Nova Scotia's premier blasts 'selfish few' for ignoring COVID-19 gathering limits

Nova Scotia's premier blasted what he called the "selfish few" who aren't following COVID-19 restrictions, saying they are putting themselves and others at risk during the province's current outbreak.

Iain Rankin expressed his frustration during a media briefing Monday, noting that police in the Halifax area had issued 37 fines over the weekend for those who exceeded gathering limits, despite a provincewide lockdown.

"I have a serious question," the premier said. "What is wrong with you? How come you don't take this as seriously as you should?"

As Nova Scotia reported 146 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, including 130 in the Halifax area, Rankin warned about the seriousness of the situation, saying that most cases identified in Nova Scotia recently are the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

He urged younger people in particular to "do a little research" on what's happening with the variant and on how quickly it's spread to family members and co-workers.

"What part of that pattern of spread do you not understand? We are in the third wave of a deadly pandemic, and the selfish few don't care," he said. Rankin told reporters that while he's not considering stiffer fines at this point, he'll do "whatever I have to do" to get people to listen because of mounting pressures on the health system.

NOVA SCOTIA REPORTS 146 NEW CASES

Nova Scotia is reporting 146 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as the province works through its testing backlog. The province has 943 active reported cases, with 42 people in hospital and eight in intensive care.

In a release, N.S. health officials say 130 of Monday's new cases are located in the province's Central zone.

Nine new cases were identified in the Eastern zone, three new cases are being reported in the Western zone, and four new cases in the Northern zone.

According to the release, the Nova Scotia Health Authority lab continues to experience a backlog due to the volume of testing in the province. There is also a delay in public health's case data entry into the province's online dashboard.

The province is no longer including an "exposure category" (travel, close contact, etc.), citing increased investigations.

Health officials say there is evidence of community spread in Nova Scotia’s Central zone.

Public Health says the province’s other zones, Eastern, Northern, and Western, are being monitored for signs of community spread.

Twenty-five of Nova Scotia’s previously reported cases are now considered resolved, with the total number of active infections increasing to 943.

NOVA SCOTIANS AGE 50-54 NOW ELIGIBLE FOR PFIZER, MODERNA VACCINES

As of Monday, Nova Scotians ages 50 to 54 can book appointments to receive the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

People in that age group can now book appointments at community clinics and participating pharmacy and primary care clinics that offer the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

N.S. Health says all community clinics and participating pharmacies have available appointments for this age group.

According to the province, there are about 67,625 eligible Nova Scotians in the 50-54 age group.

Nova Scotia also announced that the province’s first drive-thru vaccination clinic will open next Monday, May 10 at the Dartmouth General Hospital.

This clinic will be for people 50 and older. Appointments will be posted Tuesday, May 4.

N.S. COVID-19 CASE DATA

Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed a single-day record 17,092 COVID-19 tests on Sunday.

Sunday marked the province's sixth straight day with over 12,000 tests completed, as a combined 90,738 tests have been completed since Tuesday.

The technical manager of the QEII’s microbiology lab tells CTV Atlantic that staff put a “good dent” into the backlog over the weekend, and expect all of Friday’s tests to be completed by the end of Monday.

“Then the numbers coming in over the weekend have been lower, so we should get through that relatively quick as well,” says Charles Heinstein. “So I’d say we’re almost there.”

Heinstein says staff at the microbiology lab are working overtime, with some working 24-hour shifts.

He says just a few weeks ago, they were processing 5,000 tests a day, but have tripled their capacity and are now processing over 15,000.

"I think it just generally reflects that COVID is widely circulating in our community and it's important that everyone follows the rules,” adds Todd Hatchette, Chief of Microbiology at Nova Scotia Health.

Officials say Nova Scotia is currently testing more people per capita than anywhere else in the country.

"There will always be tests in the system that have to be tested and reported so there will always be a bit of a backlog,” says Hatchette. “How big that backlog is depends on how many tests we do. That day where we had 22,000 tests submitted in one day, that overwhelmed the capacity of the lab."

As of May 3, Nova Scotia has completed 605,079 COVID-19 tests.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 2,854 COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia. Of those, 1,844 cases have recovered and 67 people have died due to the novel coronavirus.

There are currently 40 people in hospital due to COVID-19, six of which are in the intensive care unit.

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: 155 cases (26 active cases)
  • Central Zone: 2,340 cases (823 active cases)
  • Northern Zone: 160 cases (20 active cases)
  • Eastern Zone: 199 cases (74 active cases)

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to May 16, 2021.

CHANGES TO ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING STRATEGY

In order to address the test result backlog, Nova Scotia is shifting their COVID-19 asymptomatic testing strategy.

In the interim, most Nova Scotians are encouraged to use pop-up testing sites instead of booking a COVID-19 lab test over the next few days.

Individuals under the following categories are still encouraged to book lab tests:

  • anyone with symptoms
  • anyone who has been notified that they are a close contact of a known case
  • anyone who has been at an exposure location
  • anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador

Public health says anyone who does not meet the above criteria and has already booked an appointment should cancel it following the instructions provided in their confirmation email.

"Efforts are being made to increase rapid testing capacity around the province," wrote the province in a release on Friday.

Pop up testing locations being provided on Monday, include:

  • John Martin School (7 Brule St. Dartmouth) - from noon to 7 p.m.
  • Cineplex Bridgewater (349 Lahave St., Bridgewater) - from 1 to 6 p.m
  • Centre 200 (481 George St, Sydney) - from 3 to 7 p.m.
  • Alderney Gate Public Library (60 Alderney Dr., Dartmouth) - from noon to 7 p.m
  • Halifax Central Library (5440 Spring Garden Rd, Halifax) - from noon to 7 p.m.
  • Halifax Convention Centre (Argyle St. entrance, 1650 Argyle St., Halifax) - from noon to 7 p.m

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 Monday, 320,910 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. According to the province, 30.1 per cent of the eligible population have received vaccines as of Thursday, with 4.2 per cent having received a second dose.

As of the dashboard's last update on April 27, Nova Scotia has received a total of 345,940 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since Dec. 15, 2020.

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