NS COVID Update for 16 December 2020


Both Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang began today’s briefing by expressing condolences to the families of the fishermen on a scallop vessel that went missing in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of southwestern Nova Scotia Tuesday. The body of one crew member of the Chief William Saulis has been discovered and a search, which is being hampered by bad weather, continues for another five.

NS COVID cases 16 December 2020

The Premier announced four new cases of COVID-19 today, all in the Central Zone (three are related to known cases, one is under investigation) and 55 active cases. Dr. Strang warned, however, that there are still active cases in all four health zones.

With case numbers in the single-digits and most new cases connected to known cases or travel outside the Atlantic Provinces, Strang said the epidemiology is now “fairly low and stable.” Nevertheless, the restrictions in the Halifax/Hants area will remain in place until 11:59 PM December 20 and the closure of dine-in service in restaurants and licensed establishments in this area will be extended to January 10. Take-out will still be possible. Strang thanked the Restaurant Association for understanding the “rationale” for this extended closure.

He explained this rationale, in answer to a reporter’s question, by saying that the resurgence we saw in the fall — like resurgences across the country — was largely an “urban” phenomenon, due to the high number of bars and restaurants in downtown Halifax, and they worried re-opening them over the Christmas season would lead to another spike in cases. As Tim Bousquet commented (on Twitter):

Basically the logic is that Halifax bars are closed completely because if they were open people would go bar-hopping. And people outside of HRM don’t do that because, er, there aren’t a lot of bars to hop to, I guess.

The Halifax casino will also remain closed until 11:59 PM on January 10.

Dr. Robert Strang

Dr. Robert Strang

Strang also announced provincewide restrictions that will take effect over the three-week period from December 21 to January 10. I’m going to cheat and rely on the press release instead of my messy, handwritten notes so as not to get something terribly wrong.

As of December 21, the following restrictions will be introduced provincewide for gatherings and events:

  • gatherings in your home can have 10 people total, including the people who live there
  • people can have a close social group of 10 without physical distancing
  • social events, festivals, special events, arts/cultural events and sports events are not permitted
  • faith gatherings, wedding ceremonies and funeral services can have a maximum of 150 people outdoors or 50 per cent of an indoor venue’s capacity, to a maximum of 100 (Strang was pushed on this by a reporter who wanted to know why “faith gatherings” were privileged over cultural events and Strang responded only that faith-based gatherings are “very important” to people.)
  • wedding and funeral receptions are not permitted

As of the same date, the following restrictions will be introduced provincewide (except where noted) for businesses:

  • restaurants and licensed establishments, outside the areas of HRM and Hants County noted above, must stop service by 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m.
  • fitness and sport and recreation facilities can open
  • fitness facilities like gyms and yoga studios can operate at 50% capacity and must ensure three meters distance between participants during high intensity activities
  • outdoor fitness classes can operate at full capacity and must ensure three meters distance between participants during high intensity activities
  • personal services such as hair salons and spas can resume providing services that can only be done if the customer removes their mask, such as facials
  • retail and shopping mall rules currently in place for areas of HRM and Hants County will extend to the entire province, including operating at 25% of their capacity; their food courts can remain open with public health measures in place including physical distance between tables

For sports, museums and libraries:

  • sports practices, training and arts and culture rehearsals are limited to 25 participants without physical distancing but games, tournaments and performances are not permitted
  • the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, museums and libraries can reopen at full capacity with physical distancing and other public health measures in place

For long-term care facilities (LTCFs):

  • each long-term care resident can have two designated caregivers and facilities can allow a limited number of visitors get you together as a family and still protect you (in answer to a reporter’s question, Strang said he’s comfortable that there are “layers of protection” in place in LTCFs, including screening and masking and handwashing; moreover, each facility will manage the scheduling of visits and the number of visitors according to its own capacity.)

Nova Scotians are permitted to travel within the province for the holidays (although they’re encouraged not to). Those who travel are asked to go from “A to B,” to “keep gatherings small,” to “keep groups consistent” and to avoid crowds. They’re also asked to avoid “unnecessary” travel outside the Atlantic Provinces.



New Cases: 4

Active Cases: 55

Cumulative cases: 341

Resolved cases: 286

Hospitalizations: 0

ICU: 0

Age range: 5 to 70

Total tests: 91,747

*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 touched on the arrival of the first 1,950 dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, and which he called a “sign of hope” after 10 months of pandemic. Strang asked Nova Scotians to be patient, noting he expects to receive 1,950 more doses on Monday, and the same amount (or more) weekly until end-March (for a total of 150,000 doses). To vaccinate all Nova Scotians will require roughly 2 million doses (the vaccine is delivered in two shots) which is why Strang says people will be asked to continue to follow Public Health rules around social distancing, masking, handwashing and gathering limits even as the vaccine rolls out across the province.

Strang said Pfizer has assured delivery of the next batch, which is why they’re going ahead and vaccinating 1,950 people, but after that will take a cautious approach and hold back half of each delivery so as not to “overextend” themselves.

Here’s a picture of Nova Scotia’s first batch of Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine arriving via UPS (why not Canada Post?) today. Fortunately, someone was home to accept delivery. Imagine what a Christmas disaster it would have been had the box been left on the steps at Province House, only to be stolen by porch bandits?

For a full account of the vaccine’s arrival, see this account by Tim Bousquet at the Halifax Examiner.

Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine arriving in Nova Scotia, 15 December 2020

And here’s that photo you’ve no doubt already seen of Danielle Sheaves, a registered nurse with the COVID-19 unit at the QEII, who was the first Nova Scotian to receive the vaccine on December 16:

Danielle Sheaves, a registered nurse with the COVID-19 unit at the QEII is the first person in Nova Scotia to receive the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine, Dec. 16.

Danielle Sheaves, a registered nurse with the COVID-19 unit at the QEII is the first person in Nova Scotia to receive the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine, Dec. 16.


This initial batch of vaccine can’t be transported, so the first doses are being given to Central Zone healthcare workers in the following areas:

  • COVID-19 units in hospitals
  • emergency departments
  • critical care units
  • birth unit and early labor unit at the IWK Health Centre
  • regional care units



Asymptomatic testing continues, and Strang says Public Health is working to ensure it carries on through the Christmas season and beyond. The province is also looking to continue its pop-up testing.

Strang said one of the mobile testing units was in Berwick today, testing around the outbreak at the Eden Valley Poultry Farm.

And there is a pop-up testing site in Sydney, at St. Theresa’s Parish Centre, 285 St. Peter’s Road, today and tomorrow:



Asked if there would be any provincial assistance for businesses forced to close or sharply reduce operations during this three-week Christmas break, the premier said yes, that it will apply to businesses in the Halifax/Hants area and will be similar to the assistance offered during the first wave. (I’m afraid that’s all the detail I’ve got.)

The Premier ended with a reminder that although case numbers are low “COVID hasn’t left us,” and asked Nova Scotians to continue to take precautions. (Earlier he’d warned that no one should think we’ve beaten the disease and said that if the epidemiology shows signs of another spike, tighter restrictions would be reintroduced.)

There will be another update on Monday.