Nova Scotia health officials reported five new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bumping the number of active cases up to 28.
All five new cases are located in the Central Zone.
One of the new cases was first reported Thursday night and involves a close contact of a positive case at Auburn Drive High School in Cole Harbour, N.S.
Another case is also connected to a previously reported case.
The other three cases are still under investigation.
Since the beginning of November, there have been 51 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Nova Scotia.
NEW GATHERING LIMITS IN CENTRAL ZONE
Effective Monday, Nov. 23, new gathering limits and social restrictions will apply in most areas of the province’s Central zone.
“We are at a critical point in our province. If we don’t act now, it may be too late. That’s why we’re taking a targeted approach in the Central zone to contain the virus here and slow the spread,” said N.S. premier Stephen McNeil during Friday’s news update.
“While travel sparked our initial cases a few weeks ago, it is now social activity that is fanning the flames and causing the virus to circulate more widely. We are the beginning of community spread and it is now here, and rapidly becoming wide spread,” added Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health.
The new restrictions include:
A limit of five people gathering in a close social group without physical distancing; down from 10.
That limit includes households of more than five members who may only go outside the home in groups of five.
A maximum of 25 people gathering with physical distancing for informed indoor and outdoor social events; down from 50.
A maximum of 100 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity at indoor events run by recognized by a recognized business or organization; down from 200.
A maximum of 150 people at outdoor events run by recognized by a recognized business or organization; down from 250.
Adult day programs for seniors who live in the community will no longer be allowed.
The new gathering limits will apply in all of the Halifax Regional Municiaplity except the areas east of Porters Lake to Ecum Secum. The limits will also apply to the Enfield and Mount Uniacke areas in both HRM and Hants County.
The limits do not apply in Elmsdale and communities north of there.
The gathering limits will be in effect until at least Dec. 21, or until public health makes changes.
“Let’s call this what it is; we are having a problem with 18-35 year olds. They are going out when they feel sick, they are going out in large groups, and quite frankly different groups, and not distancing,” said McNeil during Friday’s news update. “They are living as if COVID doesn’t exist.”
NEW CONTACT TRACING RULES FOR RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Also effective Monday, all restaurants and bars in the province will be required to collect names and phone numbers of all patrons for contact tracing.
McNeil announced Friday that beginning Nov. 23, all full-service restaurants and licensed establishments across the province must collect accurate contact information on each patron, including date and time of visit, name and phone number.
This data must be retained for four weeks from date of visit for contact-tracing purposes.
There is no end date for this requirement.
“Our restaurants and bars want to stay open but they agree we need to put in place some new measures to protect Nova Scotians and their employees. Effective Monday, if you go to a restaurant anywhere in the province, you will have to provide your name and phone number for contact tracing,” added McNeil.
TESTING FOR BAR STAFF
Also starting Monday, N.S. health will begin an asymptomatic testing strategy over a seven day period for all bar staff in Halifax.
Staff will receive information from their employer soon on how to arrange testing.
“COVID is a social virus – it likes social contact because that’s how it spreads. COVID-19 flourishes in close-contact settings,” said Strang. “That’s why we have to reduce our social circles and our gathering sizes outside of schools and the workplace. I know this will not be easy, but it’s an initial step to contain the community spread and avoid the potential to overwhelm our health-care system. It’s also why we will be testing bar staff in peninsular Halifax because they are now on the social frontlines of the pandemic and we need to keep them safe.”
RESTRICTIONS FOR LONG-TERM CARE FACILITY RESIDENTS
Residents of long-term care facilities in Nova Scotia will also have new restrictions effective Monday.
The following restrictions will apply to all long-term care facilities across the province from Nov. 23, to Dec. 21:
residents can only leave their facilities for medical/dental appointments
a registered designated caregiver can take a resident for a sight-seeing car ride but they cannot include additional passengers or stops for shopping, visits, etc., of any kind or use drive-thrus
a facility can continue sight-seeing outings using their vehicles, but physical distancing is required, no other passengers are permitted in the vehicle and there are no stops of any kind including use of drive-thrus
“We appreciate that this is challenging for residents and their families, but we are doing this to protect them from the virus as our case numbers rise,” said Strang during Friday’s news update.
Long-term care facilities will still be allowed to have family member visitation and other social interaction.
“We know that visits with family and social interaction is critical for the well-being of these residents, and we need to allow this to happen for as long as we possibly can,” added Strang. “It’s unfortunate, but I am hearing too many stories of long-term care facilities that are not adopting the recommended public health actions. We are telling facilities they need to long after the care of the residents, not just their physical health but mental health as well.”
An additional restriction for seniors in the HRM-area will no long allow day programs for seniors who live in the community.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 1,384 Nova Scotia tests on Thursday.
To date, Nova Scotia has had 126,446 negative test results and 1,160 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 1,067 cases are considered resolved and 65 people have died as a result of the novel coronavirus, leaving 28 active cases in the province.
There is no one in hospital due to COVID-19.
The province’s confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.
Sixty per cent of cases are female and 40 per cent are male.
There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Central Zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.
The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.
Western Zone: 58 cases
Central Zone: 970 cases
Northern Zone: 77 cases
Eastern Zone: 55 cases
The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, has been extended to Nov. 29.