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A tighter lockdown and 227 new cases arrive May 7

Borders and stores are closing as a woman dies and the health system is beyond capacity.

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Today Nova Scotia announced 227 new cases of COVID-19, a grim provincial record that spawned two more, as the caseload rose for the record 21st straight day to a record 1,464 active cases. Five more people entered the hospital since yesterday, for a total of 50 patients, and one person—a woman in her 70s in Central Zone—died. “Add to that, there’s still over 200 positive cases that are waiting to be entered into the system,” said premier Iain Rankin, speaking this afternoon at a COVID press conference with top doc Robert Strang, and all signs point to trouble.

Friday, May 7, 2021

New cases
227

New recoveries
71

Active cases
1,464

Days in a row with cases
39

Total cases in Nova Scotia during pandemic
3,591

Halifax’s lockdown
15 days

Nova Scotia’s lockdown
10 days

“I need to be honest with you,” chief medical officer of health Strang explained in a solemn voice. “The volume of cases has exceeded the capacity of public health.”

In response, Strankin added new restrictions to take Nova Scotia’s 10-day-old lockdown to another level.

Starting Monday, May 10 at 8am, for the first time since the first wave our borders will not allow anyone from any other province entry into Nova Scotia, ending a longstanding agreement with PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador.

For at least the next month, borders will be fully closed to people intending to move here, to mourners who would come for funerals and to parents wanting to pick up their offspring at Nova Scotian universities. The only exceptions will be permanent residents, post-secondary students or rotational workers returning home; custody agreement travel; people who go to work or school on the other side of the border; and other pre-established groups who don’t have to self-isolate, like long-haul truckers.

Inside the province, extra restrictions come into effect tomorrow, Saturday, May 8, at 8am. “Businesses are asked to stop selling products that are not essential,” said Strang, before adding a line that’s already become legendary on social media. “It is not the time to go to Costco for sandals that you heard were in stock.”

Only one person in a household (children and caregivers excepted) is allowed to do any shopping, a rule retailers are expected to enforce. Wherever possible, the province is encouraging Nova Scotians to order online for delivery or curbside pickup. “People who have no other option than to shop in person are asked to shop for essential items only, limit their trips to retail stores and limit their time spent shopping.”

According to a release from the province, only 14 categories of retail business will be permitted to operate, and those will be at a maximum 25 percent capacity.

They are:
- food
- pharmaceutical products, medicine and medical devices
- personal hygiene products
- cleaning products
- baby and child products
- gas stations and garages
- computer and cellphone service and repair
- electronic and office supplies
- hardware supplies and home appliances
- pet and animal supplies
- gardening supplies
- workplace safety supplies
- automobile purchases (by appointment only)
- laundromats

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For the Costcos of the world, the province doesn’t know exactly how it will get them to close the sandal department and other non-essential aisles. “We’re aware of the challenges if you make this required,” said Strang. “In a broad range of products, what we may consider non-essential may actually be essential to an individual family based on their circumstances.”

Earlier this week, Strang said what happened when Ontario attempted this was “very problematic.” He talked about having calls with people in the industry to avoid the same mistakes. “We’re going to work through the retail sector, and hear from them about how best to go about limiting as much as we can the sale of non-essential products in retail outlets for the month of May,” he added today.

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As it has before during this deadly third wave of COVID, today the province encouraged employers to let their employees work from home, but the province has yet to mandate work-from-home or paid sick days. “Work from home unless you cannot do your job remotely,” said Strang. “We need employers to make sure that they wherever possible are supporting your employees to work from home.”

Strang said that the restrictions are very likely to continue for more than the originally anticipated two weeks. But with mRNA vaccines opening today to people from 45 to 49 years old, it won’t be much longer now: “Remember, the last part of any marathon is the hardest.” Yesterday provincial clinics injected nearly 10,000 doses of vaccine, about average for the week.

If Nova Scotians continue to follow restrictions—something Strang acknowledged is exhausting for even himself at this point more than a year into the pandemic—we could see an almost-normal summer. “It feels out of control right now and we will have a very tough May,” he said. “But what is also true is that if we stay committed and together, doing the hard things for each other, we will start to emerge in June and can look forward to a much brighter summer.”

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