COVID-19: N.S. closing schools early for holiday break, announce 178 new cases

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia closing schools early for holiday break amid COVID-19 surge'
Nova Scotia closing schools early for holiday break amid COVID-19 surge
WATCH: Nova Scotia closing schools early for holiday break amid COVID-19 surge – Dec 15, 2021

Nova Scotia is reporting 178 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, making it the highest single-day total since May, when the province was in the grips of the third wave.

The province has also announced most public schools will begin the holiday break earlier than originally planned. Students’ last day will be this Friday, as opposed to next Tuesday.

Education Minister Becky Druhan said the decision was made because of the “operational impacts” from the Omicron variant and the need for close contacts to self-isolate.

“This has been something that’s unfolding and we want it to be responsive to the way that it’s unfolding, provide people with notice,” she told Global News.

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“But also it’s really important that we keep our children in school as long as we can. So this is a balance between providing that notice but also recognizing the operational impacts on the school.”

The majority of the new cases were recorded in the Central Zone area.

According to the province 113 were in Central Zone, 55 were in Eastern Zone, five were in Northern Zone and five were in Western Zone.

Six people are in hospital, including two in ICU. There are no hospitalizations in Eastern Zone, where an outbreak involving the Omicron variant is centred at St. Francis Xavier University.

Public health also said it has begun informing people they are positive for COVID-19 by text, due to the “significant surge” in cases. The backlog means that text messages allow for more “timely notification.”

The text messages will advise people they are positive, and tell them to self-isolate immediately. It will also tell them to notify all their close contacts — such as family and friends — and register for public health’s daily check-in service.

Public health will then contact positive cases by phone “within a few days” of the text message to collect more information.

Meanwhile, public health said it will continue to be responsible for notifying close contacts in certain settings, including schools, child-care facilities, universities, long-term care facilities, hospitals, corrections facilities, shelters, First Nations facilities and group living settings.

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Cases in schools

Fourteen schools were notified of an exposure on Tuesday.

Druhan said the province recognized that the current outbreak “has put pressures on our schools, the people who work there and the students and families who are connected to our classrooms.”

“It’s not a public health or safety decision. This is an operational decision as a result of the numbers of people who are being required to self-isolate,” she told Global News.

A few schools have had to move to at-home learning and the province said it’s expected a small number of others may need to do so before Friday “due to operational impacts from the pandemic.”

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Learning centres will remain open next Monday and Tuesday for students who require additional support. As well, staff at public schools will report to work as usual next week unless they are required to self-isolate for public health reasons.

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The province said the education department will continue to monitor the pandemic during the holidays and consult public health before schools reopen. Currently, schools are scheduled to reopen on Jan. 6, which was already a two-day extension of the holidays.

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