COVID-19 among residents of long-term care facilities, but Quebec now has 519 affected facilities while Ontario has 80.



Strang was asked again when Nova Scotia would release its COVID-19 projections for the province (the reporter asking the question noted that Saskatchewan and New Brunswick were both planning to do so).

Strang said they hoped to have something to bring to government next week and then, presumably at some point after that, to the public. He repeated his answer from yesterday that this is a “very specialized” “high tech” area in which Nova Scotia has limited capacity.

In other epidemiological modeling news, I read this article about in in Nature that was really interesting.

And in terms of data sharing, look what Ontario’s Durham Region Health Department is doing — it provides a breakdown for each municipality in the region (which includes Oshua and Brock and Ajax, among others) by total cases, cases in home isolation, total hospitalizations, total resolved, total deceased, total deceased long-term care and retirement home residents, confirmed cases by gender and age, plus charts showing new cases and cumulative cases by the date the case was reported and the onset date.



Two Cape Breton reporters — Jake Boudrot from the Port Hawkesbury Reporter and Sharon Montgomery-Dupe from the Cape Breton Post — asked questions about homecare workers.

Boudrot wondered if the province intended to put any restrictions on the number of workers who visit a client. Strang responded that they have “robust” guidelines in place for homecare support workers.

Montgomery-Dupe said she was hearing from homecare workers whose clients were lying about their contact with others for fear of losing the service. Apparently, they are afraid that if they have to self-isolate for 14 days and suspend the service, they will “lose their spot” have to apply again when the quarantine period is done.

The premier said no one would be removed from the system for having to self-isolate, but added that it was necessary for “everyone to be upfront and honest about their own circumstances.”

Montgomery-Dupe then said some homecare workers were suggesting to her that they shouldn’t be required to do more than was strictly necessary while visiting clients these days, but Dr. Strang said, basically, that everything they do — personal care, meal preparation, light housekeeping — could all be essential to allowing someone to remain in their home.



The premier said applications for the Small Business Impact Grant will be online the first of next week and some checks could be out by the end of next week.


The virus will find you

Premier Stephen McNeil commented on google charts released today that used cell phone data to measure how much of a decline there was in traffic to retail and recreation venues, train and bus stations, grocery stores and workplaces between February 16 and March 29.

Nova Scotia’s results look like this:

We barely moved the needle on trips to the grocery store and pharmacy while almost doubling our trips to parks and beaches.

I find this scary for a number of reasons — not least of which is the amount of data google is collecting from my cell phone. But the premier doubled down on the fear factor:

I’m not trying to scare you but part of me wishes you were scared.

To the reckless and selfish, I am talking to you. The virus will find you. Then it finds your loved ones. And then it finds your neighbourhoods. And then we have community spread.

And then everyone is putting pressure on the public health to solve it, our healthcare system to deal with it, and government to pay for it, when all we have to do is stay the blazes home.



NDP Leader Gary Burrill issued the following statement in response to reports of eviction orders being executed in the last few days:

“Losing your home during a state of emergency is a situation no one should have to face. I’ve said it before, and it is at the core of the issue at hand: you can’t stay home if you don’t have a home to stay in.

Premier McNeil said on March 19 that no one whose income was impacted by COVID-19 can be evicted. A comprehensive ban, covering all evictions, would ensure that no one will lose their home during this time.

Before the pandemic many people couldn’t afford a place to live; it’s now clearer than ever that we need a serious response to the housing crisis.”

Almost every other province in Canada has stricter limits in place on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic than Nova Scotia. The state of emergency in Nova Scotia was renewed yesterday for another two weeks until April 19.


Cape Breton Regional Police

The local cops have started slapping people with $1,000 summary offence tickets:

Please educate yourselves on the orders of the Chief Medical Officer (www.novascotia.ca/coronavirus) that we’ve been directed to enforce, for all Nova Scotians to help address and limit the pandemic spread of COVD-19.

We’re fielding many calls about rules not being followed and have issued 3 Summary Offence Tickets for citizens Failing to Comply with orders under the Health Protection Act for safe social distancing, which carries a fine of $1,000.00.

Two tickets were issued to a 17- and 19-year-old who were parked at a closed recreation area and had traveled there in the vehicle together, but were not part of the same household. A third ticket was issued to a 58-year-old who made repeated attempts to force her way into a lineup in the lobby of a financial institution where the maximum number of patrons were already present.


Some people are nice


Tonight’s Distraction

I am publishing this in time for you to catch an event this very night — “Is This Cape Breton Quarantine or Wha with Howie MacDonald

“Come join Cape Breton’s funny man Howie MacDonald LIVE on Facebook & YouTube for an episode of “Is This Cape Breton Quarantine or Wha?” with some special guests!”

Tonight, via Facebook, at 7 p.m.