Nova Scotia's latest COVID-19 cases are all associated with the Northwood nursing home in Halifax, where three more residents have died due to the disease.
Northwood was also where the latest four confirmed cases were identified, Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said during Wednesday's teleconference update, accompanied by Premier Stephen McNeil.
“Again, today, we have no community-based cases, which is good news,” Strang said.
He said the new cases include two residents and two staff at Northwood.
One case reported in Tuesday's update also was a health-care worker linked to Northwood.
“We continue to see ongoing testing of staff,” Strang said. “That's why we see some turning positive. We continue to test the necessary residents, but ongoing in my conversations with my staff at Northwood, what they're seeing is that many residents can be tested multiple times and it may be on the third or fourth time that they're tested that they actually test positive, but their exposure may have been even a few weeks ago.
"So it's very interesting how this virus is playing out and how long it takes, potentially, for someone who's been exposed to actually have enough virus in the back of their nose and throat to actually have a positive test.”
He said one confirmed case was identified on a floor of Northwood's Manor section that had not yet recorded a positive. Everyone on the floor is now being tested.
Northwood currently has 64 residents and 13 staff with active cases. One other long-term care facility has one staff member with an active case and another facility has one resident with an active case.
Strang said provincial health officials are now considering options to test for asymptomatic spread through random samples.
“Nationally, there's discussion about doing a sero-survey (testing blood serum). So you do a sample of people across the country big enough that you can get representative numbers from each of the provinces and territories and then through that, you get a sense of how many people have been actually immune from wave one and then we go back and match that up with the number of known cases we have. And the difference would give us an estimation of the number of people that weren't recognized – either they were asymptomatic or never came forward for testing.”
Strang said the province is still considering a number of things that will be packaged into Phase 1 of a recovery strategy that may include loosening some of the restrictions around the number of people allowed at some types of gatherings if the province continues to see little to no new cases.
McNeil ended the session by saying Nova Scotia will not rush into re-opening the economy.
“When the cabinet and I receive the advice from Public Health officials, we will come back to all Nova Scotians with a date and a more specific plan,” McNeil said.
“Other provinces have already opened up, some quicker than others. Remember, we were the last to receive COVID. This is not a competition. We are not in a race. We need to be safe. We need to continue to see a pattern of fewer cases. (When) that happens and I feel confident that we are getting closer to a gradual opening. I need to be sure that Dr. Strang is confident in the science and I want you to be confident when we open up.”
The QEII Health Sciences Centre's microbiology lab performed 502 tests on Tuesday.
To date, Nova Scotia has 34,604 negative test results, 1,024 positive COVID-19 test results and 51 deaths. Nine people are currently in hospital, four of those in ICU. Eight-hundred and seventy individuals have now recovered and their cases of COVID-19 are considered resolved.
Health officials continue to remind people to visit https://811.novascotia.ca to determine if you should call 811 for further assessment if they have two or more of the following symptoms: fever, new or worsening cough, sore throat, runny nose, and headache.
Mitigation measures remain in place and Nova Scotians are asked to practise good hygiene, maintain a physical distance of two metres or six feet from others, limit essential gatherings to no more than five people and stay at home as much as possible.
A map and graphic presentation of the Health Department's case data is available here.