A St. Patrick’s Day party with about 50 people may have been where someone contracted the new novel coronavirus, according to Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health.
The province announced five new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with one not linked to travel or an earlier case. There are now 73 cases in total.
Speaking at a press briefing, Dr. Robert Strang said the unknown case illustrates why it’s so important to adhere to social distancing and self-isolation measures.
“They’re so important, because how this virus spreads is when people get together in close contact,” Strang says. “If we keep apart from each other, especially in significant numbers, that such an important thing.”
Shortly after Thursday’s press briefing, the Nova Scotia Health Authority issued an advisory of a potential public exposure to COVID-19 on March 14 at Lake Echo Community Centre.
“The gathering was a public event related to St. Patrick’s Day with approximately 50 people in attendance,” the advisory reads. “Public Health has been directly contacting attendees to advise on self-isolation protocols and next steps.”
“While most people have been contacted, there could be some attendees Public Health is not aware of or contact information may have changed for individuals.”
The health authority says it is anticipated anyone exposed to the virus may develop symptoms up to, and including on March 28.
Strang said it’s “likely” the individual was exposed to COVID-19 at the St. Patrick’s Day party, but that’s yet to be confirmed. An investigation is underway to determine the source of the exposure.
“At this point, public health cannot confirm that this case is linked to community spread,” Strang said.
Strang says public health officials are in the process of trying to determine who may have been in contact with the individual.
“It’s very much like detective work. A public health nurse talks to people, we say where were you, what were you doing, who were you in contact with?” Straing says. “Then we approach it by layers. We reach out and talk to those contacts.
With testing capacity being increased to 400 in a day, Strang says they’re now able to test all close contacts of an individual who contracted the virus.
Premier Stephen McNeil the case should be considered a “wake-up call.”
“Everyone needs to avoid social gathering,” McNeil said. “Everyone is focused on containing the spread of COVID-19, but … it’s all for not if we don’t do our part, if you don’t do your part by self-isolating.”
“I am not trying to scare you, I’m actually trying to convince you when we say stop gathering and stay home, we mean it.”
McNeil added that he’s praying for a snow or thunderstorm this weekend.
“Hopefully that will keep you indoors,” he said. “But if the sun shines this weekend and you feel the urge to go outside, don’t.”
The 73 individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 range in age from under 10 to mid-70s. Two are currently in hospital and two others have recovered and their cases are considered resolved.
Cases have been identified in all parts of the province.
To date, Nova Scotia has 3,201 negative test results and 73 confirmed cases.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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