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‘We are starting to see community spread’: Officials issue stern warning to Nova Scotians

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WATCH: Nova Scotia is officially in the second wave of the pandemic, according to health officials. Community spread of the virus is happening once again, with five more cases being reported today. But, officials say it's not too late to stop the spread. Elizabeth McSheffrey reports – Nov 17, 2020

The province’s top doctor issued a stern warning to Nova Scotia on Tuesday confirming for the first time that the province is starting “to see community spread.”

“This is very concerning and an important turn of events for us here in Nova Scotia,” Dr. Robert Strang said at a provincial COVID-19 update on Tuesday.

Premier Stephen McNeil said it’s clear that Nova Scotians are “not taking this seriously” as he confirmed that the province’s health department is having trouble contact tracing recently detected coronavirus cases.

Read more: Nova Scotia advises of potential exposure at Dartmouth tire store

There have been at least seven cases for which not been able to trace close contacts, which Strang said points to community spread.

Since Friday the province has reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 — five of which came on Tuesday. In November alone the province has had 42 cases.

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Strang says there is no doubt that Nova Scotia’s trajectory has gotten worse since September, which only saw three cases reported the entire month.

“It’s a trajectory we can’t continue to follow,” he said.

Both Strang and McNeil said they are prepared to reduce gathering limits and place additional restrictions on businesses “earlier than other jurisdictions.”

“We will not hesitate to shut down the economy in sections if necessary,” said McNeil. “It is imperative that all of us believe that COVID is next door to us.”

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Strang urged all Nova Scotians to be a leader in taking action against COVID-19.

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“We need to take this seriously and stand up against COVID-19,” he said.

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The province’s top doctor said there is a need for individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 to pay attention and to act as “guardians” during this pandemic.

He said that although the age group is very mobile it is key for them to limit the number of times they go out to socialize and to keep the social circle small.

Strang stressed that the actions of young Nova Scotians can have a drastic impact on the health of their parents or grandparents.

All five of the new cases reported in the province on Tuesday are located in the province’s central zone.

Four recoveries were also reported. That means there are now 24 active cases of the novel coronavirus.

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Two of the COVID-19 cases announced on Tuesday are the cases that were first reported late on Monday evening as being associated with schools.

According to the province, one person at Graham Creighton Junior High in Cherry Brook and one person at Auburn Drive High in Cole Harbour tested positive for the virus.

McNeil said that both cases are students and are self-isolating.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s top doctor says province ‘starting to see community spread’' Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s top doctor says province ‘starting to see community spread’
Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s top doctor says province ‘starting to see community spread’ – Nov 17, 2020

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 2 new cases of COVID-19, has 23 active cases

Strang said that public health has notified all known close contacts, which he estimated to be around 55 between both students, and that they are also self-isolating.

He said that if individuals have not been contacted by public health then they are allowed to go into school.

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Strang stressed that there is no reason to try and exclude individuals from Auburn Drive High or Graham Creighton Junior High from participating in events or sports activities,

“We are asking community groups to not take action, or take their own action,” he said.

Any action that is necessary to keep people safe will come from the health department, he said, adding that there is no increased risk for individuals from those schools beyond the individuals who have already been contacted and are self-isolating.

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“There is no basis in fact about what the public is speculating about,” said Strang.

The three other cases are close contacts of previously reported cases.

On Tuesday, the province said there may have been a potential exposure at GCR Tire & Service Centre at 42 Isnor Dr. on Nov. 13, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.

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It advised residents to monitor for symptoms up to and including Nov. 27.

There have been 1,151 cases of COVID-19 detected in the province, 1,062 of which are considered recovered as of Tuesday.

Officials say 65 people have died as a result of the virus.

No one is currently in hospital.