NOTE: This week is now over. For the very latest news, please go here. But for an informative look back at exactly how Nova Scotia responded to COVID-19 in realtime, keep on reading.
Click here for a smaller, mobile-friendly version of The Coast's Nova Scotia COVID-19 case graph.Editor's note: The Coast has never aimed to be a just-the-facts news service. After all, there are lots of those and far-too-few media outlets that specialize in context, depth and engaging writing. But these are strange times, so we're experimenting with this news centre to be able to give quick-hit updates for our readers who want them. And for readers who don't, the rest of the site is bringing that beloved Coast approach to covering our beloved Halifax during the pandemic.
Strang and McNeil delivered what feels like a May miracle at today's briefing, by easing the restrictions on going outside. Here's the full report on what changed, what didn't and why common sense is gonna be your compass to navigate the new new.
We're getting more details at the briefing currently happening, but here's the list straight from the province's press release about what is open. Note this is effective now!
"The initial steps are:
— provincial and municipal parks can reopen, but playground equipment will continue to be off limits
— trails are allowed to open
— people are allowed to use and visit community gardens
— garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses can open
— sportfishing is permitted from shore or boat, but fishing derbies are not allowed
— people can attend boating, yacht or sailing clubs for the purpose of preparing boats for use
— golf driving ranges can open, including those at golf clubs, but the course must remain closed; golf clubs can perform necessary maintenance and preparations for opening
— people can use their cottages. Use is restricted to one household unit at a time, travel must be directly to the cottage and back, and travelling back and forth frequently from cottage and primary residence is discouraged
— provincial and private campgrounds remain closed, but they can perform necessary maintenance and preparations for opening. An exception is recreational vehicles parked year-round at private campgrounds, which can be used but must follow the same rules as cottages
— drive-in religious services will be allowed, as long as people stay in their cars, they are parked two metres apart and there are no interactions between people in cars or between people in cars and others
These measures take effect immediately."
Friday’s C19 statistics are out, bringing news of another Northwood resident’s death. There have now been 29 deaths from the coronavirus in the province.
Twelve new cases have also been diagnosed today, for a total of 959 cases since this all began in March. But with 592 of those COVID patients now considered recovered, the province saw its number of active cases fall to 338, and we haven’t seen that few active cases since Saturday, April 11.
With May here, Nova Scotia has now been living with COVID-19 in three different months. And this won’t be the last. So we’re happy to report that at today’s briefing, premier Stephen McNeil and public health czar Robert Strang are scheduled to loosen things up around getting outdoors. From the provincial press release announcing the briefing: "They will also announce the easing of some public health restrictions around outdoor and recreational activities."
The fun starts at 3:00 today. You can watch live at novascotia.ca/stayinformed/webcast, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page. And we will be reporting the changes here after the briefing.
The sun is out. Active cases are down. The Steve & Strang show gets a break. Nobody died from COVID-19. This April has been absolutely unquestionably the cruellest month we’ve seen in a long time, but at least it’s going out gently.
In today’s coronavirus statistics from the province, there are 12 new cases (for a total of 947 diagnoses) and 16 people ruled recovered (for a total of 545 recoveries), so Nova Scotia’s number of active cases dropped by four from yesterday, to 374. The number of long-term care facilities that have been infected has been holding at 10 for more than a week, which is more comforting news.
The only blemish on an otherwise good report is that there are 15 new cases among nursing home residents and staff today. That’s definitely a lot compared to having 12 new cases in the province. (We’re talking about the general proportions of new cases here, not the math issue that somehow we have 15 new cases just in care homes, but only 12 across the whole province. Doctor Strang has talked about the known reporting anomalies that cause these numbers to be out of sync.) The long-term care situation is driving Nova Scotia’s numbers, and it is still active—104 staff have been diagnosed in total.
Yesterday Strang and premier McNeil announced a new schedule for their standard C19 briefings, switching from six days a week to three: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Today is their first Thursday off since March 12. Like basically everything in the time of COVID, this schedule will be reassessed as events demand, but them getting a break today, and the province getting a break from wondering if they’re gonna drop some bombshell, feels on brand for this chill day.
After five straight days of declines in the number of active C19 cases in Nova Scotia, today there are more new cases than recoveries, and the active cases line is going the wrong direction again.
Premier McNeil and doctor Strang announced 20 new cases at their daily briefing, and the death of another Northwood resident. “On behalf of all Nova Scotians, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of this individual,” said McNeil in the press release with Wednesday’s COVID-19 statistic.
As that deadline approached, it was pushed back to the May 1. And with that deadline approaching, it’s been pushed again, to Tuesday, May 19.
“I know there are many parents, teachers and students wondering about schools and daycares,” premier McNeil said near the beginning of today’s webcast briefing. “They will remain closed until the long weekend in May, and then we will reassess at that point.”
During the question-and-answer part of the briefing, CTV’s Natasha Pace was the only reporter who pressed the premier for more details about this news. “Is there a possibility that schools could reopen in some fashion this school year, like before the end of June?” Pace asked. McNeil wasn’t forthcoming, reiterating that an assessment will be made leading up to the May long weekend. But he returned to the subject at the end of the briefing, using his closing monologue as a pep talk aimed at teachers, parents and students.
“Thank you for all the work you're doing in such difficult circumstances. I know at the beginning, this seemed daunting. Even our teachers had to learn a new way to teach. And parents, many of whom are working from home, also had to turn to their kitchen table as a classroom,” the premier said.
”We want to continue to be a smart province. Our future depends on it. And the way all of you have embraced at-home learning is inspiring. And I'm so proud of all of you. As hard as it may be. I think you can keep doing it for another three weeks. Then we will assess. So to all of the students out there: be good to your parents, listen to your teachers and keep on learning, please.”
In other words, stay the blazes at homeschool.
Today’s briefing from premier Stephen McNeil and doctor Robert Strang was the first since Friday, as Nova Scotia’s faces of the coronavirus got a break from their standard Sunday and Monday briefing schedule before returning to the media room this late-April snow day. It comes after the weekend New Brunswick opened beaches and allowed physically isolated households to merge into “two-family bubbles,” among other restriction loosening, to celebrate a string of days with new cases. (That string was holding at 118 cases for seven days as of Friday, 11 days Tuesday.)
So Strang started the briefing speaking to the idea of Nova Scotia loosening things up. Shocking absolutely nobody, he says we’re gonna take it slow.
”We still have a significant amount of virus activity here in Nova Scotia. It’s absolutely premature for us to open things up significantly at this time or even in the next next couple of weeks. But we are looking at how we may start to take some initial steps in that direction,” Strang says. “It's important that Nova Scotians understand that this will be a slow and deliberate and phased process.”
The relaxing of physical distancing measures should have the welcome effect of giving people more freedom to get out of their houses, and it’s also an important precursor to opening up parts of the economy. Whenever it happens and whatever it looks like, however, don’t think of it as a return to the way things were in the before times.
”The basic requirements around social distancing; minimizing the chance of groups of people, especially large groups of people, getting together; as well as proper hygiene—hand washing, not touching your face—those are going to be in place for months ahead of us,” says Strang.
”As we talk about returning back to normal, what actually normal is actually going to look quite different for a significant length of time. This virus is with us for a long period of time.”
The coronavirus has killed three more people, all of them residents at Northwood, the large long-term care facility on Gottingen Street that is suffering through a COVID-19 outbreak. And there are 15 newly diagnosed cases of C19 in the province. That’s the bad news from the province’s Tuesday statistics.
For the good news, look at the graph at the top of this page. This marks the fifth day in a row the number of active cases has fallen. Sure, it only dropped by one from yesterday to today, 367 cases to 366, but down is down. The number of recovered C19 patients crossed the active case line on Sunday in a very exciting move, and with any luck they will not meet again.
In the press release with the latest provincial numbers—27 new cases of C19 diagnosed—is a rare note: “There will be no COVID-19 media briefing today, April 27.” Hopefully premier Stephen McNeil and doctor Robert Strang are getting a well-deserved break.