Nova Scotia reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, as well as the death of a man in his 50s in the central health zone.
“That’s still another reminder, this latest death, how deadly this disease can be, and it is still lingering in our province,” said Premier Iain Rankin during a COVID-19 briefing Friday.
“The good news is we are managing to contain it.”
Six of the new cases are in the central zone. Three are close contacts of previously reported cases, two are related to travel and one is under investigation.
It’s the first time the province reported single-digit new cases since April 20, when nine cases were reported. It’s also the lowest daily total since April 18, when seven new cases were announced.
Eleven people have recovered since Thursday, leaving an active case count of 143. Nova Scotia Health labs completed 4,918 tests on Thursday.
Ten people are in hospital, including six in ICU.
On Thursday, the province reported a new case at Citadel High School. There was also a case at that school reported on Wednesday. The school is closed to students until Monday to allow for testing of close contacts. Students will continue to learn from home on Friday.
According to the Department of Education, five schools have had a reported COVID-19 case since June 6.
First cases of Delta variant
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said the National Microbiology Lab has confirmed two cases of the Delta variant, first identified in India, for the first time in Nova Scotia.
He said those cases were previously reported several weeks ago and are related to international travel.
While those cases are now resolved and no spread has been found, he pointed to the fact that it’s spreading in other parts of Canada and said this is a key reason to remain cautious.
“It’s even more concerning because single doses (of the vaccine) aren’t very effective against this latest variant strain,” he said.
Strang urged Nova Scotians to continue to get tested for COVID-19 regularly.
“As I’ve said before, along with getting vaccinated, the main way to get out of the third wave as quickly as possible is regular testing,” he said.
Workplace testing strategy
The province also announced it would expand its asymptomatic testing initiative at Nova Scotia workplaces, which has been “piloted for several weeks,” said Strang.
Strang said so far, more than 275 businesses, employing more than 50,000 Nova Scotians, have signed up.
Those businesses are both big and small and work in a variety of industries, he said.
“What brings them together is knowing that regular testing is good for their business, good for employees and good for their communities,” he said.
The province has partnered with chambers of commerce from across the province, as well as the seven regional enterprise networks, the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium and the federal government.
Businesses who want to participate must have a testing plan in place that’s been approved by the Department of Health and Wellness. The province said testing kits will be provided for free through the federal government.
Phase 2 of reopening plan
As of Thursday, 63.5 per cent of Nova Scotians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Nova Scotia is expected to enter Phase 2 of its reopening plan on June 16, as long as case numbers continue to decline and hospitalizations remain low, Premier Rankin said Friday.
That phase will allow indoor bar and restaurant dining with physical distancing, stores being able to operate at 50 per cent capacity, indoor gathering limits up to 10 people and outdoor gathering limits of up to 25.
More information can be found on the province’s website.
Rankin also said he was in discussions with the other Atlantic premiers about the possibility of reviving the so-called Atlantic bubble. “It will depend on how each province approaches the reopening plan,” he said.
The premier and Dr. Strang also extended their congratulations to Grade 12 students who are graduating this year.
Strang said large gatherings won’t be permitted, but communities can still figure out creative ways to celebrate that still follow the reopening protocols.
“I know you’re disappointed there can’t be regular large proms or community gatherings to celebrate your accomplishments. I wish it was different myself,” he said.
While in-person and “drive-in” graduation ceremonies carry too much risk, Strang suggested doing something like a “drive-past” celebration, which involves graduates sitting outside, distanced, while families and community members drive by.
“You’ve had two very challenging years due to COVID-19,” he said. “But you should be very proud. You have risen to the challenge and succeeded.”