'Our lives changed': N.S. marks one year of COVID-19; 1 new case announced

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Premier Iain Rankin participates in a COVID-19 briefing on Friday, March 12, 2021. (CBC - image credit)
Premier Iain Rankin participates in a COVID-19 briefing on Friday, March 12, 2021. (CBC - image credit)

As Nova Scotia prepares to mark the sombre one-year anniversary of COVID-19's arrival in Nova Scotia, the province reported one new case on Friday and announced plans to expand vaccine eligibility.

Stephen McNeil, the premier at the time, and Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced last March 15 that three people had fallen sick and COVID-19 was the likely culprit.

It was the day kids found out they'd have an extended March Break, the day people living in long-term care facilities learned they would no longer be allowed to have visitors, the day stores closed and people were told to work from home if possible.

"Our lives changed a year ago as this disease swept the world," said Premier Iain Rankin at a news conference on Friday.

Strang said, "I don't think any of us could have imagined then just how much our lives would have to change. The impacts have been far-reaching and felt by all, but none more so than the 65 families who lost loved ones to COVID-19."

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, encouraged kids to enjoy March break safely next week.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, encouraged kids to enjoy March break safely next week.(CBC)

In the days and weeks that followed the announcement of COVID's arrival in the province, 65 Nova Scotians lost their lives as the virus swept through Northwood Halifax, a long-term care facility in the city's north end.

"That is something no one should ever forget," Rankin said. "If you're uncertain about whether to get vaccinated, please remember what some people have lost, and what this virus is capable of."

Fast forward one year, and Nova Scotia's caseload remains miniscule compared to much of the world.

The province announced one new case Friday, for a total active caseload of 17. The case is in the eastern zone and contact tracers are investigating the cause.

Vaccine eligibility expands Monday

Nova Scotia is set to expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines. As of Monday, anyone who is 80 or older and was born between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31 can book an appointment for a vaccine at a community clinic. Until Monday, only those aged 80 and older born between January and April are eligible.

Those who are 63 or 64 years old can also book an appointment for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at a pharmacy or doctor's office.

Bookings can be made online here or by phone at 1-833-797-7772.

No N.S. cases linked to transmission on airplanes

Despite frequent warnings about possible COVID-19 exposures on airplanes, Strang said Friday he's not aware of any cases in Nova Scotia where someone got the disease on a plane arriving in the province.

"The general conclusion from around the world is that transmission on an airplane has been very rare," Strang said.

And, despite even more frequent notifications of potential exposures at community locations such as restaurants and stores, only a "very small number" of cases have been linked directly to those exposure sites, Strang said.

"Most of those notifications, there's a low to moderate risk on those. Off the top of my head … there's only one or two cases that I can say that we've concluded that their only source of exposure was at that notification site."

Strang said with many cases, people have been at more than one notification site, but they've also had other potential sources of exposure, so contract tracers are unable to pinpoint one single cause of exposure. Those are the cases the province reports as not being related to travel or to close contacts of another person who has tested positive.

However, Strang continued to urge people to take precautions, including keeping their distance, washing their hands and wearing a mask.

Potential exposure announced

On Friday, Nova Scotia health announced a potential COVID-19 exposure at Flag Pond Coastal Access Park in Eastern Passage (1775 Cow Bay Rd.) on Feb. 27 between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Anyone who was there are at that time is asked to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether they have symptoms. While awaiting test results, people must self-isolate if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone exposed may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 13.

A full list of active COVID-19 exposures is maintained here.

With the school break beginning next week, Strang urged families to continue to keep social circles small and only travel outside Nova Scotia if absolutely necessary.

Testing and vaccine numbers

The Nova Scotia Health labs completed 2,681 tests Thursday.

There were 1,074 tests administered March 5-11 at the rapid-testing pop-up sites in Spryfield, Bedford and Upper Tantallon.

As of March 11, 46,891 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. Of those, 15,655 Nova Scotians have received their second dose.

Atlantic Canada case numbers