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‘We are still in a pandemic’: Premier Rankin urges caution during first COVID-19 update

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s new premier says he’s a ‘science guy,’ urges people to ‘stay the course’' Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s new premier says he’s a ‘science guy,’ urges people to ‘stay the course’
In his first COVID-19 briefing as premier, Iain Rankin said he was a 'science guy' and one to trust science in terms of navigating through the pandemic – Feb 24, 2021

Health officials urged Nova Scotians to remain cautious about the COVID-19 pandemic, saying several cases found in the past few days have not had a direct link to a cause.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said he expects to see more cases in the coming days after tests revealed what was likely community transmission of the virus.

At a COVID-19 update on Wednesday, Strang said that although cases have remained low, he is urging Nova Scotians to remain vigilant.

“We are still in a pandemic,” he said.

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 3 new COVID-19 cases, more U.K. variant cases confirmed

The advice was to slow down social activities and to keep small, consistent social circles.

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“We have been seeing people relaxing,” said Strang. “We need people to slow down for the next two to three months.”

He said he expects at least some more cases to pop up over the next few days as a result of community transmission.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s top doctor expresses concern over community transmission' Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s top doctor expresses concern over community transmission
Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s top doctor expresses concern over community transmission – Feb 24, 2021

That’s why he’s urging caution.

“We’re not going to wait for a bunch of cases,” Strang said. “We’re going to act quickly.”

He said he is concerned about the possible spread of not just the regular COVID-19 virus but also the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.

Strang said the province is going to work hard to avoid shutting down businesses as it has done in the past but that is dependent on what happens over the next week.

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New premier's first COVID-19 update

Wednesday was the first update for the newly sworn-in Premier Iain Rankin.

Rankin said he told Strang that he was a “science guy” and that he supports the advice of public health experts with the science coming first.

But he also admitted that he is committed to the economic recovery of Nova Scotia.

“I will join (Strang) here for these briefings for as long as they are needed,” said Rankin.

The 29th premier of Nova Scotia has attempted to strike a tone different from his predecessor Stephen McNeil.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s new premier says he’s a ‘science guy,’ urges people to ‘stay the course’' Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s new premier says he’s a ‘science guy,’ urges people to ‘stay the course’
Coronavirus: Nova Scotia’s new premier says he’s a ‘science guy,’ urges people to ‘stay the course’ – Feb 24, 2021

McNeil, who had a combative relationship with the press, held many of his COVID-19 updates virtually and allowed media to pose questions only through a tightly controlled media line.

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That practice continued despite few COVID-19 cases being recorded in the province when contrasted with other regions in Canada that still held in-person briefings.

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Instead, Wednesday’s meeting allowed a limited number of media outlets to attend in person. All who attended were required to wear masks.

Media outlets unable to attend in person can call in to ask their questions.

Read more: Prince Edward Island begins airport COVID-19 testing pilot project

During the briefing, Rankin confirmed that there won’t be an Atlantic or even Maritime bubble any time soon.

“We’re going to stay the course out of an abundance of caution,” he said.

Strang expanded on that point, saying Nova Scotia is unlikely to consider removing its 14-day quarantine until the province has moved to the yellow zone of its COVID-19 response plan.

He said that means it’ll likely be a while before things are going to be in place to broach the subject of an Atlantic bubble with other premiers.

1st COVID-19 vaccination clinic held in Mi'kmaw community

Wednesday also marked the first time the province held a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in a Mik’maw community.

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Chief Bob Gloade and elder Patsy Paul-Martin of the Millbrook First Nation were among those who received vaccinations.

Nurse Suzette MacLeod administers the COVID-19 vaccine to elder Patsy Paul-Martin of Millbrook First Nation. Communications Nova Scotia

There will be 12 other Mi’kmaw communities that will host the community vaccination clinics. All of the clinics will be established in collaboration with the respective First Nations.

The immunization clinics in Mi’kmaw communities will be open to those 55 years old and up.

“(The decision) recognizes that Indigenous communities, due to the impacts of systemic racism, may experience disproportionate consequences to infections like COVID,” Strang said on Wednesday.

The first community-based vaccination clinic in Nova Scotia opened at the IWK on Monday.

That prototype clinic is meant to inform future COVID-19 clinics.

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As part of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, the province will begin vaccinating those who are 80 years old or older next week.

Chief Bob Gloade gives the thumbs up as he receives his COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Suzette MacLeod at Millbrook Health Centre on Feb. 24. Communications Nova Scotia

Letters are being sent to those who are 80 years old or older with Nova Scotia Health Cards. Those letters will provide instructions on booking a COVID-19 vaccination starting March 1, Strang confirmed.

Residents who do not have an MSI Nova Scotia Health Card will be able to arrange vaccination by contacting a 1-800 line, which is still being set up.

Clinics will open in the specific communities on the following dates.

  • Monday, March 8: Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro
  • Monday, March 15: Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth
  • Monday, March 22: Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth
Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: New N.S. premier Iain Rankin says COVID-19 vaccine delivery is first priority' Coronavirus: New N.S. premier Iain Rankin says COVID-19 vaccine delivery is first priority
Coronavirus: New N.S. premier Iain Rankin says COVID-19 vaccine delivery is first priority – Feb 23, 2021

Three new cases reported Wednesday

Nova Scotia reported three new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, all of which are in the central zone.

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One new case is a close contact of a previously reported case and two others are still under investigation.

There are 21 known active cases of COVID-19 in the province.

Nova Scotia Health completed 2,754 tests for the virus on Tuesday.

Read more: NSHA advises of potential COVID-19 exposure at 4 HRM stores, 2 flights

As of Tuesday, 29,237 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province and 11,658 Nova Scotians have received their second dose.

There have been 1,616 confirmed cases in the province since the pandemic began, of which 1,530 are considered to be resolved.

Sixty-five COVID-19-related deaths have been recorded in Nova Scotia.

Testing encouraged in New Minas and Sackville areas

Nova Scotia public health is increasing testing capacity after cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 were confirmed in the New Minas and Sackville areas.

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The province said in a release Wednesday afternoon that it is offering more opportunity for residents in these areas to get tested, because the source of infection in some of the cases is unknown.

“Public Health is encouraging everyone who lives in, or has travelled to, the communities between Wolfville and Berwick, and surrounding communities to get tested.”

The Public Health Mobile Unit will be available for drop-in and pre-booked appointments at the following locations:

  • New Minas Fire Department (6 Jones Rd.), on Thursday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, Feb. 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Canning Multi Complex (977 J Jordan Rd.) on Saturday, Feb. 27, and Sunday, Feb. 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A mobile unit will also be set up at the Sackville Heights Community Centre on Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., offering drop-in testing.

NSHA said individuals do not need to self-isolate while waiting for these test results.

Individuals who are experiencing symptoms must make an appointment.

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 3 new COVID-19 cases, more U.K. variant cases confirmed

On Tuesday, the province said it has confirmed three additional cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K., bringing the total to six in the province.

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Two of those cases are in the central zone and had travelled together. The other case is in the western zone and is not connected to the pair who travelled.

“As the UK variant is showing to be more contagious, it is important for Public Health to know where and how the new variant is spreading,” NSHA said in the Wednesday release.

The province said it has also increased testing capacity at assessment centres in Berwick and Wolfville.

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