Nova Scotia health officials are increasing COVID-19 measures for residents in the Halifax area after reporting community transmission.
Nova Scotia reported five new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, all in the central zone, including Halifax.
Two cases involve close contacts of previous cases and three others are under investigation, the province said.
In a Friday provincial update, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said Public Health is seeing community transmission in urban and suburban areas in Halifax.
Changes to restrictions in HRM
Premier Stephen McNeil said transmission is seen in a specific demographic.
“Let’s call this what it is: We’re having a problem with 18- to 35-year-olds… They’re living as if COVID doesn’t exist,” McNeil said.
Because of that, areas in all of HRM except the areas east of Porters Lake to Ecum Secum are subject to new social gathering regulations, effective Monday.
The province said changes include:
- A maximum of five people can gather in a close social group without physical distancing.
- A household may have more than five members but they may only go outside the home in groups of five.
- Households can only have a maximum of five visitors at a time.
- A maximum of 25 people can gather with physical distancing for informal indoor and outdoor social events.
- Events run by a recognized organization can have 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity to a maximum of 100 people with physical distancing indoors, and 150 with physical distancing outdoors.
The province said in the update that as of Monday, a maximum of five people will be allowed per table at bars and restaurants. Everyone who attends a bar or restaurant must provide a name and phone number for contact tracing.
These restrictions will be in place for at least 28 days, or two 14-day incubation periods.
Starting early next week, health officials will be conducting an asymptomatic testing strategy over a seven-day period for all bar staff in Halifax.
Staff will receive information from their employer soon on how to arrange testing voluntarily, the province said.
Strang says this is limited to the HRM area because that is where new cases are popping up. But he says the geography might broaden and restrictions may increase if the current trajectory isn’t changed.
“Make no mistake, we will do that and we will not be slow in doing that if it’s necessary,” he said.
McNeil says those who live outside these areas are not off the hook.
“It won’t take long for COVID to take a trip to the valley or cross the causeway to Cape Breton,” he says.
Strang says the government does not want to shut the province down.
“It’s important that all Nova Scotians understand we need everybody to be vigilant, but we are focusing on areas where we are seeing local transmission.”
Changes to adult care facilities
In addition to social gathering rules, Public Health announced changes to long-term care facility operations.
Onsite gatherings at long-term care facilities can have a maximum of five people (including residents and staff). Adult day programs for seniors who live in the community but not in the facility will not be allowed.
Strang says these new regulations do not mean long-term care facilities need to clamp down on activities allowed in the last several months.
“We know that visits from family and social interaction is critical for the well-being of residents and we need to let that happen for as long as we possibly can.”
Strang said he was not happy to hear that some facilities are not following advice of Public Health and were enforcing strict measures on their own.
Public Health is advising adult care centres to take care of the residents’ mental health in addition to their physical health.
The province is moving Graham Creighton Junior High and Auburn Drive High School to full online learning for two weeks as a precautionary measure after cases were detected in the communities. The intended reopening date is Dec. 7, as of Friday.
Avoid non-essential travel
In addition, Public Health is “strongly discouraging” travel outside of the Atlantic bubble.
Work travel, parental custody, health-care access and legal proceedings constitute necessary travel, Strang said Friday. Students wishing to come home to Nova Scotia are also included in this list.
“As announced on Nov. 9, people who travel outside Atlantic Canada when it is not necessary must self-isolate in a completely separate space with no contact or shared living spaces with the rest of the household,” the province said.
Strang said in case of a travelling child too young to self-isolate alone, the entire household must isolate with the child.
This week, health officials in all Atlantic provinces have asked residents to remain vigilant and protect the Atlantic bubble.
New cases reported on Friday
Nova Scotia reported five new cases of the coronavirus on Friday and said 28 cases remain active.
To date, Nova Scotia has completed 126,446 negative test results and confirmed 1,160 COVID-19 cases. The province said 1,067 cases are considered resolved.
Nova Scotia reported one new COVID-19 case on Thursday and advised residents of nine additional potential exposure locations in the Halifax municipality.
- Your Father’s Mustache on Spring Garden Road on Nov. 13, between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
- La Frasca Cibi & Vini on Spring Garden Road on Nov. 13, between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.
- Moxie’s Grill and Bar on Chain Lake Drive in Bayers Lake on Nov. 15 between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
- Winners in Bayers Lake on Nov. 15 between 3:45 p.m. and 5 p.m.
- Telus on Lake Crescent on Nov. 15 between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
- Chatters Hair Salon in Bayers Lake on Nov. 15 between 2:45 p.m. and 4 p.m.
- Strength & Conditioning on King Street in Halifax, on Nov. 16 between 5:45 a.m. and 7:45 a.m.
- GoodLife Fitness in Larry Uteck on Nov. 15 between 7 and 9:30 a.m., Nov. 16 between 8 and 10:30 a.m. and Nov. 17 between 8 and 10:30 a.m.
- Superstore on Bedford Highways on Nov. 18 between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Anyone exposed to the virus at these locations may develop symptoms up to 14 days after the time of the potential exposure.