Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health says the first wave of the coronavirus in the province is almost over, but that the province will not begin to relax restrictions yet.
“We need to have a level of transmission that doesn’t pose a risk of overwhelming our health system,” said Dr. Robert Strang at an update on Friday.
Strang said the first wave of COVID-19 will end when a minimum of two incubation periods — each of which is 14 days — have passed with no transmission.
The announcement came as Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil shared a slideshow of “Considerations for Nova Scotia” that the province will use to plan for the province’s recovery from COVID-19.
The key, Strang said, is balancing the risk posed by reopening sectors of the province with the need to increase economic and social activity.
By far the largest part of that announcement was the confirmation that children in Nova Scotia will not be returning to the classroom this school year.
McNeil said Nova Scotia’s at-home learning program will continue until June 5, when the school year ends.
The premier said the province is targetting June 8 as the day to re-open daycares.
Both McNeil and Strang shared a message of cautious optimism, with the ability to relax the province’s COVID-19 restrictions contingent on meeting health criteria and not a hard date.
There is no timeline for Nova Scotia’s next steps although coronavirus cases in the province are trending in the right direction
Details are vague but the first phase could include the opening of some businesses, the reopening of daycares, allowing non-urgent health-care services to resume, allowing cultural gatherings such as funerals and increasing the permitted type of gatherings.
The province’s next steps are tentative but could include:
- Phase 2 – larger gathering sizes and additional “low-risk” businesses reopening.
- Phase 3 – increasing gathering size again and the reopening of “moderate-risk” businesses.
- Phase 4 – could include the reduction of the highest-risk settings and another increase in gathering sizes.
- Phase 5 – dependent on vaccine availability, with all businesses reopening as desired when a vaccine is available.
Health officials will continue to monitor the outbreak and do risk assessments on how loosening any restrictions will impact the disease’s epidemiology, Strang said.
He said there is no evidence so far that Nova Scotia should make masks mandatory but encouraged people to wear non-medical masks if they want.
He stressed that physical distancing is still better than wearing a mask and that the practice will be part of the “new normal” for many months to come.
Two more coronavirus deaths in Nova Scotia
On Friday, the province reported two more COVID-19 related deaths at Northwood Manor in Halifax and just one new case across the province.
“All Nova Scotians continue to hold Northwood residents and staff in their thoughts. I hope the families grieving today know their province is with them,” said McNeil in a statement.
“Health system partners stand side-by-side with Northwood and our mobilization of efforts to support them will continue for as long as necessary.”
As of Friday, Nova Scotia has 1,008 confirmed cases of COVID-19 after only one new case out of 840 tests was identified Thursday. Of the 1,008 cases, 240 remain active.
To date, Nova Scotia has 32,835 negative test results.
The province says there are currently two licensed long-term care homes and unlicensed seniors’ facilities in Nova Scotia with active cases of COVID-19.
Northwood in Halifax currently has 156 residents and 38 staff with active cases.
One other facility has one staff member with an active case of COVID-19.
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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