Health officials in Nova Scotia identified one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with the total number of active cases in the province increasing to 11.

Public health says Wednesday's new case is in the Central zone and is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. The person is self-isolating, as required.

“We’re watching what’s going on across the country and in one of our sister provinces close to home,” said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil. “It doesn’t take long for COVID-19 to spread and knowing there are cases of COVID variants across the border in New Brunswick, we have to remain vigilant."

CASE DATA IN N.S.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 1,617 tests on Tuesday.

Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has completed 165,214 tests. There have been 494 positive COVID-19 cases and no deaths. Cases have ranged in age from under 10 to over 70. Four-hundred-and-eighty-three cases are now resolved.

There are currently two people in hospital due to COVID-19, one of which is in the intensive care unit.

Since the pandemic began, Nova Scotia has completed 288,392 tests. Cumulatively, there have been 1,583 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 1,507 cases considered recovered.

The province has reported 65 COVID-19 related deaths since the pandemic began, with an average age of 80.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the province’s confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Fifty-five per cent of cases are female, and 45 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: 94 cases (1 active cases)
  • Central Zone: 1,283 cases (7 active cases)
  • Northern Zone: 127 cases (0 active cases)
  • Eastern Zone: 79 cases (3 active cases)

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to Feb. 7, 2021.

VACCINE UPDATE

Nova Scotia's COVID-19 online dashboard now provides an update on the amount of vaccines that have been administered to date.

As of Tuesday, 15,837 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered so far, with 3,457 Nova Scotians having received a second dose.

Of the vaccines administered, 10,251 were health care workers, and 1,687 were long-term care residents.

“Although we didn’t receive any vaccine last week, we are scheduled to receive 1,950 doses of Pfizer and 4,000 doses of Moderna later this week,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “As we have with previous shipments, we will administer half as first doses and save half for second doses.”

IMMUNIZATION PLAN UPDATE

On Wednesday afternoon, the province issued a release and held a press conference detailing updates to its COVID-19 immunization plan.

“We’ve administered over 16,000 doses, and just over 3,500 people are now fully vaccinated. The second dose does take time because we have to wait three weeks between our shots, but now that time has passed, and those numbers will start to climb at a more regular base,” said McNeil during the press conference. “I’m really pleased to say that every Nova Scotian who received their first shot, will get their second dose.”

The first community-based clinic for Nova Scotians aged 80 and older will begin later in February as Nova Scotia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues to expand.

The province says age will become the primary factor in deciding which residents are immunized and when in the general population. After residents ages 80 and older receive their vaccine, the next group to receive vaccines will be people 75 to 79-years-old.

Vaccinations will continue in declining five-year age blocks until all Nova Scotians receive their vaccine.

"The greatest risk factor for COVID-19 patients is their age," said McNeil, in a press release issued on Wednesday. "As vaccine supply increases, we are preparing to launch community clinics across the province to immunize as many people as quickly as possible, starting with those at greatest risk - our older Nova Scotians."

The first community-based clinic for Nova Scotians 80 and older will begin Monday, Feb. 22, in Halifax. Those eligible to participate in the clinic will be identified by MSI and contacted directly by mail to schedule their appointments.

“We’re only able to do a small number of people at this clinic,” explained Strang. “We’re calling it our prototype. We will learn and then when we’re able to have more of these clinics and sustain them we will have more effective, efficient clinics.”

Additionally, nine community-based clinics in Halifax Regional Municipality, Truro, Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Kentville, Yarmouth, Antigonish, Amherst, and Bridgewater are planned in March for residents 80 and older.

"Some Nova Scotians will continue to receive their vaccine through targeted health-care worker clinics or in long-term care, but we know that overall the greatest risk is age," said Dr. Strang, in the release issued on Wednesday. "An age-based approach is also the fastest and simplest way to get vaccine into arms. We are ready to ramp up our immunization efforts as more vaccine enters our province."

Pharmacists and physicians who wish to administer the vaccine at COVID-19 vaccine clinics will soon have that opportunity. Prototype clinics in pharmacies will launch in early March, with plans to expand to more locations by early April.

VACCINE ROLLOUT PHASES

Phase 1

Individuals in the following groups will continue to be prioritized in Phase 1 of the province's vaccine rollout:

  • Individuals who work directly with patients in hospital or patients in their home
  • Individuals who live and work in long-term care homes and their designated caregivers
  • Individuals who live and work in Department of Community Services facilities like adult residential care centres, regional rehabilitation centres and residential care facilities

The province notes it is engaging with First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities during Phase 1 to understand the needs of the communities.

Phase 2

The following groups will continue to be prioritized in Phase 2:

  • Individuals who work in a hospital and may come into contact with patients
  • Doctors and nurses who work in the community
  • Dentists and dental hygienists
  • Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians
  • Individuals who live in large group settings and those who work directly with them, including correctional facilities, shelters and temporary foreign workers' quarters
  • Individuals who are required to regularly travel in and out of the province for work, such as truck drivers and rotational workers. This does not apply to people who live in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick and cross the border every day for work 
  • Individuals who are responsible for food security and cannot maintain public health protocols due to the nature of their work, including those in food processing plants

All other Nova Scotians, regardless of profession or health condition, will receive the vaccine based on their age.

NOVA SCOTIANS ENCOURAGED TO SEEK ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING

Public health is strongly encouraging Nova Scotians to seek asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, particularly if they have attended several social interactions, even with their own social circle.

On Wednesday, Dr. Strang noted asymptomatic testing has declined across the province as the number of infections of COVID-19 fell recently.

Dr. Strang said the province's daily count of new cases has remained low since his last briefing on Friday, but added the drop seen in asymptomatic testing might be because people in the province are less concerned about the disease as case numbers drop.

Strang says the province is now encouraging all Nova Scotians to make testing a part of their ongoing "personal COVID protocol," especially for those with a high number of contacts.

COVID-19 tests can be booked through the provinces online self-assessment COVID-19 tool, or by calling 811.

People can also visit one of Nova Scotia’s many rapid pop-up testing sites that continue to operate throughout the province.

POST-SECONDARY STUDENTS RETURNING TO N.S.

Any post-secondary students returning to Nova Scotia are required to self-isolate for 14-days upon arrival. Government officials are also strongly encouraging them to get tested halfway through that isolation period, either on day 6, 7 or 8.

COVID-19 tests for post-secondary students can be pre-booked online three days in advance.

COVID ALERT APP

Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is available in Nova Scotia.

The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

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

This is a developing story. More to come.

With files from The Canadian Press