NS COVID-19 Update for 15 April 2020

Daily briefing

Dr. Robert Strang announced 32 new cases of COVID-19, bringing Nova Scotia’s total to 549. Nine patients are in hospital, four of whom are in ICU. Strang was asked if he was encouraged by the low hospitalization numbers and he said he was and that the “many” of those hospitalize have been there for a significant period of time.

Strang also addressed the issue of the drive-in Easter Service at the Marine Drive Pentecostal Church in Head of Jeddore, for which he’d granted special permission this past weekend. Strang said he had received only one such request and, deeming the church to be prepared to take all necessary precautions to prevent any possible spread of the virus, he permitted it. In future, he said, no more such events will be permitted given that we remain at a “critical” point in our COVID-19 response and must “stick with” our “strategy.”

But Strang did exempt people helping the visually impaired or others with disabilities from following social distancing rules.

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, 15 April 2020

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, 15 April 2020



Total new cases:  32

Total cases:  549

Total hospitalized:  9

Total in ICU:  4

Total recovered:  137

Total deaths:  3

Total positive and negative tests:  17,968

Age range of patients: under 10 to over 90


Grocery stores

The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) warned of potential COVID-19 exposure at several Halifax Regional Municipality locations, including an Atlantic Superstore in Dartmouth where an employee tested positive. This is the second time an employee at that store has tested positive and the second time the store has closed. The full NSHA alert included:

Atlantic Superstore, 9 Braemar Dr., Dartmouth from April 9 to April 11

Halifax Transit routes

  • Route #61 to Bridge Terminal/Halifax between 5 pm – 8 pm on April 11
  • Route #10 to Dalhousie via Bridge Terminal between 5 pm – 8 pm on April 11

Asked if we should be worried about grocery stores, Strang said the subject was on the agenda of an “urgent” conversation he would be having with this counterparts across the country, but noted that stores have implemented many protective measures.



Asked about the Northwood long-term-care facility (LTCF) in Halifax where 31 residents, 10 staff, four home support workers and two health services staff have tested positive for COVID-19, Strang said he’d spoken to the facility’s executive director Josie Ryan this morning and the “vast majority” of the infected seniors are asymptomatic or exhibiting mild symptoms while three — who are being treated at the facility which has a dedicated COVID-19 floor — are sicker.

Another reporter cited evidence suggesting having two patients in a room in an LTCF increased the potential for transmission of the virus and asked Premier Stephen McNeil if the government would consider making single rooms mandatory.

The premier said that after the worst of the pandemic had passed they were ready to look at “all the protocols” around LTC.

Asked about data around COVID-19 infections and deaths in LTCFs, Dr. Strang said they would soon be offering some level of information during their daily media briefings although they would not necessarily be naming the facilities with outbreaks (although some facilities name themselves, see the Northwood link above or these updates from Dion Mouland, president and CEO of Ocean View and The Birches LTCFs).

The Post’s Nikki Sullivan asked Strang to explain the protocols for announcing confirmed LTCF COVID-19 cases (saying the Post has been told there is an facility on the island with four confirmed cases).

Strang said there had to be a “rationale” for naming a facility, as in the case of Northwood, where the numbers are “so significant.” He said they don’t want the facilities to face “undo pressure” from communities.

LTCFs account for roughly half of Canada’s over 900 COVID-19 deaths. Yesterday, Ontario banned employees from working in more than one long-term-care home and topped up salaries for part-time workers while Quebec issued a call for volunteers with medical backgrounds to help out in the homes. Francois Legault’s government will also permit relatives already recognized as caregivers to return to the homes, provided they test negative, wear protective gear and avoid contact with other staff and residents.

The rules for Nova Scotian facilities are contained in Strang’s directive on COVID-19 Management in Long Term Care Facilities (it’s attached to the Public Health Act order as Schedule “A”).


Struggling municipalities

Asked whether the province was prepared to help municipalities “bleeding cash” due to the pandemic, the premier said they’d been working with municipalities across the province and will “be there to support them” but offered no detail as to what this support would look like.


Payday lenders

Premier McNeil called the idea of payday lenders exploiting people’s desperation for profit “unconscionable,” which I’m calling a breakthrough because payday lenders’ pandemic behavior is indistinguishable from their regular behavior: exploiting people’s desperation for profit is their business model.

McNeil made the remark in response to a question about a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) called “Swimming with the sharks: Poverty, pandemics, and payday lenders,” which warns:

As COVID-19-related layoffs affect workers across the country, Canada’s payday loan companies will see windfall profits at the expense of low- and moderate-income people. This new report details how a lack of government oversight allows payday lenders to prey on the most economically vulnerable households in Canada. The report details the provincial variance in annual interest rates on these quick loans, with rates as high as 391% and 652% in some provinces.

Payday lenders in Nova Scotia charge some of the highest interest rates in the country:

Source: "Swimming with the Sharks," CCPA

Source: “Swimming with the Sharks,” CCPA

I’ve written quite extensively about payday lenders but more importantly, about alternatives to them, which are key if we’re to put payday lenders where they belong — that is, out of business. Here’s a piece that explores a number of other options and here’s a piece about a specific option that was proposed in 2018 by the NS NDP.

McNeil noted that this was the second time the reporter had asked him about payday loans and said that he’d looked into possibilities for the government to tighten up the regulations but if there was a concrete proposal to do so, I missed it. I hope the reporter (whose name escapes me now) asks again.


Tonight’s Distraction

The Montreal Symphony Orchestra is posting weekly concert rebroadcasts. The featured performance now was recorded on 19 March 2019 at the Philharmonie de Paris:

Debussy / Wagne

Orchestre symphonique de Montréal

Kent Nagano,  conductor
Marie-Nicole Lemieux, mezzo-Soprano

Debussy, Jeux, Poème dansé – 17 min
Wagner, Wesendonck-Lieder – 21 min

Production Electron Libre en coproduction avec Mezzo – 2019 – réalisé par Olivier Simonnet