Premier rolls out emergency plan to deal with COVID-19 at Northwood

Premier Stephen McNeil has rolled out an emergency plan to deal with cases of COVID-19 at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax.

On Sunday, two more residents from the Northwood Halifax Campus died. Five residents have died at Northwood during the outbreak.

The total death toll for COVID-19 in Nova Scotia as of Sunday is nine.

At a briefing Sunday, Premier Stephen McNeil said an emergency plan has been implemented at Northwood that involves having residents who have recovered from COVID-19 moving to a hotel.

McNeil said Shannex has donated equipment to support residents, including electric beds, tables and other supplies for the off-site care unit at the hotel.

"The first resident was transferred earlier today by ambulance and I'm told that the family was there to wave as their mom moved in," McNeil said.

"A number of residents followed and that will continue throughout the week as residents continue to recover."

McNeil said the Halifax Infirmary's COVID-19 team will be redeployed to Northwood to support its emergency response starting Sunday night.

That team includes 40 workers, including nurses, continuing-care workers and rehab therapists.

Although Northwood is advertising for employees, the premier said the province does not plan to take advantage of an offer from Ottawa to participate in a program to top up wages for some low-earning essential workers.

"I want to thank all health-care workers and everyone volunteering to support Northwood during this critical time," McNeil said.

Northwood will talk more about its plan to fight COVID-19 at its Halifax campus at a press conference on Monday.

According to Unifor, the union that represents workers at Northwood, the site is moving about 20 residents to a hotel.

Linda MacNeil, Atlantic regional director for Unifor, said the move gives the facility the chance to do further cleaning and also helps resolve some staffing issues the site is facing.

Double rooms turned into single rooms

Some double rooms will be changed to singles, which should also help efforts to contain spread of the disease, MacNeil said in telephone interview.

On Saturday, MacNeil said her union has been asked by the province to find more workers to help at Northwood.

Unifor, along with CUPE, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union have put out calls for volunteers to work at Northwood as part of a good neighbours agreement the unions have with the provincial government.

Unions say anyone going into the site will be provided with necessary personal protective equipment.

MacNeil said it's been an overwhelming time for staff at Northwood.

"You're trying to do the best you can with what you have and you care for your residents. So it's extremely stressful," she said.

"I bow to them because without them, where would those residents be? It's very stressful, but they know this is for the residents and they care deeply for them. Essentially, when you work in those facilities, they're like family. So you want to treat them as such."

Cases in long-term care homes approach 150

Two other people who died were residents at other long-term care facilities.

As of Saturday, the province said there were eight long-term care homes in Nova Scotia with cases of COVID-19, including 93 residents and 54 staff.

Cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia rose to 675 on Sunday with 26 new positive test results.

The QEII Health Sciences Centre's microbiology lab completed 856 Nova Scotia tests on Saturday. There have been 21,120 negative test results so far.

There are eleven people in hospital, with four people in the intensive care unit. The province lists 200 people as recovered.

McNeil said there are cases of COVID-19 in all Nova Scotia communities.

"We started this journey as a province together and we're going to end it together, and we will take the measures off the province consistently when we believe public health gives us this ability that we can protect Nova Scotians," he said.

"If there's anyone out there who believes this virus is not in their particular community they're fooling themselves."

Dr. Strang takes on Dr. Oz

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer, said the province is working on a number of therapeutic options when it comes to treating patients with COVID-19.

When asked about the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, Strang said there is "a whole lot of mythology" around the drug.

"Do not believe everything you read just because of the internet and, certainly, do not believe Dr. Oz," Strang said, referencing the American television doctor who has endorsed the drug as a possible treatment to COVID-19.

Strang said studies around hydroxychloroquine "are not robust at all." He said any medication purported to be a treatment for COVID-19 should only be used in rigorous clinical trials.

Province of Nova Scotia
Province of Nova Scotia

Symptoms to look for

The province recently expanded the list of symptoms being screened for COVID-19. They are:

  • Fever.

  • New or worsening cough.

  • Sore throat.

  • Runny nose.

  • Headache.

Anyone with two or more of those symptoms should visit 811's website for a self-assessment questionnaire to determine if 811 should be called for further assessment.