There are no COVID-19 news briefings planned for this week in Nova Scotia, and it’s not clear when one might happen again.
In a written statement, Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the province marked its 150th COVID-19 update last week and suggested the briefings will be put on hold as case numbers remain low.
The province is now in its fourth stage of its reopening plan and there are fewer than 10 active cases remaining.
“I sincerely want to thank Nova Scotians for tuning in to these briefings over the last year and a half, and for working together to keep each other safe and help our province battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” Strang said in the statement.
“While we work on continuing to build our two-dose vaccine coverage rate over the coming weeks, we will be reducing the frequency of our updates, but will continue to share information and updates with Nova Scotians as needed. Thank you again to all Nova Scotians or your attention, diligence, and commitment to keeping our communities safe.”
It’s unclear if the upcoming provincial election impacted the decision to stop the briefings.
The last COVID-19 briefing was held on July 14, three days before Rankin requested the dissolution of the legislature, kicking off a summer election campaign.
Rankin, alongside Strang, has led regular COVID-19 news briefings since he took the seat in February 2021 following the resignation of former premier Stephen McNeil.
McNeil also held regular briefings with the province’s top doctor during the previous 12 months.
Global News reached out to the Department of Health to ask how the briefings would proceed, now that Rankin is engaged in an active campaign.
In an email, spokesperson Kristen Lipscombe did not say if Rankin would be involved in future briefings during the election.
“We will be issuing daily releases with updated case numbers and vaccine info,” the email said. “If anything changes, we will update media through a note to editors.”
Rankin has previously used a COVID-19 briefing to share news unrelated to the pandemic.
Earlier this month, as election speculation ramped up, he revealed at the start of a news conference that he had been convicted of impaired driving in 2003. He was also charged with impaired driving in 2005 but that charge was dismissed.
At the time, the official Opposition criticized him for sharing this information during a public health briefing.
Another pandemic election
Canada’s first provincial election held during the pandemic took place in neighbouring New Brunswick, after Premier Blaine Higgs called a snap election in mid-August 2020, which was held on Sept. 14.
Higgs ended up winning a majority Progressive Conservative government.
During the campaign, the province held five COVID-19 news briefings, which Higgs did not attend.
Those briefings largely included back-to-school updates and were led by the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell. She was also joined by education officials.
Higgs returned to doing COVID-19 briefings after his government won the election.