NS COVID-19 Update for 4 May 2020


There was no press briefing today (they’ve been reduced to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays) but press releases sent out over the weekend noted some grim statistics: eight additional COVID-19-related deaths at the Northwood long-term-care facility (LTCF) in Halifax (two announced Saturday, six on Sunday) plus another death announced on Monday, bringing total deaths at the facility to 32. The provincial total now stands at 38 deaths.

Northwood CEO Janet Simm recorded a message to the “Northwood community” on Saturday which you can view on the facility’s web site.

The province announced 12 new cases of COVID-19 on the weekend (four on Saturday, eight on Sunday) and 14 on Monday for a total of 26.

The QEII Health Science Centre’s microbiology lab completed 455 tests on May 3, well below capacity.



Total new cases: 26

Total cases: 985

Total hospitalized: 6

Total in ICU: 2

Total recovered: 638

Total deaths: 38

Total long-term-care facilities (LTCF) affected: 10

LTCF residents: 239

LTCF staff: 111

Total positive and negative tests to date: 31,426

Age range of patients: under 10 to over 90


Healthcare workers

Here are the figures for healthcare workers across the various NSHA Health Zones who had tested positive for COVID 19 as of 1PM on May 4. Cape Breton Island is part of the Eastern Zone:

  • Eastern Zone has 6 healthcare workers with confirmed COVID-19, 5 cases are considered recovered from their infection
  • Northern Zone has 1 healthcare worker with confirmed COVID-19. This case is considered recovered from their infection and has returned to work
  • Central Zone has 18 healthcare workers with confirmed COVID-19, 14 of these cases are considered recovered from their infection and have returned to work
  • Western Zone has 1 healthcare worker confirmed with COVID-19 this case remains active

These numbers do not include cases connected to LTC homes where, as noted above, 110 staff members have tested positive.


The Boardwalk

CBRM council held a special meeting to discuss taking advantage of the province’s offer to lend municipalities money at 1.1% interest to fund a property tax deferral program (about which, more Wednesday).

I just thought I’d mention they also threw in a brief discussion of the effects of this past weekend’s somewhat loosened public health restrictions on the municipality. Council heard from acting police chief Robert Walsh, 911/311 communications manager Christa Dicks, Parks and Recreation director John Bill Murphy and John Dilny of EMO and it seems the good burghers of the CBRM did not let their new freedoms go to their heads.

The Boardwalk, CBRM. (Spectator photo)

The Boardwalk, CBRM. (Spectator photo)

In fact, the police issued nary a summary offense all weekend to individuals failing to social distance, parking at closed beaches or gathering in groups larger than five. Both the police and 911/311 experienced a spike in calls around 4PM on Friday — largely people calling for clarification of the public health rules — after which COVID-19-related call volumes decreased for both agencies.

Dicks said that since March 22, they’ve answered over 10,000 calls, 17% of which have been COVID-19-related.

Murphy said they did not notice much of an uptick in park use, which he blamed on Saturday’s nasty weather.

Dilny said they had received a few calls.

Mayor Cecil Clarke then opened the floor to discussion and District 5 Councilor Eldon MacDonald asked Murphy if he had any plans for controlling traffic on the boardwalk once the weather gets nice. Murphy allowed as how he hadn’t really been thinking too much about it, given the boardwalk is wide enough to allow for proper social distancing and he trusted that people would use their “common sense.”

Councilor MacDonald seems to have less faith in our common sense and wondered if we should consider making the boardwalk one way (meaning you would have to return to your starting point via the Esplanade) or placing “round circles where everyone is supposed to be standing” around any of the vendors open for take-out, “like in the grocery stores.”

District 10 Councilor Darren Brusckschwaiger said he really thinks “people understand what’s going on” and will continue to self-distance, even as things begin to re-open.

Councilor MacDonald said he will be watching and if people seem to be disobeying the rules, he will revisit some of his traffic-control ideas.

You’ve been warned.


North Dartmouth, North Montreal

My sister is a journalist in Quebec, so comparing COVID crisis notes has become something of an obsession with us, and this past week found us discussing the similarities between the COVID-19 outbreak in North Dartmouth (which is apparently declining) with the one in North Montreal (which is still very much active).

Speaking in late April during a Dalhousie panel discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations and the necessity of a human rights response to the pandemic, Ingrid Waldron, a professor at the Dalhousie University School of Nursing, considered how COVID-19 was being experienced in “the Prestons,” another name for the predominantly African-Nova Scotian communities of Cherry Brook, Lake Loon, East Preston and North Preston. As Yvette D’Entremont explained in an April 30 article for the Halifax Examiner, Waldron said:

“The disproportionate location of African Nova Scotians in low-income, essential services jobs, as well as the legacy of racism, sexism, classism, colonialism, and intergenerational income insecurity and poverty in their community means that they will be more exposed to the social determinants that put them at risk for the virus,” Waldron said.

“Intergenerational income insecurity and poverty also mean that African Nova Scotians are more likely to live in households with large multi-generational families, making it less likely for them to isolate or quarantine sick family members in separate bedrooms, or to use separate bathrooms.”

Dr. Robert Strang has linked the outbreak in the Prestons to the outbreak at the Northwood LTC facility in Halifax, saying healthcare workers from the affected communities had “unwittingly” brought the virus into the facility. (Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil went so far as to chide people in the communities out for failing to respect public health restrictions early on during the pandemic response, which led to a demand for an apology.)

As Tim Bousquet noted on Monday:

Strang has since walked that comment back a bit, and now says that Northwood workers from “a broad range of communities throughout the HRM area and beyond” have brought the disease into the facility. Weirdly, he insists that the workers are not becoming infected at Northwood, but rather in the communities, even though no similar wide outbreak has occurred among workers at any other large workplace in the province.

Now consider how the Montreal Gazette is reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak in North Montreal:

In Montreal North, a culture of caring for others combined with cramped living conditions has helped it to attain the status of Quebec’s COVID-19 hot spot, suffering from the highest rate of infections in the province.

Nearly one-quarter of the more than 1,100 people infected there are health-care workers. Home to many new immigrants enticed to work as orderlies and nurses’ assistants, residents of the borough have been dispatched over the last weeks to several of the province’s understaffed long-term care centres where the coronavirus has been at its most virulent. Often they were not supplied with the necessary protective equipment. Then they went home…

“When you look at the makeup of the city, the public health authorities should have paid more attention to Montreal North and other boroughs in the region from the start,” said Marjorie Villefranche, general director of the Maison d’Haïti that serves the borough’s large Haitian community. “It’s a community of people who live in a zone characterized by small, closely spaced apartment buildings where the concept of social distancing is very difficult to follow. Even in the stores here, which are small, it’s difficult. Social distancing is a luxury.

The CBC reported on April 29 that:

On top of that, many women of Haitian background who live in the borough work in CHSLDs [Centres d’hébergement de soins de longue durée] and other seniors’ residences, according to Christine Guay, who heads Impulsion-Travail, an organization that helps women find work.

“Culturally, they value themselves by taking care of others,” she said. “They are also very comfortable with the elderly, for whom they have sympathy and interest.”

…more than 40 per cent of the infections in Montréal-Nord are associated with CHSLDs or other types of long-term residences, said the director of Montreal’s public health agency, Dr. Mylène Drouin, at Tuesday’s news briefing.

More than 20 per cent of those infected are health-care workers, she said.

You’ll note, there is no question but that the workers in Montreal North are becoming infected in the LTCFs and bringing the virus home with them, which seems to at least suggest the same thing happened in the Prestons. That said, the case tracing done by epidemiologists seems quite impressive (I’m thinking of the way they traced half of South Korea’s cases as of late February, to one “super spreader”), so maybe they are actually quite certain of the direction of virus transmission. I will just have to add this to the pile of questions to be answered once the worst is over.

One definite similarity between the outbreaks is that they have led to calls for the collection of more detailed COVID-19 data. Waldron wants provincial and federal governments to:

…collect disaggregated health data based on race and other social determinants of health.

She said this will determine if and how the virus is impacting African Nova Scotians in the Prestons and Black communities in other parts of the province and country, “as well as identify rates of COVID-19 infection in these communities across gender, age, income, education, disability, employment, housing, and living arrangement categories.”

I should also note that there is a way in which the outbreaks differ (actually, there are lots of ways in which the outbreaks differ, beginning with the fact that one is an immigrant community and one is long-established, I’m oversimplifying, obviously) but here, the province’s COVID-19 response team opened three testing sites in the North Dartmouth communities after they became a hot spot for the virus in late March. In Montreal, on the other hand, Paule Robitaille, the Liberal MNA for Bourassa-Sauvé, told the Gazette she’s been:

…asking public health departments in Montreal and Quebec for more protective gear and a testing centre in the Montreal North area for weeks, to no avail.

In Côte-St-Luc, which emerged as Montreal’s first COVID-19 hot spot, a drive-through screening clinic for COVID-19 was installed on March 30. It was dismantled two weeks later due to a decline in visits.

The City opened a North Montreal testing site on May 1.


Tonight’s Distraction

I was running out of ideas.

Then I realized I could just outsource this whole operation to The Coast which publishes a weekly streaming guide.

You’re welcome.