NS COVID-19 Update for 26 April 2021

The third wave is here and I thought it might be a good idea to bring together all the information I’ve been tweeting out piecemeal about COVID these past few days.

Given the admirable job Tim Bousquet at the Examiner does covering the briefings — and the daily press releases — for the entire province, I also thought it would be reasonable to take a Cape Breton-centric approach to this report, since that’s the approach I take to life generally.

Dr. Robert Strang

Dr. Robert Strang, COVID Update 26 April 2021.

Dr. Robert Strang and Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin held a briefing today that began with some truly grim news — five people have been hospitalized in NS due to COVID, two of them are in ICU and one of those in ICU is a person in their ’20s. This is a first in the province and confirms what we’ve been told about the COVID variants driving this third wave — besides being more contagious, they are causing severe illness in much younger people.

Nova Scotia announced 66 new cases today — 60 in the Central Zone, 3 in the Eastern Zone, 2 in the Western Zone and 1 in the Northern Zone. That brings total active cases in the province to 323. Here in the Eastern Zone, which includes all of Cape Breton Island plus Antigonish and Guysborough, there are 33 active cases — 31 in the Cape Breton Community Health Network, 1 in the Inverness, Victoria & Richmond Community Health Network and 1 in the Antigonish & Guysborough Community Health Network.

Three of the active cases in the Cape Breton network are school-related, one case each at Jubilee Elementary in Sydney Mines, Shipyard Elementary in Sydney and Breton Education Centre in New Waterford. If you’re wondering why the Department of Education has not shut down entire families of schools in Cape Breton, Strang has said it’s because the epidemiology in the surrounding area doesn’t warrant it: to date, although there is community spread in Central Zone (which has 266 active cases) , it has yet to be confirmed in any other health zone. Rankin said that no students have tested positive in Cape Breton, but Public Health is closely monitoring the situation.

You can find a full list of affected schools here.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” Nova Scotia will close all public schools in Halifax and the surrounding areas (where restrictions are already in place) effective tomorrow, April 27.


Due to the rising number of cases, Public Health is no longer releasing information about the nature of COVID exposures — that is, whether a case was related to travel or to a known case or is under investigation.

You can see all the latest case data on the province’s COVID dashboard.



The vaccine rollout continues. On April 25, the province administered 15,287 doses of vaccine, bringing total doses administered to 276,075, of which 34,816 were second doses. Interesting fact from today’s briefing: Strang says just one person in Nova Scotia has tested positive to for COVID despite being vaccinated.

Nova Scotia has been administering the Phizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

Today it announced that people aged 55 and older may now book an appointment for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at clinics across the province. AstraZeneca appointments remain open for people aged 55 to 64 (Strang says the province has a “small amount” of unused AstraZeneca). Appointments for vaccines will be “released continuously as vaccine supply is confirmed.” You may book an appointment online or by phoning 1-833-797-7772.

Given current restrictions on travel (see below) Strang said no one should be traveling outside their community to get their shot.

He also stressed that if you have tested positive for COVID and are considered an active case, if you are feeling unwell and have even mild symptoms or if you have been directed by Public Health to self-isolate as a close contact of a known case or because you were at an exposure site, you should reschedule your vaccine. If you were at a site that is considered a low risk of exposure and Public Health has said you do not need to self-isolate while waiting for your test results, you may go ahead and get your vaccine.



Rankin and Strang announced tighter restrictions across the province, in addition to those already in force in the Central Zone.

People are asked to avoid travel outside their own communities unless it is “absolutely necessary such as for school, work, health care, child care, child custody, legal requirements, and family visitation under the purview of the Department of Community Services.”

All school field trips and school-organized activities that bring together students from different schools, like sports and music, are stopped effective immediately.

As of April 27 and until at least May 20, the following restrictions will apply in all parts of the province outside HRM and surrounding communities:

  • no social events, special events, festivals, arts/cultural events, sports events, wedding receptions, or funeral visitation or receptions
  • faith gatherings are limited to 25 per cent of indoor capacity to a maximum of 100 or 150 outdoors, with physical distancing
  • wedding and funeral ceremonies hosted by a recognized business or organization can have 10 people, plus officiants
  • maximum of 25 people, with physical distancing and masks, for meetings or training hosted by a recognized business or organization
  • maximum of 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors for sports practices and training but no games, competitions or tournaments
  • maximum of 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors for arts and culture rehearsals but no in-person performances
  • virtual gatherings and performances can be held with a maximum of 25 people in one location, with physical distancing
  • restaurants and licensed establishments operate at 50 per cent capacity, provide service until 11 p.m. and close for seated service by midnight
  • Casino Nova Scotia in Sydney, VLTs and First Nations gaming establishments operate at 50 per cent capacity, provide food and beverage service until 11 p.m. and close at midnight
  • licensed and unlicensed establishments and organized clubs can operate at 50 per cent to host activities such as darts, cards, pool and bowling following their sector plans and guidelines for these activities
  • retail businesses and malls can operate at 50 per cent capacity and must follow other public health measures
  • personal services such as hair salons, barber shops and spas can operate but cannot provide any services that require the client to remove their mask
  • indoor fitness facilities like gyms and yoga studios and sport and recreation facilities like pools, arenas, tennis courts and large multipurpose recreation facilities can operate at 50 per cent capacity
  • outdoor fitness and recreation businesses and organized clubs can operate with 25 people and physical distancing
  • maximum 50 people for businesses and organizations offering a wide variety of indoor recreation activities, such as indoor play areas, arcades, climbing facilities, dance classes and music lessons
  • museums and libraries can operate at 50 per cent capacity
  • in private indoor workplaces such as offices or warehouses, masks are mandatory in all common areas,
  • places where there is interaction with the public, areas with poor ventilation, and areas where distance cannot be maintained
  • visitors, volunteers and designated care providers are allowed at long-term care facilities
  • visitors are allowed at homes licensed by the Department of Community Services under the Homes for Special Care Act and residents can have community access
  • all adult day programs for persons with disabilities funded by the Department of Community Services are open
  • all adult day programs for seniors remain closed provincewide

You can look up the full list of restrictions that apply in your area online.



During Sunday’s briefing, Strang said there was a cluster of Cape Breton cases related to hockey games at the Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre that they are keeping a close eye on. Anyone at the center between 6:15 PM and 10:00 PM on April 17 and/or 12:45 pm to 5:15 PM on April 18 must isolate immediately, may come out of isolation to get tested, but then must continue self-isolating until May 2 (14 days from the potential exposure) even if they test negative. They will also have to get tested again on April 30.

As of today (April 26), drop-in testing is underway from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM at the Membertou Entertainment Centre (Bingo Hall) which “will offer testing to all. This means even if you have symptoms, have been at a potential exposure site or have been contacted by Public Health, you will be able to drop in to the clinic for testing.”

Chief Terry Paul, in a letter posted to Twitter, said:

The testing site will remain open as the ongoing primary testing location for the area, for both asymptomatic and symptomatic testing.

And he noted:

Due to the recent exposure at our arena, Membertou community members, and Membertou staff will have a specialized line for testing. The left-side door of the Membertou Entertainment Centre will be fore Membertou community members and staff ONLY…There are no appointments. Line-ups will be socially distant…


Other Potential CB exposures

You can always find a full list of potential COVID exposure locations on the Nova Scotia Health website but here are the three other potential Cape Breton exposures listed as of publication time:

Anyone who was at Le Gabriel Restaurant and Lounge in Cheticamp on April 22 between 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM must get tested immediately and self-isolate while awaiting results whether or not they have symptoms. Anyone exposed at this location is expected to show symptoms by May 6. The NSH website says:

If you get a negative result, you do not need to keep self-isolating. If you get a positive result, you will be contacted by Public Health about what to do next.

Three other potential Cape Breton exposures are considered lower risk. If you were at any of these three locations on the date and times indicated, you are to get tested immediately but, unless you have symptoms, you do not have to self-isolate while awaiting results:

NSLC, Prince Street, Sydney on April 17 from 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM. Anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 1.
Sobeys, Prince Street, Sydney on April 17 from 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM. Anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 1.
Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre on April 18 from noon to 6:00 PM. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 2.



Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed a record 11,335 NS tests on April 25. To put that in perspective, it means roughly 1.2% of Nova Scotia’s population was tested in a single day.

Public Health has increased its testing capacity across the province and is close to being able to test 15,000 people a day through primary assessment centers, pop-up sites and mobile testing. The lab has also added capacity to process these tests. (Strang noted that at the outset of the pandemic, Nova Scotia was able to process just 200 tests a day.)

Besides the drop-in testing center at Membertou, there is a rapid-testing pop-up site at CBU which is open from 2:00 PM to 7:30 PM today and from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM tomorrow (Tuesday). This is for asymptomatic people aged 16 and over. If you do not have symptoms, have not been identified as a close contact of someone with COVID, have not traveled and were not at a potential exposure site, you can visit and be tested. As with the vaccines, Nova Scotians are asked to get tested within their communities. (Interesting fact from today’s briefing: Strang says very few cases have been detected as a result of asymptomatic testing.)

If you need to book an appointment for a COVID test, you may do so online or by phoning 811. Nova Scotia Health says the online booking system only shows available appointments within a three-day time period, but appointments are added regularly so “please check back if there is no availability showing in your area.”

As I write, CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall has called for more testing capacity in CBRM, where lines are stretching around the Membertou site. CTV’s Ryan MacDonald has promised pictures at 6:


Contact tracing

The current spike in cases has caused the contract tracing team to focus on cases where there is a high risk of transmission. Public Health says it is currently able to contact all new cases within 24 but warns there may be delays in contacting high-risk contacts of these  cases.

People deemed to have lower-risk exposure or to be a low- or moderate-risk contact will no longer be contacted by Public Health.

If you think you may be a contact of someone with COVID-19 and Public Health has not contacted you, you are asked to make an appointment to get tested and self-isolate until you receive a negative result.


Postponed Surgeries

Nova Scotia Health announced on Sunday that some elective surgical procedures scheduled for Monday, April 26 and Tuesday, April 27 at Glace Bay General Hospital and the North Side General Hospital are being postponed to “build additional swabbing capacity to support increased COVID-19 testing.”

Affected are 34 procedures in Glace Bay and 35 on the Northside, including “ophthalmology surgeries, endoscopies, gynecological and dental surgeries.”

Surgeons’ office will notify patients whose surgeries have been postponed. All other surgeries will continue as scheduled, as will pre-admission appointments and other surgery-related clinics, such as surgical consults.

NSH adds:

Surgery patients who have been scheduled to undergo pre-operative COVID-19 testing, are encouraged to complete this testing. Surgical patients are reminded to limit their exposure to others in the days leading up to their surgery, to the greatest extent possible, to minimize the risk of being exposed to COVID-19.



The province’s COVID-19 response is depending on volunteers to undertake some tasks and if you would like to be one, you are asked to fill out an application.

On Saturday, Dr. Lisa Barrett noted the work of volunteers at the pop-up rapid-testing sites in HRM:


Sick days

Premier Iain Rankin was asked during today’s briefing if the province was prepared to take action on paid sick days (Nova Scotia legislates three unpaid sick days) and the short answer is, “No.” (

Rankin said the province would rely on the kindness of employers and the federal government’s Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB). This gives eligible households up to $500 per week ($450 after taxes) to:

…employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they must care for their child under 12 years old or a family member who needs supervised care. This applies if their school, regular program or facility is closed or unavailable to them due to COVID-19, or because they are sick, self-isolating, or at risk of serious health complications due to COVID-19.

BUT, as multiple people have been pointing out on my Twitter feed, you need to apply for this benefit, “prove” you were isolating for one of the eligible reasons and wait for payment.

The provincial NDP is advocating for 10 paid sick days (which, with weekends, would cover a 14-day self-isolation period)



Note: This article has been updated to correct the date of vaccine reporting and to remove the vaccine percentages which were outdated — I am really rusty at this.