NS COVID-19 Update for 2 June 2020

Daily briefing

Today’s briefing began with both Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang offering condolences to the family of the Northwood resident who died of COVID-19 over the weekend.

The death brought the province’s total to 60 — 53 of which have been at Northwood.

Dr. Robert Strang, NS COVID-19 Update for 2 June 2020

Dr. Robert Strang, NS COVID-19 Update for 2 June 2020

Strang announced no new cases and the math tells me there are only five active cases in Nova Scotia at the moment and they are all at Northwood. Asked what stage of the process we’re in, Strang said the reduction in the number of new cases — we’ve been at one or none for the past few days — is a very good sign, but what will really matter is what happens after we open things up on June 5. He said they will be watching the epidemiology very closely for the entire month of June.

Strang said while he knows there will be more cases, what matters will be whether they can be detected early, locked down quickly and kept as “sporadic, isolated cases” rather than outbreaks. Strong surveillance and easy access to testing will be “critical” in achieving this in the days and weeks to come. “We must be able to keep a very close eye” on COVID activity, he said.

Nova Scotians who are tested for COVID-19 and test negative now have the option of receiving their results by email. Strang said it’s just an option, and Public Health will still call anyone who prefers a call (and anyone who tests positive). Public Health wants people who’ve been tested to be sure to answer their phones or check their messages (the call will come from an unknown number) and also to self-isolate for the 48 to 72 it generally takes to get results.



Total new cases: 0

Total cases: 1,057

Total hospitalized: 5

Total in ICU: 2

Total recovered: 992

Total deaths: 60

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

LTCF residents: 3 (Northwood)

LTCF staff:(Northwood)

Total positive and negative tests to date: 43,918

Age range of patients: under 10 to over 90



The premier announced that the daycare sector’s reopening had been approved and licensed daycares will open at 50% capacity on June 15, while home daycares will open the same date at 100% capacity.

The province will provide PPE and hand sanitizer to daycares for the next six months.

McNeil said parents who are not ready to send their kids back to daycare on June 15 will not lose their spots and the government will continue to fund the unused spots until September.

McNeil also apologized to those who apparently took offense at his use of the term “organically” to describe how residents stepped up to provide childcare for essential workers. He said he’d simply meant that people had stepped in to take care of the children of frontline workers “naturally,” and the government had not seen overwhelming demand for daycare spaces for the children of essential workers.

Asked about the gap between businesses reopening on June 5 and daycares on June 15, the premier said he was asking “people to continue to support each other” during that period and that he was “calling upon all employers” to understand that workers may be without childcare for those 10 days.


Class action

Asked about a proposed class action suit launched against Northwood, the premier said only that he had heard about it before pivoting to thank the workers who continue to battle the virus at the Halifax long-term-care facility that has been the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Nova Scotia.

Asked about the precautions that were taken at Northwood, Dr. Strang reiterated that they built on protocols already in place for influenza and other infectious respiratory diseases. He said they decided early on to treat even a single case of COVID-19 in a LTC home as an outbreak that needed to be reported to Public Health. Once a case was reported, the facility was required to enforce all the necessary protocols.

He said that once they realized the “significant issues” that could arise from staffing challenges in an outbreak, they brought together workers from across the system to assist.

Said Strang:

I feel we’ve had a very robust process in place.

Global News reports the lawsuit against Northwood and its seven subsidiaries and associated companies was announced by Wagners Law Firm today:

The suit alleges Northwood breached its legal obligations to its residents due to inaction and inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s just tragic what so many families have gone through, and the grieving process is still ongoing,” said Raymond Wagner, counsel for the class, in a statement. “There are lots of questions about how this happened and how it was handled.”

The lawsuit alleges that Northwood Halifax’s practices, policies, and procedures “caused the viral spread of COVID-19 through elderly and vulnerable residents as well as staff, causing untimely death to residents, and harms, losses, and damages to their surviving family members.”



Strang said they’d been hearing lots of questions about the economic opening scheduled for June 5 and acknowledged that some Nova Scotians had been expecting a “lengthy” document “spelling out in exact detail” how to operate during a pandemic, but every business is different, which is why the chief medical officer of health has been consulting with sector associations about their plans for the past number of weeks.

To recap: Strang said if your business was closed by the Public Health order, your sector association must present a plan for approval by Public Health. The plan must show how you will adhere to physical distancing and hygiene rules or, where physical distancing is not possible, to gathering-size limits. The plan must also address cleaning and equipment handling and how the plan will be communicated to employees and clients. Once the plan has been approved (by Public Health and Occupational Health and Safety), it should be posted on the association website and the government will link to it from its novascotia.ca/reopennovascotia website.

If your business was forced to close and there is no association representing your sector, you must come up with your own plan and submit it for approval. Once it’s approved, you should post it on your website.

Plans can be submitted to nseconomy@novascotia.ca

Businesses that were not ordered to close, but which closed anyway “should” have a written reopening plan, but need not submit it to Public Health for approval. Strang said in these cases, having a written plan “helps you think about the risks” and communicates to employees and customers that you “respect their safety.”



Asked if the province had any plans to provide aid to tourist operators, the premier pointed to the federal funding made available through ACOA, adding that the government was “looking at ways to provide a window for some of those businesses to be able to have a season.”

One option is the possibility of an “Atlantic Bubble,” which has been discussed by both New Brunswick and PEI. McNeil said everyone is monitoring what is happening in their neighboring provinces and noted that the ferry between NS and PEI will reopen to commercial traffic in mid-June, and could potentially open to passenger traffic by the first of July.

But he also noted the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days after crossing a border which remains in effect for now (and could put a damper on tourism).

McNeil said conversations continue but “at some point, we’re going to have to allow the mobility of our citizens” for their health, to reunite families and to ensure some semblance of a tourism season.

Asked about travel within the province, McNeil said with private campgrounds opening this coming weekend and provincial campgrounds following suit on June 15, they realize people will be traveling around the province again.



Asked about growing calls for a public inquiry into the mass shooting that began in Portapique, McNeil had a slightly different answer today. Rather than saying an inquiry would be a federal responsibility (which he now says he never said before but I’m pretty sure he did), the premier says it must be a “joint” undertaking to ensure that if recommendations are made about the RCMP, they will be enforced. McNeil said they need the federal government at the table “and it’s time for them to get to the table.”

Asked if he would consider calling an inquiry into the case of Glen Assoun, the Halifax man who served 17 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit, the premier said Justice Minister Mark Furey was dealing with the Assoun file and he didn’t know what was happening with it. (It’s been 15 months since Assoun was exonerated.)


Public health issues

Globe and Mail health columnist Andre Picard, a guest on CBC’s The Current this morning, made a cameo appearance at today’s briefing by dint of being quoted extensively by a reporter who’d heard the interview.

The Coast‘s Kyle Shaw asked Dr. Strang what he made of Picard’s assertion that “racism is an important health issue,” and asked why we “haven’t tackled it” with the “same urgency and determination” with which we’ve attacked COVID-19.

Strang said there are multiple issues, like racism and socioeconomic inequality, that are public health issues. He noted that COVID-19 is “highlighting” some of these issues, saying we have to pay attention to systemic inequities as we go forward — to notice who is at higher risk for a range of diseases, like COVID and tuberculosis, that have socioeconomic causes.

As for how we tackle them, Strang said that’s not a question for Public Health but for society as a whole — what do we think is most important?


Black Lives Matter

Much of today’s briefing focused on last night’s Take a Knee protest in Halifax in support of protesters across the United States who’ve been demonstrating in literally every major American city against police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The premier actually began his remarks today by noting he’d watched the Halifax protests on TV and while he might have liked to have seen a little more physical distancing, he was happy to see the number of people wearing masks and was “so impressed” by how people conducted themselves.

McNeil said people were “fed up” and rightly so, adding that he felt the political response in the US (by which I presume he means the response of the president) “has been offensive to the world.”

McNeil ran through what he considers to be his government’s greatest accomplishments in combating racism, which include “working to end street checks,” helping African Nova Scotians reclaim land to which they have a right but no official deed, the apology to the children abused at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children and the Count Us In program in support of the United Nations’ decade of people of African Descent.

Asked if he was afraid last night’s protest in Halifax will lead to an outbreak of COVID-19, Dr. Strang said it was too early to tell, that they had no way of knowing and that Public Health will do as it always does and ask anyone who tests positive where they were during the period when they were likely to have become infected.

He said if they see cases in two weeks and it start to seem like the rally was “a common source,” they’ll take further action as necessary — notifying and testing people.

Strang said that as people come together to “rightfully and respectfully protest” (further demonstrations are planned across the province), masking and physical distancing will be very important.

Premier McNeil said he had only three words with which to end today’s briefing:

Black lives matter.