NS COVID-19 Update for 16 April 2020

Daily briefing

Dr. Robert Strang announced 30 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing Nova Scotia’s total to 579.

Long-term care facilities were the subject of much discussion again today. As of April 15, there were seven licensed long-term care homes in Nova Scotia with cases of COVID-19, involving 42 residents and 23 staff. (Strang noted that these numbers were accurate as of early this morning but that totals might have changed during the course of the day.)

Dr. Robert Strang

Dr. Robert Strang, daily COVID-19 Update for 16 April 2020.

Northwood in Halifax accounts for the bulk of the confirmed cases, with 38 residents and 21 staff having tested positive. Meanwhile, a Dartmouth facility, Admiral Long Term Care Centre, announced that one of its residents was Nova Scotia’s third COVID-19 death. A statement on the facility’s website said the resident — identified earlier as a man in his ’80s — had died peacefully in the home’s COVID-19 isolation unit.

Shannex has confirmed a case of COVID-19 at Harbourstone Enhanced Care in Sydney. According to the company’s website:

The first case is a resident from the Fishermen’s Cove neighbourhood at Harbourstone Enhanced Care in Sydney, N.S. Late last night, April 12, 2020, Public Health informed us the resident had tested positive for COVID-19. This resident had been transferred to the hospital on April 11 and remains there.

All residents in the Fishermen’s Cove neighbourhood have been tested and placed on isolation. We continue to monitor them closely. At this time, there are no other residents at Harbourstone who have tested positive for COVID-19.

As best I can figure Public Health’s policy on naming long-term-care facilities with COVID-19 cases seems to be they will name a facility considered a hotspot — like Northwood — or a facility where people might have been exposed — as was the case with the Magnolia residential care home in Enfield and the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish. Otherwise, they will not identify facilities, although, as I noted yesterday, many facilities identify themselves.

The Northside Community Guest Home confirmed that one of its residents tested positive for COVID-19 and died at the CBRH; the Ocean View Community Care Centre has confirmed a resident and a staffer have tested positive, and Shannex has confirmed several cases to date, so I am not sure why Public Health is not simply telling us where the cases are.

Northwood was discussed again today and Strang made something clear I may have misunderstood earlier: Northwood does have a dedicated COVID-19 treatment floor, but this is only for patients requiring treatment. Most patients who have tested positive remain on their floors but are isolated from other patients.

Strang was asked what the province was doing to cope with staffing shortages at LTCFs and he said there was a conversation going on between the NSHA, public health, hospitals and some private facilities in an attempt to adopt a system-wide approach rather than responding facility by facility. He also mentioned (again) that they have in place protocols allowing worker who have potentially been exposed but who are showing no symptoms to return to work rather than self-isolating for 14 days.

A reporter told Strang that Northwood was dealing with its kitchen staff shortage by recruiting from the restaurant sector. Strang said there was nothing to stop LTCFs from “innovatively” dealing with their problems, but that there was a continuing care group meeting every day, seven days a week, to assist with staffing challenges in the facilities.

Strang also explained that when he gives statistics for COVID-19 in long-term-care facilities, the “staff” numbers include home care workers, although the numbers are not broken down.

Some of the questions asked during today’s briefing had been asked previously — and some received no answer other than “we’re working on that” — so I’m not going to rehash them all, I will just hit some highlights.



Total new cases:  30

Total cases:  579

Total hospitalized:  11

Total in ICU: 4

Total recovered:  176

Total deaths:  3

Total long-term-care facilities (LTCF) affected: 7

LTCF residents: 42

LTCF staff: 23

Total positive and negative tests:  19,032

Age range of patients: under 10 to over 90



The CBC’s Michael Gorman asked for clarification about the modeling numbers presented this week, specifically, why the peak COVID-19 projections that showed 85 patients in hospital, one-third of them in ICU — the projection for “poor social distancing” — would be enough to overwhelm our healthcare system. Strang explained that it was because there would be cases other than COVID-19 patients requiring acute care and ICU hospitalization, and the two combined would overwhelm the system.

He also pointed out something a spectator had pointed out to me earlier which is that the scenarios presented in the modeling were not “best case” and “worst case” (as I had billed them) they were “with good social distancing” and “with poor social distancing.” A worst case scenario would have been one in which we did nothing. I apologize for any confusion I may have caused by sharing my confusion.


May Day

The premier was asked about students who would “lose” their apartments when their leases were up at the end of April. I found this a bit puzzling, because the question was not about whether they would be helped to stay in those apartments but instead about how the government would ensure public health rules were respected while so many students were on the move. Neither the premier nor Strang seemed to think this would present a big problem. I feel like there might be an issue here but I don’t know for sure. Will there be students stuck for somewhere to go? Will finding movers be difficult? The premier said he wanted everyone to return to their home communities and that he assumed all out-of-province students had already done so. I guess I will just have to read The Coast (it was a Coast reporter who asked the question) to see what the story is.

The premier was also asked whether he still intended to allow the sports fishing season to open on May 1 and he said that basically there were a number of things scheduled to open around the first of May — like the province’s schools — and whether any of them would would be decided in consultation with Public Health.



Strang was asked about the protocols around funerals and said he’d been communicating with funeral directors about best practices during a pandemic and that he would soon be circulating on national document on the subject. He noted that funerals can still be held but must respect the rules for social distancing and number of people gathered (meaning, no more than five).



Asked about “food security” (which I don’t think is an issue in Nova Scotia and which put me in mind of a food security brouhaha in Newfoundland this week) the premier said they were looking at what assistance the province’s farmers might need and finished Thursday’s briefing by explaining that temporary foreign workers (TFW) will be permitted to come to Nova Scotia this season, but will be taken to a number of large farms and quarantined for 14 days, during which time they would be regularly monitored for symptoms.

(I have to do so more research on this subject and I don’t have time today, so I am just going to leave it at that.)


Quarantine greens & beans

Spectator contributor Michael Milburn will be hosting a “Lock-Down Superfood Nutrition and Cooking Series” beginning this Friday (April 17) at 1:00 p.m.

I spoke with him yesterday and he said the short version of the class description is “beans and greens.” As you’ll know if you’ve read any of Milburn’s previous contributions to this publication, advising people to eat pulses and leafy green vegetables is kind of his gig, even in non-pandemic times. But as he told me, eating well takes on an extra urgency in a pandemic — especially when the disease is one like COVID-19 which targets those with underlying conditions (like hypertension and type two diabetes) that can be controlled through diet.

As an added bonus, the foods he advocates — beans, lentils, chickpeas — are very stockpile-able. (Milburn also says frozen greens can be as good as fresh, especially if the greens are frozen immediately upon harvest.)

Beans are actually having a moment right now. No less a source than the New York Times reports the industry is enjoying a “boom time,” which is apparently surprising no one more than those in the industry itself. One bean supplier they interviewed sounded like the farm produce version of the Maytag repairman:

“It’s just shocking,” one bean supplier said. “I used to be the loneliest man at the farmer’s market.”

Topics to be covered during this inaugural session include:

  • The Low-Carb Death Curve
  • Why You Should Avoid Commercial “Plant-based Burgers”
  • Protein Myths and Facts
  • Why Beans, Legumes, Pulses, Or Whatever You Want to Call Them Are So Healthy
  • Longevity Secrets of Beans
  • Basic Bean Nutrition

To participate (the event will be held via Zoom) send Milburn an email at michaelmilburn AT eastlink DOT ca


Women’s work

Mikal Skuterud, an economics prof at the University of Waterloo, has been crunching the numbers on hours and wages lost due to COVID-19 and posted some graphs to Twitter this week showing how women in what Katherine Scott, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) called “the 5 C’s,” “caring, clerical, cashiering and cleaning” are “at the forefront of the crisis.”

You should click on the tweet to view the whole conversation, but here’s a better look at that chart (click to enlarge):

COVID-19 impact on male and female jobs

Source: Mikal Skuterud, Twitter


Ask Angela

The Twitters are all excited about German Chancellor Angela Merkel (who, before she became a politician was a scientist) explaining the significance of the COVID-19 infection rate to her fellow citizens:


Tonight’s Distraction

Join Nova Scotia’s own Joel Plaskett as he performs songs from 44 and talks about the record with his good friend and fellow musician, David Myles.

Joel Plaskett Concert announcement