A woman in her 70s from Cape Breton has died from complications related to COVID-19, according to health officials, marking what they say is Nova Scotia's first death connected to the virus.
"To her family, there are no words that I can say to take away the pain and suffering that your family is experiencing today, other than I hope that you know this entire province has its arms wrapped around you as a family as you go through this very, very difficult time," Premier Stephen McNeil said, his voice wavering, during the provincial COVID-19 update on Tuesday.
The Department of Health said Tuesday in a news release the woman had underlying health conditions. She died Monday in a hospital in the eastern zone, an area that includes Antigonish and Guysborough counties and Cape Breton.
When asked by multiple reporters Tuesday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang declined to confirm reports that the woman had died at Cape Breton Regional Hospital.
The province also announced it had identified 17 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 310. The cases ranged in age from under 10 to older than 90.
Strang said Nova Scotians need to come together, "do what's necessary and stay home."
"It's unfortunate that this death has happened, but we do know the sad reality to COVID-19 is that people do die from this disease," he added.
Although the woman who died is someone who had an underlying health condition, Strang said COVID-19 can be deadly to people who don't have one.
"Even in North America, we are seeing previously healthy young people also getting severe disease and dying. This disease does not respect age," he said.
Strang calls out Costco shoppers
Strang said he saw a social media post showing a long lineup of customers at Costco in Bayers Lake who appeared to be standing too close together and weren't practising physical distancing of staying two metres apart from each other.
"I don't know what it takes to get people to understand that this is the kind of activity that actually easily spreads this disease," Strang said.
"I know we're moving into Easter. People are anxious to get groceries. But we need to understand that you have to do this in a way that respects the requirements around social distancing and numbers."
Strang said he's concerned there could be a spike in cases because of people out shopping for Easter.
"I'm baffled when I see a picture like that, quite frankly," he said.
'Stay at home and stop partying,' premier warns
With his final remarks, McNeil doubled down on Strang's comments calling out shoppers at Costco.
"We are not in the business of calling companies out or communities, but today we have to. Not only are too many people showing up at stores unnecessarily when they get there, they're not physically distancing," McNeil said.
McNeil said people need to stand two metres apart. He said the province is focusing on communities "we deem to be hotspots" and is setting up mobile testing units in Enfield, East Preston and North Preston.
The premier also said he's heard people are hosting parties in those communities. He said parties could lead to more people getting sick and COVID-19 spreading within neighbourhoods. He said parties could lead to more health-care workers getting sick.
"Because you are the reckless and selfish, you don't listen and won't stop partying. Well, think about this, as you are planning your weekend, there is a Nova Scotia family planning life without their loved one because of this virus," McNeil said.
"This virus kills and the only way we can kill it is if we keep our distance from one another. And for the love of God, stay home and stop partying please, for the sake of our province."
Citadel Hill off limits starting Wednesday
Parks Canada will temporarily close the Halifax Citadel Hill National Historic Site grounds and roads to pedestrians and vehicles to curb the spread of COVID-19.
"Many Haligonians have used the green space and roads at Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, some of whom were in groups and not applying the physical distancing recommendations," Parks Canada said in a news release on Tuesday.
The closure comes into effect Wednesday. It includes the pathway on Brunswick Street leading to the old town clock.
"We are implementing these closures to protect all Nova Scotians, especially those who are most at risk," said the release.
Eleven people are in hospital and 66 are listed as recovered. There have been 10,621 negative COVID-19 test results in the province.
On Monday, the province announced it was expanding the testing criteria to anyone showing these symptoms of COVID-19: a fever or a new or worsening cough.
Since the state of emergency was declared in the province on March 22, RCMP have charged a total of 54 people with offences related to violations of that. Thirty-eight of the people have been charged since April 3.
Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella told CBC's Mainstreet on Tuesday there have been 110 COVID-19-related calls in the past 24 hours.
Kinsella said there has been 780 COVID-19 calls since the state of emergency was declared and 39 tickets issued so far.
MORE TOP STORIES