Nova Scotia reports 15 new COVID-19 cases Friday, updates asymptomatic testing

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Nova Scotia restrictions in HRM, Hants County extended until Dec. 16' Coronavirus: Nova Scotia restrictions in HRM, Hants County extended until Dec. 16
Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said on Friday that COVID-19 restrictions in the metro parts of Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and Hants County would be extended until Dec. 16. – Dec 4, 2020

Nova Scotia health officials reported 15 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 117.

Eleven of the new cases are located in the central zone and include the case connected to Citadel High School reported on Thursday evening.

Three other cases located in the northern zone are close contacts of previously reported cases. One additional case is travel-related and located in the western zone.

School-related case identified

The province is also reporting a new school-related case at Park West School, identified on Friday.

“The person was not in school today and is self-isolating. The school will remain closed to students until Thursday, Dec. 10,” the province said in a release.

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Read more: Nova Scotia reports new COVID-19 case at Park West School in Halifax

Health officials say a deep cleaning will take place at Park West and students will be learning from home during the closure.

“As with any positive case, public health will be in touch with any close contacts of this case and advise of next steps,” the release read.

Anyone contacted by Public Health as a close contact must be tested and self-isolate for 14 days.

Asymptomatic testing

On Friday, the N.S. Health Department told Global News that since Oct. 1, the start of the second wave, 10 per cent of all positive COVID-19 cases have been asymptomatic.

In the first wave, 15 per cent of positive cases were reported to be asymptomatic, said spokesperson Marla MacInnis.

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“It’s important to note that our testing strategy has continued to evolve since the beginning of the pandemic. The Wave 2 testing strategy has included more focus on asymptomatic testing,” MacInnis said.

MacInnis also said it’s important to note that “asymptomatic cases may subsequently develop symptoms so this percentage may fluctuate as new information becomes available.”

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Click to play video 'Nova Scotia rolls out mobile testing units' Nova Scotia rolls out mobile testing units
Nova Scotia rolls out mobile testing units – Dec 2, 2020

In a provincial briefing on Friday afternoon, health officials said the province is extending asymptomatic testing provincewide.

“For the past week, we have had double-digit case numbers daily and most of them are in the areas where we added restrictions last week. These restrictions are important to help us slow the spread of COVID-19,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a release.

“Adding more opportunities for asymptomatic testing is another way of enhancing our testing strategy.”

The province is continuing pop-up asymptomatic rapid testing for COVID-19 in the HRM at the Halifax Central Library. This is available to individuals aged 16 to 35 with no symptoms and who are not close contacts of confirmed cases.

The site will be available on Friday from 1:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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The province says pop-up testing will also take place at the Zatzman Sportsplex in Dartmouth on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. This testing uses the regular PCR swab method, not the rapid test.

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 11 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

Update for rotational workers

Chief of health Dr. Robert Strang announced on Friday that asymptomatic testing is being extended to rotational workers as well.

Strang also asked Nova Scotians to treat rotational workers fairly after hearing reports of workers being harassed online or denied services.

“Life is already challenging for them and their families so please do not make it harder,” he said in the briefing.

Rotational workers in Nova Scotia have a modified isolation order, where they do not need to self-isolate away from their household if they do not have symptoms. They can leave their property to go on a walk, but must maintain physical distance from anyone who is not a household member.

Strang said rotational workers are allowed to pick their children up from school, get curbside pickup groceries and use a drive-thru.

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Click to play video 'N.S. Public Health sets up ‘transition unit’ for adults waiting for home care' N.S. Public Health sets up ‘transition unit’ for adults waiting for home care
N.S. Public Health sets up ‘transition unit’ for adults waiting for home care – Dec 3, 2020

As of Friday, this modified isolation will extend to rotational workers who work outside of the country as well, with clarification from the federal government, Strang said.

Asymptomatic testing will not be available on the sixth, seventh or eighth day of the isolation period. However, even if a negative test is received, self-isolation must continue until the period ends.

Strang says this will help detect cases early while avoiding potential community spread.