NS COVID-19 Update for 19 April 2020

Daily briefing

Today’s briefing began with both Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang sending condolences to the those affected by today’s live-shooter incident in Portapique, NS, and I can’t believe I just had to write that sentence, but here we are.

Dr. Strang then announced five deaths related to COVID-19 since Friday, all at the Northwood long-term-care facility (LTCF) in Halifax, bringing the provincial total to nine. Strang also announced 26 new cases on Sunday (in addition to the 43 announced Saturday) bringing Nova Scotia’s total to 675 (466 of which are active).

Dr. Robert Strang, NSCOVID-19 Update, 19 April 2020

Dr. Robert Strang, NSCOVID-19 Update, 19 April 2020


Total new cases: 26

Total cases: 675

Total hospitalized: 11

Total in ICU: 4

Total recovered: 200

Total deaths: 9

Total long-term-care facilities (LTCF) affected: 8

LTCF residents: 93

LTCF staff: 54

Total positive and negative tests:  21,795

Age range of patients: under 10 to over 90



As you can imagine, many of today’s questions focused on the situation at Northwood.

Strang said they’ve begun moving recovered patients to a local hotel which will free up space in the COVID-19 unit at Northwood, which has been overwhelmed, forcing the facility to attempt to isolate confirmed cases on their own floors. Heidi of CTV (who apparently doesn’t use a last name?) said she’d been told Northwood had some cases where a resident who’d tested positive was sharing a room with one who had tested negative. Strang didn’t address this directly, but repeated that moving some residents to the hotel would free up space at Northwood, allowing COVID-19 patients to be better segregated. He also said that Shannex had donated equipment to establish the off-site facility.

Asked why recovered people, who are thought to have immunity to COVID-19, would be the ones moved, Dr. Strang said we don’t yet know for sure that people develop immunity to COVID-19 and that the clinical advice was to move the recovered.

Asked why sick patients weren’t being transported to hospital, Strang said that with frail and elderly patients, any move “could trigger a decline,” even moving those who have recovered to the hotel. He also noted that some patients have written directives stating they are not to be moved anywhere else.

And in fact, the hospital is actually moving to Northwood — the premier said the COVID-19 unit from the Halifax Infirmary is being transferred to Northwood. Moreover, he said that Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) employees, the VON, the Red Cross, paramedics and students about to graduate have all stepped up to help at the facility, where 54 staffers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Strang also said they are testing everyone at Northwood and testing them repeatedly because many who test negative “are likely already incubating.” (Which is another way of saying the tests aren’t always accurate, something I feel the need to note after Friday’s discussion of this very thing.) In response to another question, he said no one in the assisted living or independent living components of Northwood had tested positive for COVID-19.

Asked if the steps now being taken at Northwood a) should have been taken earlier and b) would now be imposed at other LTCFs with confirmed cases, Strang said a) that the outbreak at Northwood was likely the result of “multiple introductions” of the virus “probably around three weeks ago” and that there is “little ability to limit” the spread once it’s inside and b) none of the other facilities has had an outbreak “to the extent” of that in Northwood. I don’t know if this means other facilities have instituted better precautions, but that’s obviously a question that will have to be answered when the worst of this is over.



Reporters with All Nova Scotia like to focus on the business angle of things, and today’s question from the publication was no exception: the reporter wanted to know whether, since the hotspots of this outbreak are Northwood and East Dartmouth, we couldn’t just “contain” these “clusters” and open the rest of the province up.

The Premier said the disease is everywhere in the province and we will re-open gradually and on the advice of Public Health.


Temporary wage hikes

The CBC’s Michael Gorman asked the premier if, given that Northwood is actively trying to recruit additional workers at low wages, the premier would re-consider the federal government’s offer to top-up healthcare workers’ salaries? The premier said no.

Here’s the relevant program, it’s called “temporary salary top-up for low-income essential workers” (like they will be any less low-income or essential when this passes):

We will work with provinces and territories through a new transfer to cost-share a temporary top up to the salaries of low-income workers (those who earn less than $2,500 per month on a full time basis), that the provinces and territories have deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19.

The premier said (as he’s said repeatedly) that his government is focusing on people who’ve lost their jobs entirely and have fallen through the cracks in the federal government’s various assistance programs. He also said that he didn’t believe many healthcare workers fell into this category (of earning less than $2,500 per month) and those who did were likely “part-time.”

I will have to fact check all of this and get back to you on the numbers, but we’re talking about people earning less than $30,000 a year and I can’t imagine any provincial pol — or former pol, the kind who joins lobbying firms and corporate boards — getting out of bed for $30,000 a year let alone working a part-time job that put them at risk of contracting COVID-19 and I just had to say that to someone.


Dr. Oz

Billy Joyce, the former People’s Party of Canada candidate in Cape Breton-Canso whose LinkedIn account lists him as station manager at Radio Richmond, somehow managed to get himself on the question list and asked Dr. Strang why this province was not experimenting with hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment, as recommended by, among others, Dr. Oz.

Said Strang:

Don’t believe everything on the internet and don’t believe Dr. Oz!

Contrary to the usual procedure, Joyce did not get a follow-up question.


Car pooling

Strang clarified that there is nothing in the Public Health Act order — meaning, nothing enforceable by law — that says two people cannot be in a car together but people are advised to travel only when essential and to travel only with people from their own households.

That said, Strang said they understand that some essential workers have no choice but to travel to work together by car.


Epidemiology update

Canada publishes an “epidemiology” update on the coronavirus each day. The numbers for April 18, based on hospitalization data for 11,914 Canadian cases, answered a question I’d had about the ratio of women to men contracting the virus in Canada. It turns out that while more women have contracted it (they account for 55% of all cases nationally and 57% here in Nova Scotia):

…males represented a higher proportion of hospitalizations (56%) and ICU admissions (64%) than females.

Similarly, although people over 60 years of age account for only 36% of Canada’s COVID-19 cases, they represent 65% of hospitalization and 63% of ICU admissions.

According to the 2016 census, Canada had 3.8 million men aged 60 and older and 4.4 million women, which makes the lethality for men even more striking.


Gender breakdown NS COVID-19 update 19 April 2020

NS COVID-19 update 19 April 2020