Nova Scotia expands vaccine eligibility to those who are 75 to 79

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A pharmacist in Halifax holds up a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. (CBC - image credit)
A pharmacist in Halifax holds up a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. (CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia reported five new COVID-19 cases on Friday, plus one probable case at a junior high school.

The province also announced it is expanding vaccination eligibility to those between 75 and 79. Starting today, people in that age group can book their vaccination appointment online.

All five new cases are in the central health zone. Two are under investigation, while the other three are close contacts of previously reported cases, one of which was identified yesterday at Millwood High School in Middle Sackville, N.S.

The probable case announced on Friday is connected to Sackville Heights Junior High School, and the person in that case — which is not included in the five new cases — is a close contact of the person in the Millwood High School case.

The person involved in the Sackville Heights Junior High case was not in school on Friday and is self-isolating. The school will close for cleaning and is expected to reopen on April 1.

Public Health will get in touch with anyone who was in close contact with the person in the Sackville Heights Junior High case.

Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, said he's "not overly concerned" about the two school-related cases, and believes that by closing the schools, testing close contacts and adding testing in the community, the number of cases will be kept under control. The mobile testing unit will be in Lower Sackville this weekend to offer COVID-19 testing to residents.

The province's total active caseload is now 27.

No plans to change border opening with New Brunswick

Strang said while Nova Scotia's overall case numbers have increased slightly, he's "not seeing anything yet that is overly concerning."

But he is concerned, he said, about the spread within Canada of the B117 variant, which was first identified in the U.K.

Of particular concern to Strang is the situation in New Brunswick, which saw 30 new cases on Thursday, including many variant cases.

Just last Friday, Nova Scotia lifted the 14-day self-isolation requirement for New Brunswickers entering Nova Scotia.

Strang said there is no reason to close the border to New Brunswick yet, as travel in and out of the outbreak region in that province is already restricted.

"However, if the outbreak starts to move into other parts of New Brunswick, or I feel the situation is getting worse and Nova Scotians are at increased risk, I will not hesitate to make a recommendation to the premier to reinstate the 14-day quarantine for people coming from New Brunswick," Strang said.

Premier Iain Rankin said he will be watching the New Brunswick outbreak closely, but Nova Scotia still plans to proceed with reopening the Atlantic bubble on April 19.

Vaccination program

Strang announced Friday that a 14,200-dose shipment of Moderna vaccine that was expected next week will be delayed by up to a week.

Strang said since the province has held back second doses of Moderna, there is some wiggle room within the existing supply to compensate for that reduction and still meet its commitments to people who have booked first doses.

But he said it could become a problem if there are further delays, noting that people who should be getting a second dose may not be able to get one at the scheduled time.

"It's not ideal for us, by any means. But we don't have control ultimately over our vaccine supply and we have to adjust as best we can."

A pharmacist in Halifax holds up a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
A pharmacist in Halifax holds up a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.(CBC)

Strang said the federal government also confirmed Thursday it will be receiving an additional 1.5-million doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine next week, and that Nova Scotia expects to receive about 38,000 doses of that delivery.

Those doses will be offered to Nova Scotians who are between 60 and 64, and depending on the uptake in that age category, eligibility may be expanded.

As of Thursday, 83,148 doses have been administered, and of those, 23,662 Nova Scotians have been given their second dose.

Laboratories in the province completed 2,846 COVID-19 tests on Thursday.

Change to potential exposure time

On Friday, Nova Scotia Health announced that the start time of a potential COVID-19 exposure on March 21 at a Subway in Bridgewater was noon, not 11 a.m. as originally reported. The end time was also changed from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

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

Atlantic Canada case numbers

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