Nova Scotia reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. With eight previously reported cases now considered resolved, the number of active cases in the province has risen from 64 to 65.
Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang are scheduled to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation at 1:30 p.m. Atlantic.
Nova Scotia Health says five of the new cases are in Central Zone. Two of the cases are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. The people are self-isolating as required. One case is a close contact of a previously reported case. One case is under investigation.
Three new cases are in Western Zone. Two of the cases are close contacts of previously reported cases. The other case is under investigation.
One new case is in Northern Zone and is under investigation.
Also, a school-based case was identified today, Dec. 11, at Shannon Park Elementary in Dartmouth.
The school has been closed since a previous case was announced on Tuesday, and students are now expected to return next Wednesday, Dec. 16. Students will continue to learn from home during the closure and families will receive an update on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
As with any positive case, public health will be in touch with any close contacts of this case and advise of next steps. Everyone who is a close contact will be notified, tested and asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
HOLIDAY BREAK EXTENDED FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
McNeil also announced Friday that Nova Scotia public school students will have an extended holiday break due to COVID-19.
The last day of classes will be Dec. 18 and classes resume Jan. 11, a week later than the previous return date of Jan. 4.
School-based staff will be returning to schools on Jan. 4 for five days of professional learning.
“This year has created unprecedented challenges for our school system. I want to thank teachers, administrators, parents and students who are all working hard to follow the protocols. As well, thank you to the cleaning staff who work tirelessly to sanitize our schools,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are extending the holiday break. We have seen COVID-19 cases rise in other provinces after holidays, and there is the potential for the virus to join even small gatherings of family and friends. This precautionary measure will allow us to identify cases before students return to class.”
During the week of Jan. 4, principals, teachers, support staff, specialists and early childhood educators will be in school for professional development, learning on behalf of their students in areas such as inclusive education, social emotional learning and technology.
“We have had a successful school year so far and we want it to continue,” said Zach Churchill, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. “By setting aside five days of professional development for staff, we are giving them an opportunity to prepare for the rest of the school year, and to think about how they can support student learning and well-being until the end of June.”
Four positive cases have been identified in three Central zone elementary schools in the past week; Two cases were identified at Dartmouth’s Shannon Park Elementary on Friday and Tuesday, one case was identified at Eastern Passage’s Tallahassee Community School on Thursday, and one case was identified at Dartmouth’s Ian Forsyth Elementary on Sunday.
OUTBREAK AT POULTRY COMPANY
Experiencing an outbreak at Eden Valley Poultry, a processing plant in Berwick, N.S.
All employees and staff have been tested, and a ‘number’ of positive cases have turned up. N.S. Health is still waiting for 300 test results to come in.
“There is no evidence of community spread but we have to act fast. We are announcing today that this plant will be shut down for two weeks, and starting immediately we will enhance our testing throughout the valley.”
McNeil says the province will be opening mobile testing units and pop-up testing throughout the valley.
“It’s not easy to shut down any company and this chicken plant is a large employer and a big part of our food supply chain. But we have to do what we have to do to protect employees and communities and prevent any further spread.”
VACCINATION TO BEGIN NEXT WEEK
Nova Scotia will begin vaccinating frontline health-care workers and long-term care staff against COVID-19 next week, said Strang during Friday’s update.
Strang added that a successful dry-run of the Pfizer vaccine happened on Wednesday, which is described as a practice run of shipping the boxes, making sure it’s received, stored properly and hooked into the controls and monitoring systems.
“All of this is designed to test and refine our approach before the first shipment of vaccines even arrives. It is a complicated operation, especially with the Pfizer vaccine given its unique storage and handling requirements, but I hope people can see that we are absolutely ready to receive vaccine and start administer that,” said Strang during Friday’s briefing.
Strang says the province is slated to receive 1,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 15, and will receive weekly shipments of the vaccine for the first three months of 2021, for an expected total of 150,000 doses, which is enough to immunize 75,000 people.
The first doses will be given to long-term care residents and staff, frontline health care workers who are closely involved in the COVID-19 response, and older Nova Scotians in the community beginning with those 80 and over.
“These groups fall into one of two high-risk categories. They are either vulnerable to severe COVID-19 because of their age, or they are critically important in assessing and treating COVID-19 patients,” said Strang.
Strang says the province plans on receiving more vaccines in the spring, and will then prioritizes immunizing health-care workers and other essential workers.
“I know people are eager to get a COVID vaccine and that’s encouraging, but we need people to be patient, and to understand that this is going to be a months long process,” said Strang.