NS COVID-19 Update for 6 April 2020

Expanded testing

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, announced 31 new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, bringing the total to 293.

Strang said that while 10 people altogether have been hospitalized, only nine are in hospital currently. He also, in answer to a reporter’s question, explained the nationally accepted criteria for “recovery,” which does not involve re-testing but rather the resolution of the most acute COVID-19 symptoms (fever and cough). If, after a minimum of 10 days, a patient has no fever and no other acute symptoms (there may be some residual cough), they are considered recovered.

Dr. Robert Strang

Dr. Robert Strang, COVID-19 Update 6 April 2020

The province has carried out 10,511 COVID-19 tests.

The microbiology lab in Halifax is now running 24/7 and able to do 1,000 tests per day, which is a good thing, because the province has expanded its testing by removing “travel” as a screening requirement.

Starting today, said Dr. Strang, any Nova Scotians with a fever or a new or worsening cough should use the self-assessment tool on the province’s dedicated COVID-19 website and call 811 if indicated.

Strang didn’t mention the discovery of two more cases of COVID-19 among workers at Shannex long-term care facilities (LTCF), but he did announce that what had been guidelines for the province’s 132 long-term care homes are now the subject of a Public Health directive under which such facilities must:

  • screen staff and residents once and, if possible, twice a day, monitoring their temperatures;
  • ensure staff coming on shift undergo a quick health screen and temperature check;
  • report any respiratory illness to Public Health (under normal circumstances, facilities only need to report two or more cases)
  • where there is concern about possible exposure, provide clear directions and instructions for testing and identifying potential contacts;
  • follow the guidance from Infection Control and Public Health on cleaning, cohorting COVID-19 cases, etc;
  • maintain physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and restrictions on visitors.

Asked about the status of the province’s 240 ventilators, the premier said they were all working, but he could not give an update on the status of the 140 ventilators that have been ordered and promised to do so later in the week.


Numbers, please

Total new cases: 31

Total cases: 293

Total hospitalized: 9

Total recovered: 64

Total positive and negative tests: 10,511

Age range of patients: under ten to over 90

(Further data visualizations)



Strang says guidance came overnight from Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer, that while the vast majority of people become infectious when symptomatic, some people with COVID-19 are infectious when “pre-symptomatic” and some when “asymptomatic.”

Members of the public, therefore, may wear non-medical grade face masks when out in public — particularly, says Strang, when someplace where it might be hard to maintain social distancing, like a grocery store. The mask may help prevent an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic person from spreading the virus. That said, he reminded everyone that wearing a mask does not obviate the need to maintain social distance and wash your hands. (If you follow the discussions online — I mean, the ones between people who seem to know what they’re talking about — it’s clear they share the fear expressed by Dr. Strang that masks will give people a “false sense of confidence” and encourage them to go out more, when in fact, social distancing and handwashing remain as critical as ever.)

Strang also said it is critical the public understand that surgical-grade masks and other medical PPE must be reserved for healthcare workers.

The PHAC will be coming out with mask-making instructions.

A reporter asked Strang if it is a supply shortage that is keeping the province from instructing healthcare workers to wear N95 masks “all the time.” Strang said there was no medical protocol under which healthcare workers would be advised to wear N95 masks all the time and that the  evidence is clear that with COVID-19, N95 masks are necessary for only certain procedures where there is a possibility of transmission via aerosolized particles. He did say, however, that Public Health was looking at having healthcare workers wear regular surgical masks.

In answer to another reporter’s question, Premier Stephen McNeil said that under “current protocols” the province has enough personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, for a month and more on order through the federal procurement process and “other” sources which he did not name. He said they’d received a “portion” of the equipment ordered via the federal government but he did not know the exact percentage and promised to find it out.

McNeil said he has told the Prime Minister to make “central Canada,” where the pandemic seems to be peaking (and where Premier Doug Ford warned today that medical supplies were “very low”) a priority, on the understanding that when it’s our turn, we will receive the equipment we need.

Speaking of peaking, Dr. Strang said we’re still running about three weeks behind provinces like Quebec, Ontario, BC and Alberta and he would expect the pandemic peak here to occur in late April. How severe it will be, he reminded everyone, still depends on us and our compliance with Public Health directives and guidance.

Premier Stephen McNeil

Premier Stephen McNeil, COVID-19 Update 6 April 2020


Don’t Drive, Miss Daisy

Strang revisited yesterday’s guidance on driving to say that law enforcement will not be stopping people to ask why they’re driving or ticketing them for driving (unless, presumably, they’re driving at 185 km per hour) but that people should drive only for “essentials” like groceries, prescriptions and gas.

Asked if the province would consider shutting down non-essential services like drive-thrus and shopping malls, Strang said he didn’t we were at that point yet, that we’re “doing quite well” compared to other provinces in terms of “flattening the curve” and that we should be seeing the impact of Public Health measures soon.


Border crossing

Asked yet again about people from out of province “and even from the United States” continuing to cross into Nova Scotia from New Brunswick, Premier McNeil said many are parents coming to collect their children from our universities.


Open for business

The province, which had hoped to begin accepting applications for two support programs: a small business grant for employers and an emergency bridge fund for workers, said this will now begin on Friday, April 10. The premier said people will work all weekend to process the applications.

I haven’t spelled this out before and I should: McNeil has said the province is looking at the support provided by the federal government and trying to fill the gaps with its programs.


Elizabeth Frye

Sometimes, a politician gives so direct an answer to a question it visibly (or in the case of a teleconference, audibly) catches a reporter by surprise. On Monday, a reporter asked the premier if the province would consider an application submitted by the Elizabeth Frye Society for funding to buy a facility to house women released from jail.

The premier said:


Asked if he had a follow-up question, the reporter, who clearly hadn’t been expecting such a straight answer, seemed to struggle a bit to come up with one, then simply asked the premier to “expand” on his answer.

McNeil said they understood that domestic violence existed in Nova Scotia and that some people right now were being forced to make decisions about where to live based on their economic situation, and that he was concerned about women and children who found themselves in violent situations.


Mobile testing

Asked why the province’s mobile testing units are being assigned only to the CBRM and HRM, Strang said it was because these are the province’s two biggest population centers but that they are looking to cover the Northern, Western and Antigonish/Strait areas as well.

There are now 22 primary assessment centers in Nova Scotia: 21 operated by Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and one operated by the IWK Health Centre, a temporary primary assessment center is now operating in Elmsdale and two mobile assessment centers are being established by NSHA to do community-based testing.

Emergency Health Services operates two field assessment units, one in Halifax Regional Municipality and one in Cape Breton Regional Municipality


Special friends

The Premier ended with a shout out to a group of “special Nova Scotians,” those who “show up at our adult workshops” and special enterprises and who might be feeling the impact of isolation more than others.

The Premier says he has even called some of them in the last couple of weeks and while “a number of them don’t like” the public health measures and “weren’t shy about telling” him that, they are all following the directives.


Tomorrow’s Distraction

Singer Connie Kaldor will be doing a free, livestream performance via Facebook at 6:00 p.m. AST on April 7.


Connie Kaldor