Nova Scotia has no plans to close the border with neighbouring New Brunswick, despite the growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in that province.
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday the outbreaks in New Brunswick do not pose an increased risk to Nova Scotians at this time because there is no evidence of community spread.
Strang joined Premier Stephen McNeil in delivering an update about the evolving situation in Moncton and Campbellton, N.B. That province announced eight new cases Wednesday, bringing the total number of active COVID-19 cases to 90.
"It's a stark reminder to all of us, COVID is still on the move and is looking for a home," said McNeil.
Strang said there's no evidence yet of any community spread in New Brunswick. Public health officials in that province have said their cases are linked to specific outbreaks, including one at a long-term care home in Moncton. Another cluster in Campbellton includes schools and a special care home.
No community spread in N.B.
Individuals who've been testing positive in New Brunswick are close contacts of other infected people or people linked directly to the outbreaks, said Strang.
"What they're not seeing, fortunately, is unexplained cases — that there's no way no explain their exposure," he said.
"So there's nothing to suggest that if you or I travelled to Moncton or Campbellton tomorrow ... that we're putting ourselves at any increased risk."
Nova Scotia's government is the only one inside the Atlantic bubble that has not yet issued special guidelines for travellers from New Brunswick's two hot spots.
Officials in New Brunswick, P.E.I., and Newfoundland and Labrador are discouraging travel to and from Moncton and Campbellton.
To close the border with New Brunswick, Strang said there would need to be a "significant risk" of COVID-19 being brought into Nova Scotia.
McNeil said the province has offered to help New Brunswick as needed and encouraged Nova Scotians to send positive energy to that province "because we all know kindness matters."
Some nursing homes in Nova Scotia, particularly in the northern region, have started new screening protocols for staff and families who may have travelled to New Brunswick.
"It is deeply concerning to our entire sector," Michele Lowe, managing director with the Nursing Homes of Nova Scotia Association, said in an email.
"While we have been hugely successful in this province, we know that COVID is close to [Nova Scotia] and we continue to take every precaution necessary to keep it out."
Trick-or-treating during a pandemic
During Wednesday's update, McNeil and Strang also touched on Halloween as the end of the month draws closer.
Strang said trick-or-treating and parties can go ahead but with all the right precautions.
For adults throwing a house party, he said the rule of 10 people without physical distancing still applies and it should ideally be kept to family and close friends. Guests shouldn't share bowls, plates or cups if food and drink are being offered.
Strang also said a Halloween mask does not replace a non-medical one, since many have breathing holes which defeat the purpose.
For trick-or-treaters, Strang encouraged kids to stay outside, not yell or sing, and knock on doors with their knuckles rather than pressing doorbells or using doorknobs. They should also be in small groups up to 10.
People giving out candy should be in masks, and kids should wash their hands before digging into piles of sweets.
Rules won't be loosened over business group concerns
Strang also addressed concerns brought up by the business community, including the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, about what happens if cases spike in Nova Scotia again.
He said his team is developing a "walk-back plan" around how and when businesses may need to close in another COVID-19 outbreak that may apply to specific communities or broader areas.
That plan will be presented to the business sector for feedback, Strang said, since it might have creative ways to keep certain businesses open while allowing appropriate safety measures.
Whatever plan is created, Strang said it needs to have flexibility to respond to how the virus appears in the province.
Although the chamber of commerce has also called for some restrictions to be eased in Nova Scotia, like restaurant capacity and no physical distancing in elevators, Strang said "loosening is not the thing to do" right now.
He said he's stressed to the business community that good public health is good economics. If Nova Scotia can minimize a second wave, Strang said the economy recovers faster.
McNeil said he could not, "in all good conscience," ask Strang to loosen protocols knowing that what the province is doing is working well.
"We'll be consistent on that until we have a vaccine, and see the way that we can function with this virus," McNeil said.
Nova Scotia reports zero new cases
No new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Nova Scotia on Wednesday after the province completed 401 tests for the virus.
There are currently four active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia and one person is hospitalized in the ICU.
The latest cases of the virus in Nova Scotia were reported on Saturday. Two of those cases were related to travel and a third was a close contact of the travellers, according to the Department of Health and Wellness. All three have been self-isolating.
The latest numbers from around the Atlantic bubble are:
Anyone with one of the following symptoms of COVID-19 should visit the COVID-19 self-assessment website or call 811:
- Cough or worsening of a previous cough.
Anyone with two or more of the following symptoms is also asked to visit the website or call 811:
- Sore throat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Runny nose.
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