Nova Scotia will install four new COVID-19 vaccine storage sites across the province starting this week.
Freezers capable of creating ultra-low temperatures will be installed at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro, Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville and Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
"This will enable us to vaccinate front-line health-care workers throughout Nova Scotia," Premier Stephen McNeil said at a news briefing Monday.
The freezers will be able to store any COVID-19 vaccine at the appropriate temperature.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only vaccine approved in Canada, must be stored at temperatures between –80 C and –60 C.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said one freezer was provided by the federal government. Some research labs and businesses in Nova Scotia also came forward to donate freezers.
Vaccines will arrive at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and Valley Regional Hospital the week of Jan. 4. Each site will receive 1,950 doses.
The province is still planning the details of immunization clinics at the hospitals.
So far, 1,463 front-line health-care workers and long-term care staff in the Halifax region have received the first dose of the vaccine.
Strang said immunizations are already ahead of schedule.
He said all acute health-care workers eligible for the vaccine in the central zone have been immunized and long-term care workers have started being vaccinated.
"We're moving faster than we ever thought," Strang said.
Workers in COVID-19 units at hospitals, emergency departments, critical-care units, birth and early labour units at the IWK Health Centre, and regional care units will be immunized this month.
Staff and designated caregivers at long-term care facilities in the central health zone will also be vaccinated before the end of this year. All other staff and caregivers in the province will get the vaccine between January and March.
Residents in long-term care homes and older Nova Scotians — starting with those over 80 — will also get the vaccine in that time frame.
"We have a long road ahead and in the meantime, we all need to be prepared to continue with COVID protocols and some restrictions," Strang said.
Nova Scotia is expected to receive another 3,900 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week.
The province is also expected to start receiving a COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna later this month. The Moderna vaccine still needs to be approved by Health Canada before it can be administered.
A vaccine expert panel with representatives from the Department of Health and Wellness, the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the IWK Health Centre and the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, has been established by the province.
The 11 members will monitor the use of the COVID-19 vaccines in Nova Scotia and advise the chief medical officer of health.
2 new cases
Two new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Nova Scotia on Monday.
One is in the central zone and the other in the western zone. Both cases are close contacts of previous cases, the province says.
There are currently 38 active cases and Nova Scotia's labs completed 1,389 tests on Sunday.
A new case was reported in Eskasoni First Nation on Saturday. The province said a pop-up rapid testing site will be set up in Eskasoni, for anyone who wants to get tested, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
There has been no evidence of community spread.
New restrictions start Monday
New household gathering limits across Nova Scotia come into effect on Monday. Gatherings must be limited to 10 people total, including household members.
All retailers in the province must also limit the number of staff and customers to 25 per cent of their legal capacity.
Gyms, libraries and museums in the Halifax region, Elmsdale, Enfield and Mount Uniacke can also reopen Monday and long-term care homes in these areas will allow family visitors.
Bars, restaurants and casinos in these areas must remain closed until at least Jan. 10, 2021. Take-out service is allowed.
While people are no longer directed to avoid the Halifax and Hants County areas, everyone should avoid unnecessary travel this holiday season.
All the active COVID-19 exposure sites in the province can be found here.
New auto-call process
Starting on Tuesday, Nova Scotians will be able to receive their COVID-19 test results through a new automated calling process.
People who have been tested for the virus have the option to receive a negative result via email, a service the province says will continue.
But as of Tuesday, patients who provide a phone number will also be able to receive an automated call, according to a news release.
"We recognize that it's stressful to wait for test results and it can have an impact on the ability to go to work, school and daycare, so anything we can do to make that process more efficient for those being tested is a big win," Catherine Hebb, a Public Health director, said in the release.
A person must have a valid Nova Scotia health card in order to receive email notifications about their COVID test. Those results are sent out 24 hours a day.
Auto-call can be provided to those with any valid provincial health card, or a student or military identification number. The automatic calls can happen between noon and 5 p.m.
"It's very important that people keep their phones with them and on if they are expecting a test result," said Hebb in the release.
"The caller ID will indicate unknown name, unknown number; we ask people to answer those calls. They'll also need to have their health card or identification ready."
The person will punch in the last four digits of their health card to receive their test result.
If a person does not reply after an email and two auto-calls, they will be contacted by staff from Public Health or Service Nova Scotia, who are supplying staff to help deliver negative results.
Public Health will continue to make calls to those who test positive for the virus.
Cases in the Atlantic provinces
The latest numbers from the Atlantic provinces are:
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