NS COVID-19 Update for 3 November 2020


Dr. Robert Strang, 3 November 2020I’m going to paraphrase much of today’s COVID update because I think it’s safe to say it was intended to deliver two messages.

First, although we now have 16 active cases of COVID — 12 of which have been discovered since Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang’s last presser a mere six days ago — Strang says there is strong evidence all the new cases (which are in two clusters, one in the Northern Zone and one in the Central Zone) stem from travel outside the Atlantic Bubble.

Strang says four cases (three in the Central Zone and one in the Northern Zone) remain under investigation because although each one includes “at least one individual” who traveled outside the Bubble, there are other possible sources of exposure, and contact testing is continuing to determine the source definitively. From what he’s seen, however, “there is “nothing at this time that points to community spread” in Nova Scotia.

Asked how many people were self-isolating in relation to the cases under investigation, Strang said he didn’t have the exact number but it was “not large” and involved “defined clusters.”

Second, today’s update addressed “COVID fatigue,” which Strang and the Premier both acknowledged to be real and understandable, given we are now nine months (can you believe it?] into our COVID-19 response.

To underline why Nova Scotians should not “let down their guard” against the disease, Strang pointed to Manitoba, a province with an outbreak that had been following a similar trajectory to Nova Scotia’s (low to no cases each day) but which yesterday announced 241 new cases, 5 additional deaths and “wide community spread.”

Strang says in terms of community spread, Nova Scotia is “still very safe,” which he attributed to Nova Scotians’ “hard work.” But he said that as cases rise elsewhere in Canada and around the world, we will see more COVID here.

I fully expect more CCVID to come in, we can handle that. What we can’t handle is if Nova Scotians let down their guard and host big superspreader events.

To ensure COVID doesn’t “gain a foothold” when it arrives, we need to continue following public health protocols around masks and handwashing and self-distancing and regulations on gathering sizes and self-isolation.

Strang also made it clear enforcement measures will be used when necessary. Asked about the nine individuals charged after a Halloween party in Wolfville, he said:

I’ll be blunt they’re putting all of us at risk so stop being selfish, follow the rules.

Both Strang and McNeil said they understand the toll life under the restrictions is taking on Nova Scotians, but Strang noted that we can still play or watch sports, dine in restaurants or attend arts performances, even if such activities must be done in compliance with strict protocols.

Strang also said that we must “focus on the next two months,” because “what we do now will have a direct impact on the holiday season.” He said later his office is in talks with the Premier’s office over the approach the province will take to the holidays.



(NSHA’s lab was updating its system today and the complete number of NS tests, negative results and hospitalizations was not available as of press time but is expected to be posted on the provincial COVID website later today.)

Total new cases: 1

Total active: 16

Total cases: 1,114

Total hospitalized: N/A

Total in ICU: N/A

Total recovered: 1,033

Total deaths: 65

Total long-term-care facilities (LTCF) affected: 0

Total positive and negative tests to date: N/A

Age range of patients: under 10 to over 90

Number of Epidemiologists in Dr. Strang’s department: 3



Strang was asked repeatedly about the decision — announced today — to allow after-hours access to school gyms in light of the rising number of COVID cases in the province.

Strang reiterated that there does not appear to be any community spread in the province before explaining that his department has been working with the Department of Education “since we opened the schools” to put in place the necessary protocols and hire the necessary cleaning staff to open school gyms to groups like Brownies and Cubs and sports leagues and arts groups and it “just took us some time to get the right things in place.”



Masks came up a couple of times during today’s briefing.

First, Strang said he was concerned by reports of people not wearing them when they should be or wearing them improperly — chiefly, covering their mouths but not their noses. He reminded people that there is a trove of information about mask-making and wearing on the provincial COVID website.

And second, a reporter noted that Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, was now recommending three-layered masks and asked Strang if he would be making a similar recommendation. Strang said the subject has been discussed by the special advisory committee which concluded three-layer masks provided a “marginal benefit” but that it was more effective to ensure people a) wear masks and b) wear them properly.

On a related note, Strang was asked about photos taken at the grand opening of the Atlantic Tennis Centre on Monday, that showed people, including “politicians,” failing to social distance from one another. He said people shouldn’t jump to conclusions, because those pictured might belong to the same family or social bubbles, but that if people were not distancing properly, it was an “important reminder” that “it doesn’t matter who you are,” you have to follow the rules.


Border control

Strang said that while he recognized the two-week quarantine imposed on those entering the province from outside the Atlantic Bubble and the restrictions placed even on those given exemptions was “tough,” but that the quarantine works.

He said Public Health follow-ups in the case of positive COVID diagnoses have shown that almost everyone who had to quarantine did.  As a result, “almost every case over the last few months” has been related to travel outside the Bubble or close contact with a traveler.

Strang said the border restrictions are “a continuing point of discussion” with his Public Health team as they continue “this dance” between COVID restrictions and the health of communities and the economy.


Rapid tests

Strang said the province is looking at how rapid or “point-of-care” tests can best be integrated into the province’s testing system but warned that such tests are licensed by Health Canada based on manufacturers’ data which is based on testing in labs under “optimal” conditions. They must then be tested under “real world” conditions, and some fail to produce the promised results.

Strang said they are also less accurate than the PCR test used by the provincial lab, especially for patients in the early stages of infection or patients who are asymptomatic.


House (re)call

Premier Stephen McNeil got off lightly today, almost the only question asked of him, by the CBC’s Jean Laroche, was why he had yet to recall the house for its fall sitting. Laroche said McNeil had never left it this late to call the fall session. I’m going to transcribe the entire exchange because I couldn’t quite believe my ears:

McNeil: “Yeah, there’s been a few years where I’ve called the House after Remembrance Day, there’s been some where I’ve held it in September, much of that had to do with other conflicts in my schedule, So, we’ve been working hard with Public Health, House leaders have been working to look at what the configuration of the House would look like and I’ll communicate a decision to Nova Scotians, the Opposition, soon.

Laroche: As you know, Premier, we’re the only legislature in the country not to have sat during the pandemic, that means we’re the only province where hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been spent without normal legislative scrutiny, accountability or debate. Why have you decided that this is the best course of action for this province?

McNeil: Well, I think if you go back, since you’ve been here longer than anyone, you would know that the two sessions in the House, there’s one in the spring and one in the fall, we had ours in the spring, met the requirements…we debated a budget, the opposition [saw] no reason to keep us there so they let us out. As you know…it is the Opposition that determines how long we sit…and then we have a requirement for the fall and we will do that. Everything that we have been doing in terms around the pandemic, we’ve communicated to Nova Scotians, it’s up on websites, and we’ll continue to do so.

If this doesn’t rate a Sound Off episode, I’ll be very surprised (and a tad disappointed).



In response to a reporter’s question about darts, Strang said his department is working with Alcohol and Gaming, Food Inspection and Public Health inspectors to “provide clarity” around permitted activities — darts, karaoke, pool, video games — in “licensed establishments.”


Remembrance Day

Dr. Strang said in-person Remembrance Day events should be invitation-only and numbers should be limited, especially if veterans, who would be at high risk for COVID, will be present.

Virtual events in place of or in addition to in-person events are recommended and if wreathes are to be placed, participants are advised to do so prior to the ceremony to minimize movement during the ceremony and allow people to maintain social distance.

Strang said if you’re singing, you must be sure to be six feet away from others and recommended against “mass singing” at this year’s ceremonies.