NS COVID-19 Update for 4 December 2020


Nova Scotia announced 15 new cases of COVID-19, two of which are school based (Citadel High School in Halifax and Park West School in Clayton Park). The schools in question have been closed for deep cleaning and contact tracing. Other schools that have been closed due to COVID will be re-opening on Monday.

Of the new cases, 11 are in the Central Zone; three are in the Northern Zone (two are related to known cases and one is under investigation); and one is in the Western Zone and is related to travel outside the Atlantic Provinces.


Dr. Robert Strang

Dr. Robert Strang

Strang said that due to the ongoing double-digit daily case numbers and high numbers of close-contacts per case (he put this at eight during the last briefing) tighter restrictions will remain in place in Metro HRM and Hants County until December 16, that is, a week beyond the original two-week deadline. Likewise, travel into and out of this area is to be for essential purposes only, including school, work, medical appointments and necessary legal reasons, like child custody arrangements.

Strang says their modeling suggests we’ll continue to see double-digit increases in cases for the next several days, and that Public Health currently has 1,178 open investigations.

“The more we buckle down and stay tight right now and for the next couple of weeks,” said Strang, the better the chance of a “slight relaxation” of restrictions for the holidays.

Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil announced a new a testing strategy for asymptomatic rotational workers, who are subject to a modified 14-day self-isolation period each time they return to the province. Under this (voluntary) program, rotational workers are asked to book an appointment for a COVID test on Day 6, 7 or 8 of their isolation period. Public Health says:

Testing at this time is late enough to increase the chances of detecting the virus if the worker was exposed while away, and still early enough to isolate household contacts before they spread the virus to others.

Workers must still complete their full, 14 days of modified self-isolation, even if they test negative. Strang said it was “disheartening” to hear stories of rotational workers being “ostracized” in their home communities, and called on people to recognize that their “modified isolation” protocol means they needn’t self-isolate from people in their households and can go for a walk, go through a drive-thru, drop kids off at school or do contactless grocery pickups.

Strang said asymptomatic testing of bar workers and patrons in the Halifax area is over and almost 12,000 people were tested, the vast majority of them testing negative.

Public Health will continue testing of asymptomatic people aged 16 to 35 at the Zatzman Sportsplex in Dartmouth, (Central Zone), where no appointment is necessary. It will also roll out such testing across the province. Information on how to get tested outside of the Central Zone will be made available on Monday, but it will be recommended for anyone in the 16 to 35 age group who has either attended an indoor social gathering without physical distancing in the last two weeks (especially if numbers exceeded the gathering limits for the community) or has “a large number of regular social interactions with different groups without physical distancing.” Strang stressed that no one will be asked why they’re getting tested or fined for breaking the rules. The accompanying press release states:

The number of tests that can be done is based on the need to prioritize testing of people who have symptoms and close contacts of known cases. Not everyone who comes forward for an asymptomatic test will necessarily get one.

Strang encouraged everyone getting tested to supply their email which will be used to deliver negative results.

Rapid testing at pop-up test sites will also continue “in different locations around the province.” Anyone 16 or older is welcome to get tested if they do not have symptoms and are not at higher risk of exposure,” meaning they are not a close contact of an existing case, have not traveled outside the Atlantic Provinces in the past 14 days and have not been at a location listed as a potential exposure site.

The Premier noted that Public Health has, to date, conducted over 7,000 rapid tests, identifying 22 potential cases of COVID.



New Cases: 15

Active Cases: 117

Cumulative cases: 269

Resolved cases: 152

Hospitalizations: 0

ICU: 0

Age range: 5 to 70

Total tests: 73,254 [The province is now reporting total completed tests, rather than the number of negative tests.]

*Public Health has reset the numbers as of the beginning of the second wave of COVID in this province, which it is dating to October 1. Total cumulative numbers can be found on the provincial COVID website.



Dr. Strang addressed the “rapidly developing” issue of COVID vaccine distribution, saying Nova Scotia has been told to expect Health Canada approval of the Pfizer vaccine as early as next week and to prepare to accept a small amount of the vaccine in December and then small weekly allotments for the first 12 weeks of 2012. Strang said it is estimated the first allotments will cover about 75,000 people (although there is no guarantee they will receive this amount) and they have identified an ultra-low temperature freezer in which to store it at the tertiary and teaching complex in Halifax.

The province will be receiving a second freezer from the federal government which will be installed at the bio depot for vaccines in the Burnside Industrial Park. The Premier noted that other ultra-low temperature freezers have been identified in the private sector and that procurement is also looking at purchasing “what is required.” Strang says a broader immunization campaign is expected to begin in Q2 2021 and the federal government believes it can vaccinate everyone who wishes to be vaccinated in 2021, although he also noted that they’d heard disturbing news yesterday about Pfizer scaling back its production targets.

Strang says there is a lot of detailed work to be done planning for the distribution of the vaccine in terms of determining who will be receiving it and how they will receive it, particularly given the storage requirements for the Pfizer vaccine. He said the province will begin work on these plans next week with the assistance of a team of logisticians from the Canadian Armed Forces.

In terms of who will get these first doses, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has released more detailed guidance on prioritizing vaccine delivery. The priority groups will be:

  • Long-term-care facility residents and staff.
  • Frontline healthcare workers treating COVID patients.
  • Older adults, beginning with those 80+, then 75+, then 70 to 75.

The Premier noted that the job of the federal government is to secure the supply of vaccines, while the job of the provinces is to ensure the infrastructure and supplies — including swabs and syringes — are in place to distribute the vaccine and he thanked everyone in NS who is working on the plan for vaccine delivery. He also reiterated that he hoped distribution of the vaccine would be conducted on a per capita basis.



There were a number of questions related to COVID in schools. Dr. Strang noted that we’ve had “about eight” cases in schools, most individual, and none of which involved initial exposure in the school. Moreover, he said, contact testing has identified only one additional case of COVID in connection to a school case, so he sees nothing at this point in time that suggests a need to move to the blended learning model in schools.

Strang also said that in the schools where COVID cases have been identified, the Public Health team connects with both the affected school and the regional center for education, figures out where in the school the person was, identifies any close contacts and, in the cases dealt with so far, reaches out to them within 24 hours advising them to self-isolate.

Asked about the possibility the Christmas break will be extended in Nova Scotia schools (something the Education Minister has said is under discussion), Dr. Strang said the epidemiology is just one factor the Education Ministry is considering in making this decision.


Community spread

Asked about the percentage of Nova Scotia’s 269 COVID cases that are attributable to community spread, Strang said it was roughly 40% but that it is largely confined to the Central Zone.

Strang said asymptomatic testing across the province will help them determine if there has been any degree of spread outside the Halifax Zone.