Health officials are moving quickly to crack down on a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Clayton Park area of Halifax as the province’s top doctor urges Nova Scotians to reduce their social activities.

Fifteen cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed -- including one new case on Monday -- since the province’s last briefing on Nov. 3. The province was reporting 16 active cases on Monday.

Of the province’s 16 active cases, nine of those are linked to a single cluster identified in Clayton Park. They are all currently under investigation.

“I’m worried about the level of potential exposure in this area,” admitted Premier Stephen McNeil during a news conference in Halifax.

“It is a wakeup call for all of us,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang. “We have been very lucky in this province in the last several months to have low or no COVID cases and, as a result, we’ve been able to go about our lives relatively normally, but … when it comes to COVID, things can change very quickly. We are at a tipping point right now here in Nova Scotia. I’ve had a very anxious weekend. We are at a critical tipping point that we all need to pay attention to.”

Nova Scotia Health is working to identify, isolate and test known contacts of the recently-confirmed cases.

While the cluster has been identified in the Clayton Park area, Strang said there have been potential exposures throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality linked to the cluster, noting that Nova Scotia Health has issued several exposure advisories over the past few days.

“As we investigate positive cases we may learn a person spent time in the community setting, such as a restaurant or a store, while they were potentially infectious,” explained Strang. “If we’re unsure we have found all the contacts, we do send out public exposures notices to ensure people who may have been in contact are aware.”

Strang is urging people who visited the following locations at the following times to call 811 to make arrangements to get tested:

  • Montana’s Restaurant in Bayers Lake from 6 p.m. to closing on Oct. 25
  • St. Andrews United Church on Coburg Road in Halifax at 6 p.m. on Oct. 25
  • Bitter End on Argyle Street in Halifax from 9 p.m. to closing on Nov. 2.

“If anybody was at any of those three locations during that date and time that it’s critically important that they know that they may have been exposed to COVID-19, and even if they don’t think they have come into contact with anyone, even if they aren’t experiencing symptoms, we are asking those people to call 811,” said Strang.

However, he stopped short of confirming community spread linked to the cluster, calling the investigation “complex.”

“We’re at a point where we can’t say that there’s broad community spread, but we can’t say there’s not either,” said Strang.

The province is working on a plan to make testing faster and easier for people who are linked to the cluster and is also working to set up mobile testing in the Clayton Park area.

“We are not targeting the community or any individual. We are trying to wrap our arms around a geographical area in the Central Zone, to protect people, to support people, and to make sure we contain the virus to prevent further spread,” said McNeil.

Strang said there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any schools in the Clayton Park area, but says schools are on notice, and may need to go to a blended model at some point, if cases in the area ramp up.

He also said the province is not tightening up any restrictions at this point and he doesn’t consider this to be Nova Scotia’s second wave of COVID-19.

If Nova Scotia does experience a second wave, Strang said the province will not be locked down to the same extent that it was during the first wave, unless “absolutely necessary.”

“There’s no question that was the right approach in wave one, but this time around … our plan is, if at all possible, to take a much more targeted approach based off geography, various sectors and high-risk populations.”

NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

As the province investigates a cluster of new cases, Strang is urging Nova Scotians to reduce their social activities and avoid non-essential travel.

Strang said Nova Scotians should also continue to restrict social activities to people in their household or close social bubble of 10.

“Ideally we would have few and ideally only one of those close social bubbles, people that we interact with,” he said. “We need to start ramping down our social activities, being very careful of the number of people that we’re interacting with.”

Strang also said he’s concerned that people are travelling outside of the Atlantic bubble for non-essential reasons, especially while other provinces are experiencing a second wave of COVID-19.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “Non-essential travel in and out of Atlantic Canada needs to stop. Now is not the time for casual visiting.”

STRICTER SELF-ISOLATION REQUIREMENTS

The province also announced Monday that it is introducing stricter self-isolation requirements for non-essential travellers from outside the Atlantic bubble and their hosts.

Anyone who comes to Nova Scotia from outside of the Atlantic bubble for non-essential reasons is required to quarantine alone, away from others, for 14 days.

Effective immediately, if a non-essential traveller from outside the bubble cannot isolate alone, everyone in their household must also isolate for 14 days. No one can leave the property for 14 days and visitors are not allowed.

POTENTIAL EXPOSURES AT SOBEYS, NSLC IN BEDFORD

Nova Scotia Health is advising of two new potential COVID-19 exposures at the following stores in Bedford:

  • Sobeys at 961 Bedford Highway between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Nov. 6.
  • NSLC at 955 Bedford Highway between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Anyone who visited those locations during those times is urged to monitor for symptoms and call 811 if they experience symptoms. Anyone who was exposed to COVID-19 may develop symptoms up to and including Nov. 20.

1 NEW CASE OF COVID-19

Nova Scotia reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday in the province's Central Zone.

The province says the new case is a close contact of a previously reported case.

Five previously reported cases are now considered recovered, bringing the number of active cases in the province down to 16.

Nova Scotia Health Authority’s lab completed 658 Nova Scotia tests on Sunday.

However, the province says that the full number of completed tests and negative test results from laboratories outside of the Central Zone is not included in Monday's testing numbers due to a technical issue.

The province says those numbers will be updated when the issue is resolved and the information is available. 

To date, Nova Scotia has had 117,623 negative test results, 1,129 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 1,048 cases are now considered resolved. Sixty-five people have died as a result of the virus, leaving 16 active cases in the province.

There is no one in hospital due to COVID-19.

The province's confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Sixty per cent of cases are female and 40 per cent are male.

There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Central Zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.

The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.

  • Western Zone: 58 cases
  • Central Zone: 940 cases
  • Northern Zone: 76 cases
  • Eastern Zone: 55 cases

LIST OF SYMPTOMS

Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose/nasal congestion

SELF-ISOLATION AND MANDATORY MASKS

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.

Anyone who travels to Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic region for non-essential reasons is required to self-isolate for 14 days and must fill out a self-declaration form before coming to the province. Travellers must self-isolate alone, away from others. If they cannot self-isolate alone, their entire household must also self-isolate for 14 days.

Residents of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are not required to self-isolate when travelling to Nova Scotia, but they must be prepared to provide proof of their place of residency at provincial borders.

Visitors from outside the Atlantic region who have already self-isolated in another Atlantic province for 14 days may travel to Nova Scotia without having to self-isolate again.