Nova Scotia reported 55 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday since its last update on Sept. 17.
In a release, the province said 34 cases are in the Central Zone. Of those, 24 are close contacts to previously reported cases, three are related to travel and seven are under investigation.
There are still signs of community spread in the Central Zone among those “aged 20 to 40 who are unvaccinated and participating in social activities,” the release said.
The Northwood long-term care facility recently reported that one of its staff members had tested positive for COVID-19. Recent tests done on both staff and residents have come back negative.
Thirteen new cases were reported in the Northern Zone, 11 of which are close contacts of previously reported cases and two are under investigation. The province said there is a “large cluster of linked cases in a defined, unvaccinated group” in that zone and more cases are expected.
Five cases were found in the Western Zone. Two are related to travel, two are close contacts of previously reported cases and one is under investigation.
And three cases are in the Eastern Zone, which are all related to travel.
There are now 129 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. Two more people have been hospitalized since Friday, bringing the total of COVID-19 patients in hospital to eight. Nobody is in ICU.
Nova Scotia Health labs completed 3,196 tests on Sept. 17, 2,679 tests on Sept. 18 and 2,670 tests on Sept. 19.
According to the provincial COVID-19 dashboard, 79.5 per cent of Nova Scotians have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 73.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Community spread in Central Zone
Holly Gillis, a public health manager with Nova Scotia Health, said asymptomatic testing remains open in Halifax and Dartmouth in response to community spread.
“We’re focusing in on the groups that are at the highest risk of contracting, or spreading the virus, and trying to get in there early with testing,” she told Global News.
The restaurant and bar sector in the Central Zone is once again a hot spot for COVID-19 transmission, with those establishments making up a big chunk of recent exposure notifications issued by Nova Scotia Health.
Gordon Stewart, the executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, said the situation brings “a lot of concern” to restaurant owners and operators, as well as employees and customers.
He said while a spike of exposures linked to the sector is disappointing, it’s not overly surprising.
“This is kind of like the last weeks of summer so there’s a big rush out there,” he said. “People getting out, new students coming into the universities, the last of the tourism season.”
Provinces that fully reopened ahead of Nova Scotia are now reinstating some restrictions during the fourth wave of COVID-19. Mandatory masks indoors is back in Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick is following suit.
Nova Scotia doesn’t plan to drop masking until its vaccine policy comes into play on Oct. 4, when most social settings like restaurants will only be open to those with proof of two doses.
That will bring a whole new set of challenges, said Stewart.
“It will bring out, as we’ve already seen, some of the anti-vaxxers. People will try to cause a problem on purpose,” he said.
“So, that’s going to be challenging. And we’re going to be reaching out to police departments, RCMP, to let them know we don’t want harassment inside our restaurants.”
He said in a perfect world, the policy wouldn’t be necessary. But if it means avoiding another full-scale lockdown, it’s well worth it, said Stewart.
“We need to be able to do everything to mitigate being closed, and that unfortunately means proof of vaccination will be one of those routes that we’ll do.”
— with files from Alexa MacLean