N.S. COVID case numbers 'relatively stable,' but too early to relax : Strang

·4 min read

HALIFAX — Modest upticks in COVID-19 case numbers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick prompted guarded optimism from one health official Tuesday, while another gave an example of how quickly the situation can change.

Nova Scotia reported 10 new cases, which brought its total active case count to 142, while New Brunswick identified seven, bringing its total of ongoing cases to 116.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said the relatively low numbers seen over the last week in his province were a "positive sign" considering the announcement of 37 cases and sweeping new restrictions for the Halifax area that was made one week earlier.

"That's certainly much better than I expected," Strang said of the numbers. "That is a good sign that we are relatively stable, but it's much too early to relax yet."

He cautioned that more concerning is the number of close contacts for each new case, which has now grown on average to eight, as compared to three close contacts per case during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.

"So you can see why I keep saying we need to reduce our social contacts," Strang said.

In New Brunswick meanwhile, the chief medical officer of health confirmed a super-spreader event in the Saint John area was responsible for more than 80 per cent of that region's current active cases.

"We have determined that 34 people that attended this super-spreader event have since contracted COVID-19 and a further 26 cases were contracted indirectly when attendees infected others that they came into contact with," Dr. Jennifer Russell told a news conference in Fredericton.

Russell provided no other details, except that the event occurred at two venues in the course of one evening.

She said a super-spreader event occurs when a large number of cases are traced to a single gathering or event, with COVID-19 being transmitted from one individual, or a relatively small number of individuals who were in attendance while infectious.

Like her counterpart in Nova Scotia, Russell stressed the importance of people maintaining physical distancing and wearing masks.

New Brunswick's new cases include four in the Saint John area and three in the Fredericton area.

Back in Nova Scotia, all of the new cases were identified in the Halifax area, which has accounted for the majority of the province's cases in the current outbreak.

As a result, Atlantic Canada's largest city has been under increased restrictions since Thursday that have seen the closure of in-person dining at restaurants and of public libraries, museums, gyms, yoga studios and casinos.

The outbreak led to the withdrawal from the Atlantic regional bubble of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick last week.

Strang was asked why there hadn't been an explosion of cases like those seen elsewhere in the country, and he said it was partly due to messaging weeks before about the growing trends in other provinces.

"I think a lot of people thankfully, listened to that and started to adjust behaviours," he said. "So I think there was some adjustment . . . even prior to us putting the restrictions in place."

Elsewhere in the Atlantic region, Prince Edward Island announced no new cases and has just four active cases.

However, the province's chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, said her office still didn't know how a student from Charlottetown Rural High School who was diagnosed on the weekend was infected with the novel coronavirus.

Morrison said extensive testing on about 70 close contacts has not turned up a source, although it's likely the student had contact with someone who had travelled off the Island.

She said 102 people were in self-isolation as a result of being a positive case or a close contact of a case.

Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Health officials said the travel-related case involved a man in his 50s in the eastern health region who had returned to the province from work in British Columbia. The province has 33 active cases with no one in hospital due to the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.

— With files from Kevin Bissett in Fredericton

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press