NS COVID-Update for 27 May 2020

Daily briefing

Dr. Robert Strang announced one new case of COVID-19 today. He also explained a discrepancy in the number of recovered cases, which went from 976 yesterday to 975 today, saying it reflected their ongoing efforts to review and update their data.

The new case involved a resident at Northwood.

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, NS COVID-19 Update for 27 May 2020

Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, NS COVID-19 Update for 27 May 2020


Total new cases: 2

Total cases: 1,053

Total hospitalized: 7

Total in ICU: 3

Total recovered: 975

Total deaths: 59

Total long-term-care facilities (LTCF) affected: 1

LTCF residents: 12 (Northwood)

LTCF staff: 4 (Northwood)

Total positive and negative tests to date: 40,494

Age range of patients: under 10 to over 90


June 5

Premier Stephen McNeil announced the following sectors — all of which were closed under the Public Health order — will be permitted to open on June 5:

  • restaurants for dine-in, as well as takeout and delivery
  • bars, wineries, distilleries and taprooms
  • personal services, such as hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons and body art establishments
  • fitness facilities, such as gyms, yoga studios and climbing facilities
  • veterinarians

Lounges, for reasons not explained, will not be permitted to open but some health providers will, including:

  • dentistry and other self-regulated health professions such as optometry, chiropractic and physiotherapy
  • unregulated health professions such as massage therapy, podiatry and naturopathy

These providers must follow the protocols in their colleges’ and associations’ plans, as approved by public health.

At the same time:

Existing public health directives around physical distancing and gathering limits remain in place. People must keep two metres apart and not gather in groups of more than five.

Strang did not go into detail as to how any of this will work, leaving the responsibility of explaining the rules to the business associations and individual businesses (although he said the government was prepared to do some unspecified thing to help them get their messages out).

As best I can tell, the businesses now reopening will basically have to respect the same rules that businesses that have not closed have had to respect all along. These are found on the government’s COVID website:

Any workplace, business or organization that isn’t deemed essential (or not already required to be closed) can remain open as long as a 2 metre (6 foot) distance can be maintained. See social distancing guidelines.

Essential services must enforce social distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) between people.

If you can’t maintain social distancing because of the physical size of your business, you must limit the number of customers or clients to no more than 5 people at a time.

Strang went into a little more detail on the subject of restaurants, saying they will be allowed to operate at 50% of capacity if they can maintain a six-foot distance between tables, otherwise they will have to respect whatever the gathering limit is as of June 5.

From what I can understand, households that share a bubble could sit together at a table without worrying about social distancing or gathering size. (Although, are restaurants supposed to verify that people are bubbling together? That could get uncomfortable.) As for people who do not share a household, it sounds like they would have to maintain social distance, which in most of the restaurants I used to frequent, would surely mean sitting at different tables.

Quite frankly, as the premier would say, I don’t feel comfortable explaining any of this and I would hate to get any of you tossed out of your favorite restaurant on your first visit back, so I’m going to wait to see what the various business associations have to say.


Sick days

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he would work with the provinces to ensure Canadians received 10 days of paid sick leave, but he will have his work cut out for him in this province where, by law, people are entitled to three days of unpaid sick leave, and our premier’s idea of expanding this is to allow the federal government to cover three days’ paid leave (specifically to allow people to get tested for COVID and wait for results) through its Employment Insurance program.

Then, anyone wanting a full 10 days’ sick leave can negotiate it through their collective bargaining process.

If you do not belong to a union, I guess you’re out of luck — even if you are a hero of the pandemic.



Strang continues to receive and evaluate reopening plans — he said just prior to today’s briefing he’d received one from the association representing the province’s body artists — and the province continues to work with licensed daycares on their plan, although the target date for their reopening has been pushed back from June 8 to June 15.


Social gatherings

Asked why a retail store might be allowed to let 20 or more people inside but a church couldn’t, Strang said it’s not just about the number of people but the “type of activity.” He said social gatherings have “very different dynamics” than retail stores, in addition to which there is an “economic argument” around stores.

That said, Strang said they would be “talking in the very near future about the number of people who can get together and how they can get together.”



Strang was asked “Do you stand by what happened at Northwood?” in light of the Canadian military report into the brutal conditions in several Ontarian long-term-care facilities which included criticism about patients who had tested positive being housed with patients who had tested negative.

Strang said that Northwood was well aware of the necessity of separating people and did so as much as possible within “their infrastructure” to do so. As people recovered, he said, they were moved off-site, freeing up space in the facility and allowing them to move people into single rooms. He also said it should be acknowledged that where people were forced to share a room, “infection control steps” were in place.

Asked (twice) if he would call a public inquiry into the Northwood outbreak, the premier did not flat out say no but he most definitely did not say yes, instead saying there would be a “review” of what had happened at Northwood with “all our partners.” He said that they remain focused on dealing with outbreak at Northwood and getting those who choose to leave the facility home “in a safe manner.” He also said that the province has been moving away from double rooms in all new LTC facility designs.



The premier announced two new funding programs today.

The first is a $25 million Small Business Reopening and Support Grant. McNeil said $20 million of that money comes from two earlier funds for which they didn’t see the uptake they’d expected, namely:

  • a $20 million Worker Emergency Bridge Fund to help the self-employed and those laid-off workers who do not qualify for Employment Insurance. Government will provide a one-time, $1,000 payment, to bridge the gap between layoffs and closures and the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit;
  •  $20 million to fund a new program — the Small Business Impact Grant. Eligible small businesses and social enterprises will receive a grant of 15% of their gross revenues — either from April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000. The grant may be used for any purpose necessary.

Eligible “businesses, non-profits, charities and social enterprises” can apply for a $5,000 Small Business Reopening and Support Grant and a $1,500 voucher to “access consulting services” for advice on reopening. (The rules are barely dry on the paper and there are already consultants ready to help you follow them. You gotta love this province).

If your business qualified for a Small Business Impact Grant, the province will get in touch with you about this latest offer.



The premier announced $230 million in infrastructure spending which, in answer to a reporter’s question, he specified was in addition to the $1 billion in infrastructure spending announced already.

He said the money would go to a grab-bag of more than 200 “shovel-ready” projects from the province’s five-year capital plan including:

  • expansion of the gravel road program
  • replacement of at least six bridges, including Dillmans, Meagher’s Grant, HRM; Hydes, Lantz, Hants Co.; Clam Harbour, Clam Harbour, HRM; Capt. Gillis, near Port Hood in Inverness Co.; Nelson’s, Margaree, Inverness Co.; Mira Gut, Cape Breton Regional Municipality
  • renovations and upgrades for the Halifax provincial court
  • school repairs, including roofs, windows and mechanical upgrades
  • provincial waterfronts
  • provincial museum upgrades, including increased funding for Perkins House, Liverpool
  • four provincially owned small option homes
  • dyke rehabilitation at locations around the province
  • campus upgrades to the NSCC campuses

McNeil said the tenders will go out immediately and the projects are expected to create 1,500 direct and 520 indirect jobs over the current fiscal year. He also said many of the projects are being funded with an eye toward “next year’s tourism season,” although he allowed under questioning there might not be much of a tourism season next year, but said these investments will be “attractions” we can build on “for decades to come.”

And that’s all I’ve got, folks.