NS COVID-19 Update for 5 June 2020

Daily briefing

Dr. Robert Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil began by offering their sympathy to the family and friends of the man in his ’70s who died of COVID-19 in the Central Zone since the last briefing on Wednesday.

Strang announced there were no new cases of COVID-19 in the province. Asked about discrepancies in the numbers (if you subtract recovered cases and deaths from total cases today, you get 0 active cases in the province, but we’re told there are five cases in hospital and Northwood is still reporting two cases) Strang said this may reflect tests done for other jurisdictions or it may just be that the data, which is “periodically reconciled,” needs to be adjused. (Obviously, this raises more questions than it answers but I’m having a “No-Speculating Friday, so that’s all I can tell you.)

Dr. Robert Strang, NS COVID-19 Update for 5 June 2020

Dr. Robert Strang, NS COVID-19 Update for 5 June 2020

Strang said reopening plans have now been approved for all organizations representing sectors closed by Public Health order. He noted that some sectors that previously had not had representative associations had formed them — including the body art and fitness industries. Strang said this means gyms, yoga studios and other fitness establishments will now be able to reopen following sector protocols. He reiterated that even if you don’t belong to your sector’s association, you must follow the sector protocols to reopen.

And here’s an interesting item: told that restaurant owners did not feel it was their responsibility to ensure people sharing tables are in the same household bubble, the premier said it IS their responsibility but that it is also everybody‘s responsibility so…go figure.

Strang said he realizes that some rules don’t seem to be fair — why can 20 people share a store but not a social gathering, for instance? – but said they were prioritizing the economy over social gatherings because they “can’t do everything all at once and introduce too much risk.”

He also said efforts are being made to find a way to allow families to visit loved ones in long-term-care facilities (LTCF) safely and he hoped to have something to say about that next week.



Total new cases: 0

Total cases: 1,058

Total hospitalized: 3

Total in ICU: 2

Total recovered: 997

Total deaths: 61

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

LTCF residents: 1 (Northwood)

LTCF staff: 1 (Northwood)

Total positive and negative tests to date: 45,535

Age range of patients: under 10 to over 90



Strang said all public high schools in Nova Scotia will “recognize and honour Grade 12 graduates receiving diplomas.”

In addition, and in response to requests from communities and groups, he is granting an exception under the health protection order to allow “community organizations, businesses or municipalities to hold celebrations to recognize graduates due to the loss of traditional graduation ceremonies.” Strang stressed the events must be organized by one of these three entities to ensure someone is responsible for compliance with Public Health protocols. In addition, the local municipality (if not the organizer), police, fire departments and EHS must be “informed and supportive of the planned event.”

Here are the conditions under which such events may be held:

  • attendees must arrive in a vehicle
  • all passengers in the vehicle must be from a single household or household bubble
  • graduates can be out of their vehicle to do things like cross a stage or take part in a parade of graduates as long as physical distance (two metres or six feet) is maintained between all graduates while they are out of their vehicle
  • organizers must communicate clearly with attendees in advance and ensure other public health protocols, like physical distancing, are followed

Asked (by Zane Woodford, of the Halifax Examiner) about families who don’t own vehicles, Strang said the plans they’ve seen from communities include offers from local car dealers to provide vehicles for the events.

A full list of the conditions and protocols under this exemption can be found at https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/community-celebration-graduates



Strang also addressed ongoing anti-racism protests across the province, saying he and the premier supported their message and recognized that the right to organize is “critically important” in “our democratic society.”

He stressed that these are “fundamentally different” from social gatherings but asked that protesters respect safety “and respect COVID safety” — maintaining physical distance and staying home if unwell. Strang “highly recommended” participants wear non-medical masks.

Speaking of masks, a reporter pointed out that New Brunswick has mandated the wearing of non-medical masks in all public buildings and asked if NS would follow suit, but Strang said the epidemiology doesn’t currently warrant a stronger recommendation than the one currently in place — Nova Scotians should “consider” wearing masks when they are going to be out in public in places where it is not possible to maintain physical distance. With the “low level of virus” currently in the province, Strang said this is an “appropriate recommendation,” which could change if the virus became more active.


Back to Northwood

CTV’s Natasha Pace said she understood Northwood was in talks to return to the facility residents who had recovered from COVID-19 and been transferred to a hotel. She asked if this would mean residents would go back to sharing rooms.

Strang said management at Northwood are “clearly aware” of the “challenges around sharing rooms” but he couldn’t say what, specifically, Northwood had planned and suggested Pace ask Northwood.

(Shared rooms were identified as one of the key reasons why the virus spread so quickly at Northwood and would surely be an issue were we to have a second wave of the virus — which we’re told is not an “if” but a “when.”)

Pace also noted that staff from the Halifax Infirmary, transferred to Northwood to operate an on-site COVID unit, have now completed their work and are leaving the facility. Pace asked if that would lead to staffing challenges at Northwood, but Strang said a Department of Health and Wellness team remains at the facility and staffing challenges have been resolved for some weeks now.



Strang was asked if Canada was going to do widespread serology testing and said that Health Canada is still validating the tests which can detect antibodies that show a person has had COVID-19 — or, as I just learned today from the PHAC video below, different antibodies that show a person has an active case of COVID-19.

Health Canada approved a first serological test in mid-May — LIAISON from the Italian multinational biotech firm DiaSorin. Validation (as I learned with the Spartan Cube) is intended to ensure a device or procedure or diagnostic test can produce the same results in the field as in the lab. Strang said how best to employ the tests once they’ve been validated is also under discussion — one possibility would be to undertake a “sero-survey” of a targeted population — but that it would “be a while” before a Nova Scotian could walk into a doctor’s office and get a test to see if they’d had the virus and could potentially have acquired immunity.

Compare that to Quebec where privatized medicine has apparently taken deeper root than it has in this province. As soon as Health Canada approved the serology tests, private clinics began offering them to patients — at $199 a pop. (Remember, the jury is still out on whether people even get immunity from having had the disease.)




Government $

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced $14 billion in funding to help provinces reopen safely. Trudeau said the funds would cover things like PPE for frontline workers, childcare, protecting the most vulnerable and paid sick days.

The CBC’s Michael Gorman asked the premier what this might mean for Nova Scotia and McNeil said the details were being worked out but helping municipalities continue to provide services to residents (particularly Transit, which the province declared essential while restricting ridership) would be a priority while “at the same time” they are talking about the paid sick days (Trudeau is talking up to 10.)

The premier said there were also “some issues around PPE” and that, basically, they’ll be looking at ways to support businesses and communities “living with COVID.”

The premier was also asked if the province was considering changing the terms of the short-term loans it has made to municipalities, making them repayable over five instead of three years. McNeil said Municipal Affairs Minister Chuck Porter was “discussing it” with them.

McNeil seems pretty keen on getting people crossing borders again — first in an Atlantic Canada bubble, but he’s already talking about “what it will look like to get people moving across this country.”

He said, though, that such moves would only be made on the advice of Public Health.


Daycare funding

A RadCan reporter told the premier he’d been speaking to daycare owners who feared they would be operating at less than 50% capacity when they reopened and wondered if the province would subsidize all the unoccupied spots.

McNeil said the province would subsidize “up to 50%” of the unused spots, noting that not all daycare spaces are subsidized. He also said he trusted the spaces would be used by Nova Scotians returning to work.

The province’s licensed daycares are slated to reopen on June 15.

And that’s all she wrote, folks! (By which I mean, that’s all I wrote — I’m apparently also having a “refer-to-yourself-in-the-third-person” Friday).

Enjoy your weekend!