At today's COVID-19 press teleconference chief medical officer Robert Strang and outgoing premier Stephen McNeil said Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night—sort of.
Strang gave some clarification around last week's announcement which saw changes take effect today that will stay in place until at least January 10. Namely that restaurants in HRM are to stay closed, fitness centres are open but with restrictions, sports teams and theatre rehearsals can happen with a 25 person cap and more. Read all the details here:
New today was the province announcing the people who will be on its panel to monitor the use of the vaccine in Nova Scotia. It's a top-notch list co-chaired by physician Gaynor Watson-Creed, deputy chief medical officer of health, and Shelly McNeil, the NSHA's senior medical director of COVID planning and implementation. Lisa Barrett, NSHA clinician-scientist and viral immunologist and Good Person To Follow On Social Media will also be on the panel with eight more voices–a lot of whom are women!
Asymptomatic testing will continue, but Strang took a moment to remind folks that a negative test one day does not mean you're Covid-negative for a week. It's important if you're getting a test before visiting a vulnerable grandparent, for example, you make sure to get it early enough that you can get the result—but know you have to keep your environment free of possible infection exposure from the moment you get the test to saying hi to grandma, or else it doesn't work.
Strang said all you have to do is look outside Nova Scotia to see how much harder things could be, adding it's worth celebrating the work Nova Scotians have done since December 1 to see Covid numbers trending downward—but keeping things that way is imperative—especially as the pull of gathering with friends and family will be so strong over the holidays. Strang says the commitment and sacrifices people in Nova Scotia have made has "saved lives."
Also this week, NS is expanding its cold-storage sites for the vaccine. Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Colchester East Hants Health Centre, Valley Regional Hospital and Yarmouth Regional Hospital will get freezers that can store any kind of vaccine, and when new shipments arrive, they'll go right there.
The work about deciding who's an "essential worker" and where people fall on the priority list will take place in the new year, says Strang. But when asked if incarcerated Nova Scotians or folks working at prisons will be high on that list, Strang said "incarcerated individuals are certainly identified already as a group that needs some special thinking and attention."
Strang also touched on reports of a new strand of COVID-19 coming from the UK, noting that Coronavirus—the general term for the flu, SARS, and COVID-19 (AKA SARS-CoV2) already has many different strands. In response to the news though, the Canadian government shut down any flights from the UK to Canada yesterday. Strang praised the move.
Nova Scotia will receive 3,900 new doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week, some of which will be distributed to more top-priority healthcare workers. Some will be held back in order to get those who were vaccinated first their second dose.
Strang said on the vaccine front, Nova Scotia is "moving faster than we originally thought."
He urged Nova Scotians to be smart this holiday, follow the guidelines, and encouraged folks to "let go of what we think the holidays should be." He says to then find the bright spots in all that we are able to do.