Nova Scotia reported 44 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the province's total known active caseload to 150.
Five of the cases are in the eastern zone, four are in the western zone and two are in the northern zone.
Thirty-three of the new cases are in the central zone, five of which were identified Thursday at schools. Those schools are Dartmouth South Academy in Dartmouth, Ross Road School in Westphal, Holland Road Elementary in Fletchers Lake, St. Catherine's Elementary in Halifax and St. Joseph's-Alexander McKay Elementary in Halifax.
After the province issued its COVID email update on Friday, it reported three additional cases connected to schools. Cobequid Educational Centre in Truro, Shipyard Elementary School in Sydney and Oyster Pond Academy in Oyster Pond are all closed until April 29 for a deep cleaning and will move to remote learning. The province said in a statement that the three people who tested positive for COVID-19 were not in school today.
St. Joseph's-Alexander McKay Elementary in Halifax will also remain closed to students until May 10 "due to the number of close contacts connected to previously identified cases, and out of an abundance of caution," the province said. The school was first closed on April 19 due to a positive case.
Beaver Bank long-term care facility affected
One of the central zone cases is a staff member at a long-term care facility in Beaver Bank. Residents at The Ivy Meadows are being isolated, and visitors are not permitted to enter. A news release from the province says all residents at the home were offered vaccinations, and most have received two doses.
The province announced it will no longer share information about whether new cases are related to travel, are close contacts of previously announced cases or are of unknown origin. A news release said there are signs of community spread in the central zone, but no signs of it in the other three zones.
Nova Scotia Health has also made changes to how much information it provides about potential exposure locations in the central zone, limiting such lists to locations deemed high-risk.
Seven new cases of the variant first reported in the U.K. have been identified. So far in Nova Scotia, there have been 73 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K., 12 cases of the variant first identified in South Africa and one case of the variant first identified in Brazil.
On Thursday, the province reported 38 new cases, the highest number seen in almost a year. The increase in case numbers prompted a new lockdown for the Halifax Regional Municipality and some surrounding areas effective Friday morning, with measures that include limitations on gatherings, closure of in-restaurant dining and personal services, and restrictions on travelling in and out of locked-down areas.
On Friday, the province tweaked those restrictions slightly, adding Mount Uniacke to the areas affected by the lockdown, closing casinos and gaming establishments, and allowing regulated and unregulated health professionals such as dentists, physiotherapists, massage therapists and other complementary or alternative medicine providers to operate while following the plans for their sectors.
"I know it's not easy, but it is a necessary step to allow us to limit the spread of COVID-19," said Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health. "While the majority of the cases are in the central zone, COVID-19 can easily find its way into other parts of the province. We must all remain vigilant and continue working to limit spread within, and beyond, Halifax."
2 charged with violations
Two people have been charged with violating the Health Protection Act for failing to follow self-isolation guidelines.
RCMP in Halifax say they got a tip about a man who was not self-isolating after returning from outside Atlantic Canada. Officers went to the home in Porters Lake, N.S., on April 20 and he was not at home, as required. They returned later in the day and charged him.
The next day, police returned to the same home after receiving a report that someone else in the home was not quarantining as required, since their cohabitant had recently returned from outside the Atlantic provinces. Officers charged a woman for not remaining in self-isolation.
The man and woman were each fined $1,000.
Police could not say whether the pair were involved in a COVID-19 cluster or outbreak.
New exposure sites
Nova Scotia Health issued a news release late Friday with more than two dozen potential exposure sites, including gyms, transit routes and restaurants. The vast majority of the sites are in the central zone.
The release noted that potential exposure sites in the central zone will now only be released if Public Health recommends people self-isolate and get tested.
"This means we will no longer be issuing notifications for low-risk locations in central zone, such as a retail or grocery stores," the release said. "Public Health strongly encourages all Nova Scotians to get tested for COVID-19."
High test numbers
As case numbers rise, Nova Scotians are responding in droves to Public Health's calls for people to get tested.
Laboratories in the provinces conducted 5,956 COVID-19 tests on Thursday, not including rapid tests.
Between April 16-22, 6,520 tests were administered at rapid-testing pop-up sites in Halifax and Lower Sackville.
Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist and researcher at Dalhousie University, said one rapid-testing site in downtown Halifax saw 1,625 tests done on Thursday.
Thursday's test numbers have not surpassed the province's highest number of tests completed in one day, a peak that was reached on March 2, with 6,875 tests, not including rapid tests.
In an interview on CBC Radio's Information Morning on Friday, Strang thanked the many Nova Scotians who've responded to the call to get tested, and said the province is ramping up capacity at testing sites in the Halifax area.
"We've identified several positive cases that we wouldn't really have known about unless they came forward because of our request and got tested."
He also said public health is getting closer to introducing testing for travellers arriving at the Halifax International Airport, something the airport authority has been asking for since January.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
MORE TOP STORIES