Nova Scotia reports six new COVID-19 cases Tuesday; border opens to Newfoundland and Labrador

Nova Scotia health officials are reporting six new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday.

Five of the new cases were identified in the province's Central zone. One case is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada, three cases are close contacts of a previously reported case, and one case remains under investigation.

The other new case was identified in the province's Eastern zone and is a close contact of a previously reported case.

Two previously reported cases are now considered recovered, as the active number of cases in the province increases to 36.

Also on Tuesday, public health confirmed four previously reported cases in the Central zone are the B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the United Kingdom. Officials say all four cases are now considered recovered, and there is no sign of community spread of the variant cases at this time.

This brings the total number of cases of the B.1.1.7 variant (first found in the U.K.) in Nova Scotia to 22. There have also been 10 confirmed cases of the B.1.3.5.1 variant, first found in South Africa.

"I'm sure the confirmation of the four new variant cases today, and the uptick of cases over the long weekend isn't news that anyone wants to hear, especially when we see what's happening across the country. COVID-19 variants are spreading rapidly, with dire consequences in many provinces," said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's, Chief Medical Officer of Health during a news update on Tuesday. "The good news is almost all of the cases we are seeing are travel-related or connected to a travel-related case."

NEWFOUNDLAND BORDER OPENED, RESTRICTIONS EASED

On Tuesday, Premier Iain Rankin announced that the border to Newfoundland and Labrador is opening, and some other restrictions will be eased as of Wednesday morning.

"While we continue to carefully watch the case numbers in our region, we are currently in a good position to open our borders to all our Atlantic neighbours," said Premier Rankin.

With this change, all residents of Atlantic Canada can come to Nova Scotia without having to self-isolate upon arrival and without having to complete the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in form. Residents and travelers must continue to follow all public health measures in Nova Scotia.

"We are fortunate to be in a position to take these cautious steps, thanks in large part to Nova Scotians continuing to follow our public health measures," said Dr. Strang. "We're also now able to support businesses operating at full capacity and to allow an increase in numbers for sports, arts and culture groups."

Nova Scotia's border also remains open to residents of New Brunswick, but Rankin says they are watching the situation there very closely.

"If Dr. Strang decides necessary, we will shut that border down. As of now, non-essential travel to the Edmundston area is not recommended," said Rankin during Tuesday's news update.

Effective Wednesday at 8 a.m., the following restrictions will also be eased:

  • Malls, retail businesses and fitness facilities can return to operating at 100 per cent of their capacity, with physical distancing.
  • Sports practices, training and games, and arts and culture rehearsals and performances can have 75 people. While physical distancing and masks are not required for these activities, they are recommended when possible. Spectators continue to be allowed at these events except when they are held at schools.

N.S. COVID-19 CASE DATA

The Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 975 tests on Monday. The province has completed 440,060 tests since the pandemic began.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 1,747 COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia. Of those, 1,645 cases have recovered and 66 people have died due to the novel coronavirus.

There is currently one person in hospital due to COVID-19, with no one in the intensive care unit.

One case that was reported Monday in Central Zone has been removed from the cumulative count Tuesday, as it will be counted in another province. 

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: 117 cases (12 active case)
  • Central Zone: 1,401 cases (19 active cases)
  • Northern Zone: 133 cases (1 active case)
  • Eastern Zone: 96 cases (4 active cases)

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to April 18, 2021.

VACCINE UPDATE

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

As of Tuesday, 116,436 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. Of those, 86,759 were first doses and 29,677 Nova Scotians have received their second dose.

Of the vaccines administered 53,305 went to health care workers, and 10,062 were long-term care residents.

As of Tuesday, the province has received a total of 200,250 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and anticipate a delivery of 84,740 dosees this week.

ASTRAZENECA VACCINE WILL CONTINUE FOR AGES 55-64

Nova Scotia will continue clinics on Tuesday to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to individuals ages 55-64, after suspending the use of the vaccine for individuals under 55 last week.

“Anyone 55 or over can still get this vaccine if given the choice, as the benefits of getting the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the increased risk of COVID-19 in older adults,” said Strang.

Speaking at last Friday's COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Robert Strang, said we are expecting 38,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to arrive this week.

On March 29, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended pausing administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under the age of 55, pending further investigation on reported cases of vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), a rare blood clotting disorder, in Europe.

Strang says that he has had many conversations with Public Health officials from across the country, and the consensus is that the benefit of AstraZeneca outweighs the risk for those in the 55-64 age group.

“We know looking at the epidemiology of this it higher risk of blood clots seems to be mostly women under 55," said Strang. We’ve had a lot of conversation about this, and part of this is what is the risk/benefit. As you get to the ages 55 and above, it seems there is a much lower risk of this blood clotting happening, and the risk of getting serious outcomes from a COVID-19 infection substantially increases.”

“I know this might be scary for people, especially if they have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine already, but we’re fortunate that in Nova Scotia, our use of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been focused on the ages 60 to 64, which is well within the age range recommended for use.”

Strang says anyone who has received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the last 20 days, and anyone vaccinated with it going forward should monitor for symptoms and seek immediate medical attention in the unlikely event that they develop the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Leg swelling
  • Persistent abdominal pain
  • Sudden onset of severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision
  • Skin bruising other than at the site of vaccination

NOVA SCOTIANS ENCOURAGED TO SEEK ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING

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

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.

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