COVID-19 cases continue modest but steady climb in Atlantic Canada

·4 min read

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia reported five new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday as the province also confirmed that it is now dealing with community spread of the virus related to clusters in the Halifax region.

The new cases brought the number of active cases in the province to 24, as the number of infections also continued to inch up in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Travel is no longer the primary cause of all cases in the province, chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said at a media briefing. Strang said there are seven cases where a source couldn't be clearly identified linking the infections to travel, and it has to be concluded that they may be from local transmission.

"This is very concerning and an important turn of events for us here in Nova Scotia," he said.

Strang said the public needs to refocus on health protocols and "step up its game" in order to avoid more stringent restrictions in the near future.

"I firmly believe that we are still at a point where we can control the COVID path that we follow, but it depends on what we all do together," Strang said.

The new cases announced by Strang were all in the province's central health zone, which includes Halifax.

Two of the cases occurred in two Halifax-area schools — Graham Creighton Junior High School in Cherry Brook and Auburn Drive High School in Cole Harbour — while the other three are close contacts of previously reported cases.

The school cases involved students who are now self-isolating, and Strang said all members of their classes, as well as their school bus contacts and a smaller number of contacts at recess and at lunch were being asked to self-isolate. Testing was also being arranged for all potentially affected.

Strang said the school infections had been transmitted through adults who were close contacts of the children.

As a further warning, he noted the recent growth of the virus, which has yielded three new cases in September, 21 in October and 42 so far in November.

"That's a trajectory that we can't continue to follow," he said.

Meanwhile, New Brunswick reported four more cases on Tuesday after reporting eight cases on Monday and nine over the weekend in the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton areas. The new cases bring the province's active total to 32.

Public health officials said three of the new cases were in the Moncton region involving two people in their 20s and one person in their 30s. The other case was in the Fredericton area and involves an individual in their 20s.

Newfoundland and Labrador also reported two new cases of COVID-19, bringing its number of active cases to nine.

Prince Edward Island reported no new cases on Tuesday leaving Canada's smallest province with three active cases and an overall total of 68 cases since the onset of the pandemic.

However, the province announced that effective Friday it would make the wearing of masks mandatory for all enclosed public spaces including retail businesses, restaurants except when eating or drinking, government buildings, places of worship and taxis.

Premier Dennis King said although Islanders had complied with public health measures, stronger protocols are now needed because of the surge of COVID-19 cases elsewhere in the country.

"Things outside our province's borders and outside our Atlantic bubble are hitting a critical point," King said. "This isn't about the cases here; this is about the turbulence we are seeing across the country."

Chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, equated the current situation with advanced preparation for a hurricane, where the track of the storm and its potential impacts are known.

"When we know there is a hurricane heading towards P.E.I., we do everything possible to prepare ourselves . . . for any potential devastation," Morrison said.

She noted that all of the province's cases to date have been travel related, with about one third being people who either travel for work or come to the Island for work.

She announced new requirements for out-of-province rotational workers, who now won't be allowed to enter public places until their 14-day self isolation period is completed. They also won't be allowed to host anyone or visit outside their household until the quarantine period ends. 

Morrison said workers would continue to be tested three times during their isolation.

As well, Islanders who travel outside of the Atlantic region for Christmas must apply to the province for re-entry approval by Dec. 1, and self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2020.

- With files from Danielle Edwards

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press